||Swiped from SW5 list, Thanks Jim!
MICK TAYLOR INTERVIEW
Words by Robin Eggar
Pictures by Matthew Ford
The Rolling Stones turn 40 this year. They will
celebrate by embarking on a world tour that will break
box office records. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards,
Charlie Watts and guitarist Ronnie Wood each stands to
earn at least £20 million.
Meanwhile Mick Taylor, the man Wood replaced in 1975,
is all but forgotten. Now 54, the most talented
guitarist the band ever had finds it hard to get a gig
in an English pub. The music he loves to plays does
not fit into our hype today gone tomorrow music scene.
He makes an ok living overseas but the wealth of
Jagger and his band mates has eluded him.
On June 9 1969 The Rolling Stones announced that their
new guitarist was to be Mick Taylor, a tall blonde
beautiful boy of 21 who looked 17, who could play the
guitar like an angel. Within a month his predecessor
Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool and
the band had played their free concert in Hyde Park.
It was the start of a five year roller coaster ride of
massive tours, Altamont, tax exile in France and
ground breaking albums like Let it Bleed, Sticky
Fingers and Exile On Main Street. He quit the band in
December 1974. For the next 20 years the rock and
roll legacy Taylor took with him was not a country
mansion but a heroin addiction that almost killed him.
Taylor does not look like he was once a Rolling Stone,
nor even a rock star. He is both taller and plumper,
his cheekbones do not protrude, his haircut is normal.
He wears a pinstripe suit without a tie. He smokes,
sips coffee and speaks softly. What bitterness he may
have had has been buried alongside his addiction
During his time with the Stones Taylor dabbled with
heroin. "I slowly slipped into it like a lot of other
people," he says. "In the band it was thought of as
something recreational, something to do at parties, we
all did but for some of us like Keith and myself it
got more serious. He dealt with it in his way and I
dealt with it in mine. I found it more of a struggle
when I left because when you are in the Rolling
Stones, you get used to people looking after you."
For a decade after leaving the Stones even though his
personal life was disintegrating around him Mick held
a career together. He cut a solo album and spent two
years playing with Bob Dylan (one show was to 450,000
people in Paris). But in 1984 his father died and
something snapped. For the next 11 years he was a
"total junkie, needles the works, just as bad as
Keith, maybe worse because it went on longer."
"I had never really let my drug problems affect my
work up until that point. I always knew I'd be in
serious trouble if I ever lost my compulsive need to
play. I did lose my way when I didn't pick up the
guitar once for two years. If I'd lost the desire to
play, forever I'd have been in serious trouble. I'm
very fortunate to have come out the other side,
reasonably intact and in good health , still enjoying
what I'm doing and still doing it really well.
Mick does not know exactly how and why he managed to
give up heroin. He tried everything, different
clinics, cold turkey, his friends were tremendously
supportive but nothing seemed to work. "It was always
something I fought against," he says, "I never
resigned myself into thinking I was going to be a drug
addict for the rest of my life. It wasn't until 1995
that I made a full recovery. Maybe I finally grew up.
In the end you either get tired of it or it consumes
you and you end up on the scrap heap."
The turning point came when Mick moved back to England
and settled in Suffolk. "Drugs dig up your roots and
burn them. It's taken me a long time to settle down
again. Coming back to England was a big part of that.
I missed being in England, missed my friends, and
missed my family. That was when I started my band for
real, went into the studio and started touring on a
The Mick Taylor Band is full of consummate musicians
like pianist Mike Middleton, guitarist Robert Awhai,
bassist Michael "Dreads" Bailey and a choice of
drummers. Over the past two years they have played
over 170 gigs and are due to tour Sweden in May. Only
a handful of those shows have been in Britain.
"I make a living, " says Mick. "If you are a good R&B
player and you've got a bit of a name there's never a
shortage of places you can play in Europe. I've been
to the States five times in the past there years. I
just don't play in this country. Maybe the stuff I
play doesn't have any bearing to the pop scene, which
is so transient."
However his most interesting collaboration recently
has been with his old friend the Japanese pianist and
composer Miyuki. Mick & I is a delicate
often-beautiful instrumental album, a mixture of new
age, jazz and blues, which shows Taylor, has lost none
of his touch. He and Miyuki, who works regularly with
the Ballet Rambert, are planning to do some live shows
with other featured musicians tenor saxophone wizard
Tim Garland and trumpeter Byron Wallen.
"It is esoteric, shows another side to my playing,"
says Taylor, "people forget I played on Tubular Bells.
I've always loved working with keyboard players and
I've been fortunate enough to play with three great
players- Nicky Hopkins, Max Middleton and Miyuki. I
classify myself as an eccentric musician but I suppose
my heart and soul is still in R&B."
These days Taylor is very sanguine about his days with
the Stones. He is happy, even proud to talk about his
time with the band. " I still feel like a Rolling
Stone, it's tattooed on my soul. " he says. "I'm just
not in the band. It has cast a long shadow over my
career. It really is a blessing and a curse in equal
measure. I wouldn't have missed playing with them for
all the world, it was wonderful but it just got a bit
crazy in the mid 70s."
Mick's parents (his dad worked for British Aerospace)
were early rock and roll fans. They took him to see
Bill Haley and the Comets when he was nine and
encouraged him to play guitar. He was a natural who at
15 sat in with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers when Eric
Clapton failed to show up. Two years later he joined
Mayall full time (they are still friends) until the
bandleader recommended him to Jagger and Richards. He
met them at the recording studio laid down some guitar
on Honky Tonk Women and joined the next day
"The Stones were completely broke. They owed vast sums
of money, they had tax problems. I never thought about
the money. As I got paid £150 a week it didn't even
occur to me. I just wanted to play, Then they signed
with Atlantic and it was a new lease of life and a new
start for their career."
Legend has it that Taylor was the shy retiring one,
content to spend time with his girlfriend Rose, who
was then corrupted by the band. Not so he insists,
"Lot of Stones fans think I was born at Hyde Park," he
grins, " that I suddenly emerged with the butterflies.
I wasn't corrupted by them. I had lost my innocence
a long time before that. I just looked very innocent."
"I always felt part of the group. I wasn't treated
like a session musician, I enjoyed the same kind of
things everybody else did. I had this image of being
the quiet shy and retiring one, not at all, except
compared to Mick Jagger I am. I was the youngest and
most journalists were only interested in talking to
Mick. They didn't want to talk to Charlie or me or
Bill and Keith wasn't making any sense most of the
time, except when he picked up the guitar."
Throughout his time in the Stones Taylor had to
contend with Jaggers's dilettante social life
following his marriage to Bianca and Keith's heroin
addiction. Growing up playing seven nights a week
Taylor loved, still loves, playing live. By the end of
1974 the Stones weren't in any state to tour. At times
he didn't think Keith would live much longer and the
band could not survive without him. Yet even 26
years later Mick is uncomfortable, defensive about
explaining his reasons for quitting.
"Well it certainly wasn't the smartest thing to do
was it?' he says . "That's all I have to say. I
certainly never imagined the Rolling Stones would
still be pulling in crowds, doing tours, still be
together. There have been various points in their
history where they have nearly split up and that was
one of them. We were all very worried about Keith. It'
s well known that they all had their problems with
drugs except Bill who is the most strait laced and
businesslike. They are all quite extraordinary
people, a bunch of eccentrics who deserve each other.
"I didn't leave the Rolling Stones on good terms," he
admits. "Lack of song writing credit was certainly a
contributory factor. I was burned because there are 5
songs I feel I should have gotten some credit for. I
was angry with them for that lack of credit. It
doesn't bother me anymore now. At the time I thought
it was outrageous. Bill Wyman used to get very
frustrated as well he said to me once, 'It's always
been like that you have to get used to it.'
Eventually he left too... I've never been sure why.
"I got very disillusioned in the early 80s when they
basically stopped paying me royalties on the albums
I'd played on - which were their most successful
ever. " Legend has it that he sued them, which Taylor
says, never happened but he won't expand on the
situation only saying that the problem was "kind of
sorted." Others believe he was paid off at a time
when he wasn't in a physical or financial position to
The eighties were a bad time for him. He lived
between New York and LA and lost touch with his
daughter Chloe. "I split up with Rose, my first wife,
in 1976. It was very difficult to keep the
relationship with Chloe going when I was in America
and into the drugs. I have a lot of regrets yes but I
don't spend too much time on them any more." They have
mended their relationship. Chloe is now 30 and married
with a daughter of her own. Eleanor, three, "is the
only one allowed to call me granddad."
Soon after he returned to England Mick had another
daughter with an American woman from Boston. That
relationship ended on such bad terms that he will not
discuss it. Emma, five, lives in Florida with her
mother and he has only limited contact with her. "I
don't see my little one very often," he says sadly.
"These things happen."
Much of Mick's new lease on life and enthusiasm comes
from his girlfriend, Marlies Damming. Marlies is 29,
younger she admits with a happy grin than Chloe. She
is a 6 foot blonde from Drenthe in Northern Holland,
blessed with a perpetual smile and a stern work ethic
who until last year was studying medicine in
Marlies has been a real Stones fan for longer than she
can remember. The first time she picked up a guitar
she taught herself to play "Love Is Strong"(from
Voodoo Lounge) Some years ago on holiday at a ski
resort she hooked up with a Belgian Stones tribute
band called Sticky Fingers and ended up singing lead
vocals on Beast of Burden. In October 2000 she was
down in Liege visiting them when she heard that the
Mick Taylor band were playing at The Spirit of 66, a
nightclub in Verviers.
"My friend knowing how much I liked the Stones
suggested I go and see the one that left. He knew one
of the security guys and was trying to arrange that I
could go back stage, " she says, "but this bouncer
told me there would be no chance as they had arrived
in a terrible mood. After the show when this blond
bouncer guy shouted at me 'You! Two minutes! Now!'
I just walked into the dressing room. Mick invited me
to the next show, which was at Reisen in Holland.
That day I had to give two some presentations at my
University so it was a very tight schedule, but I made
it in time."
Since then she's never really left. Both she and Mick
commute between Suffolk and Holland but she has taken
time out of her degree course and is determined to
steer her lover into better times. "Marlies found me a
very suitable case for treatment," he laughs. "She
says I am the most interesting case she's had, tells
her friends she's doing a thesis on me. She's trying
to keep me fit. In January she made me go running
every day. I've stopped for a bit. My fitness regime
hasn't failed I suffer from Seasonally Adjusted
Disorder when it rains every day and I find it harder
to get out, there are no indoor tennis courts in Diss.
I'm not bad at tennis. I beat her." ("No he didn't,"
Despite her attempts to wean him off cigarettes he is
still a smoker but seldom drinks alcohol as it sends
him to sleep. He is teaching her guitar and she can
play Moonlight Mile (off Sticky Fingers) with some
aplomb. They work well together. When she is serious
it frees him to clown about. She is protective of him
but when he picks up his guitar and plays her face
Marlies' philosophy is simple. "Once a Stone always a
Stone. You can't really ever leave" Mick Taylor has
spent almost a quarter of a century running from his
past. Now he can do what he has always done so well.
Play his guitar.
Miyuki's Mick & I is available on Invoke Records or
online from http://www.sierrabravo.co.uk
For more information on Mick Taylor's upcoming gigs
(and his history) log onto
http://www.micktaylor.com, which has had over two million
||Great article on MT. Let's hope the boys give him a chance to show his magic at a few select gigs. Hopefully he'll play the five songs he got dicked out of receiving credit on!
||WOW. What a great article. I never knew he was still a junkie up 'til '95. I saw him play at a local bar in '93, and you'd never've known it. Funny thing, that gig. I went to the loo, and when I came back, he was sittin' at my frickin' table! I almost fell down, I kid you not! I swallowed, tried to breathe normally, and sat down across from him. Managed to mumble "hello" or something, vaguely remember sayin' somethin' 'bout bein' a big fan of his, loved his guitar work, etc., then immediately grew large "stones" and drawled, "welll, since you're sharin' my table, can I get ya ta sign my ticket stub?" And HE DID! Then he gave an AWESOME show, which included "Red House" and "Little Red Rooster." Got some excellent pics, and before I left he also signed his solo album and a copy of "IORR" for me. Still kickin' myself for not havin' somebody take a pic of me & him. Sooo stupid of me, arrrgghhh! Hope he guests on a show I attend, or at least the PPV. Doubtful they'd do "CYHMK" but maybe they'll gve "Moonlight Mile" another whirl...
||Thanks, for posting that Voodoo, Great article and hoping that we will will see M.T. playing with the Stones again in the coming months WITH RONNIE TOO!!!!!!
||I really enjoyed reading this article. Thanks so much for posting it. I too would faint if Mick Taylor makes any of the shows...especially the ones in Ohio!
What are the 5 songs he didn't get credit for?
||Sway (The credits should be Jagger-Taylor)
Can't you hear me knocking (He made the first version)
Moonlight Mile (Again, the credits should be Jagger-Taylor)
Waiting on a Friend
Times Waits For No One
||Whoa! What a great bunch of tunes!
||You forgot " Tops " and " Winter " !
" Tops " should be Jagger - Taylor
" Winter " should be Jagger - Taylor
||Winter is in all senses a Jagger song. Although Taylor contributes some excellent lead and slide work, he did NOT write it, it is basically a very simple three-chord song. Tops is a clear open-G expriment by Keith, but probably dismissed at first release since it is a bit "over the top" for 1973/74 Stones. Angie is a clear Richards song, he wrote it in 1973 about Angela, his daughter.
||I didn't think Keith was anywhere near Winter, no?
I thought it was Taylor on all the Guitars. Possibly, it is Jagger on Rythm.
Anyway, the songs he should have gotten credit for are some of the most beautiful of the 70's. This is why you anit-Taylor bastards should cut him some slack when you talk about him fucking the Stones over by quiting. What would any of us have done? He know he made a mistake. He let his hurt ego get in the way of his one and only chance to play on the Lotus Stage. God help him!
It also is a testiment to Mick Jaggers loyalty that he didn't give in or side with Taylor. What does he get for all this loyalty? Countless snide remarks by Keith.
In short, my opinion:
Taylor is wonderful and should be allowed back.
Jagger is never given enough credit.
Keith gets a pass on everything.
Maxy Van Cortlandt, Blimp 5.
||'Anyway, the songs he should have gotten credit for are some of the most beautiful of the 70's. This is why you anit-Taylor bastards should cut him some slack when you talk about him fucking the Stones over by quiting. What would any of us have done? He know he made a mistake. He let his hurt ego get in the way of his one and only chance to play on the Lotus Stage. God help him! '
Maxy , I would like to nibble your elbows and caress your kneecaps for being so damn smart .
" Hit ME Ronnie "
Club " Clubby Bear " Joey
" He only sees the Stones in Clubs "