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POP MUSIC : Good 'Voodoo' or Lounge-Lizard Time? : THE INTERVIEW : The key to 'Voodoo'? Mick, Keith have their (differing) opinions

July 10, 1994|ROBERT HILBURN

With most rock bands, there is a single party line when it comes to interviews--as if every member sits down ahead of time and agrees on how to tell the story. With the Rolling Stones, however, there is usually the Mick Jagger line and the Keith Richards line.

In the mid- and late '80s, when there were tensions between Jagger and Richards over the future of the band, you could understand how these two old chums saw things differently.

Even though things apparently are smooth again, they still have separate takes on why the new "Voodoo Lounge" is the Stones' most appealing album in years.

To Jagger, it is mostly due to extensive planning before going into the studio. To Richards, it is pride and the freedom to rely on musical instincts that the band had long suppressed--ironically, to avoid sounding too much like the Stones.

"On the last outing ("Steel Wheels"), we had a deadline to go on the road and there wasn't as much time as I would have liked to work on the record," Jagger says during a phone interview from Toronto, where the band is rehearsing for a tour that begins Aug. 1 in Washington, D.C., and reaches the Rose Bowl on Oct. 19.

"This time we spent longer writing . . . so we had more songs. We had four long songwriting sessions, each about four weeks. We've never (written most of the album prior to the sessions) before. I have only been suggesting it for 30 years. . . . But in the end, I am as much to blame as anyone else."

The planning went further than songwriting.

"We also sat down . . . Keith and myself and then Charlie (Watts) and myself about how we wanted the record to sound . . . about it being a bit more direct, a bit more simple," Jagger continues.

"That's good I think because at least the other person knows what the other person is trying to do, which sounds simple but doesn't always happen."

In a separate interview, Richards doesn't mention songwriting or pre-session planning.

"When we came in for this one, I think everybody knew that we had to hit the spot," the guitarist says. "After we managed to pull ourselves back after almost falling apart (before the "Steel Wheels" album), we needed to prove we could still make a good record. It was never spoken, but you could kind of feel it in the studio."

In fact, Richards says, the attitude in the band, which also includes guitarist Ron Wood, was so good going into the sessions in Dublin that his only concern was replacing bassist Bill Wyman, who quit the group last year.

"Thank God or our lucky stars or whatever, but the change was almost seamless," he says. "Darryl (Jones) hit it off with Charlie and it was a joy to behold."

Both Jagger and Richards agree on one thing: They were comfortable working in the studio for the first time with producer Don Was, whose growing list of credits ranges from Bonnie Raitt to Willie Nelson.

"I think Don encouraged us to use some of the old (trademark) sounds," Jagger says. "I kept teasing him about, 'Well, now, we don't want too much nostalgia.'

"I don't mind the odd influence, but I don't like it to be too direct and I really don't think they are on the record. To me, a lot of the tracks are just slightly tinged, which is good, but they are not a total copy."

Richards is more at ease with invoking classic Stones touches.

"At times we have avoided certain sounds because we told ourselves we've already done that," Richards says. "So, I thought, 'Let's get over that barrier.' After all, it is those little sounds, like maracas and harpsichord, that add extra texture.

"Looking back, I think we suffered a little in the '80s from the pressures we were under about where we fit into things musically. That may be why one (album) was a little plastic or another was a little off.

"One of the worst things a band can do is to start looking at groups coming up as threats and feel like you have to look for something new to offer. To me, we sometimes got thinking about it too much . . . and I think we tripped up. This time we were just ourselves."

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