Mick Jagger says he did not set out to make a solo record.After the Rolling Stones' marathon Bridges to Babylon tour two years ago, he wrote a few songs, began recording them at home -- and he suddenl
Mick Jagger says he did not set out to make a solo record.After the Rolling Stones' marathon Bridges to Babylon tour two years ago, he wrote a few songs, began recording them at home -- and he suddenly realized he had an album in the making.
"That tour was two-and-a-half years, which was too long. When we finally came off the road, I wanted to write some songs and do them on my own," he explains. "I started recording at home in France and in the Caribbean with a hard-drive computer. I worked the songs up in demo studios. It became my home recording. I thought, 'This is me. It's a solo record.'"
Jagger might still have taken the songs that have to come together to form "Goddess in the Doorway" (Virgin, due Nov. 20 in the U.S. and a day earlier internationally) to the Stones had it not been for advice offered by his old friend and London neighbor Pete Townshend.
"Pete said that often with the Who he'd recorded wonderful demos and then he had to go and play them with the band and they never came out the same," Jagger recalls. "I thought, 'I've already done these songs, and I don't need to go in a studio and do them again with other people.' But it didn't start as a solo record. It started as a songwriting thing because I hadn't written anything since 'Bridges to Babylon.'"
The fourth solo set of his career, "Goddess in the Doorway" is the first album under Jagger's own name since 1993's "Wandering Spirit" (Atlantic) and his solo debut for Virgin -- the label to which the Stones are also signed. It is a recording that aims to buck the popular belief among many Stones fans that Jagger and Keith Richards need each other to produce their best work. After all, their songwriting partnership has endured for 40 years, and it has produced a seemingly endless list of classic compositions. Yet the singer says in many ways it is far easier to work solo.
"The good thing about being in a band is there's a committee," explains Jagger. "But that's the bad thing about it as well. You try to please everyone. In the end, the danger is you end up pleasing nobody. I'm not saying that's true of all the records the Stones have made. But it is a danger. With this record, I could go any way I wanted."
Many of the songs have a stronger pop sensibility than is usually associated with the Jagger/Richards writing team.
"Stones fans expect a certain kind of music, and I'm always wary to ensure there are enough rock tracks on a Stones record," he says. "In the early days, the Stones did a lot of pop; we don't do that anymore. It's not that we can't. We just don't. On a solo record, you can do a broader range of things a lot more easily."
Joking about the absence of Richards, he adds, "It gave me the chance to play enormous amounts of guitar." In fact, Jagger plays some impressive guitar on all but one of the dozen tracks, and on the bluesy "Don't Call Me Up" he proves himself to be a highly accomplished slide guitarist.
The core backing band on the album features Matt Clifford on keyboards; Marti Fredriksen on guitar, bass, and drums; bassist Phil Spalding; and drummers Ian Thomas and Lenny Castro on percussion. Veteran session drummer Jim Keltner also contributes, while Townshend and Aerosmith's Joe Perry add guitar to several tracks. "Pete just walked in and was so quick," Jagger recalls. "He did six guitar parts in a couple of hours. I know people who would take days to do that."
All songs were either written or co-written by Jagger, who also produced the set-with assistance from Fredriksen, Clifford, and Chris Potter. High-profile collaborators include fellow Virgin artist Lenny Kravitz, who co-wrote and co-produced "God Gave Me Everything," and an impressive cast of singing partners that includes Wyclef Jean, Rob Thomas of matchbox twenty, and U2's Bono.
"The great thing about working with Bono and Rob was that they both have a different melodic take from mine," Jagger says. "I'd give them the chord sequence and they'd be off with a completely different melody. That was refreshing."
Jagger's daughters, Elizabeth, 16, and Georgia, 8, add backing vocals to the album's last track, "Brand New Set of Rules."
Jagger, in effect, assembled the album himself, according to Nancy Berry, the former vice chairman of Virgin who signed the Stones singer as a solo artist. "I heard some of the demos about a year ago, and the songs sounded great, so we went ahead with the deal. At that stage, we had no idea about collaborators. Mick put it together himself, and it's an amazing album."
The set's first single, "God Gave Me Everything," will be accompanied by a videoclip directed by Mark Romanek. The second single, due in January, will be "Visions of Paradise," featuring Thomas.
A TV special documentary, "Being Mick Jagger," directed by the British film-maker Kevin MacDonald, includes scenes shot during the making of "Goddess in the Doorway." It airs worldwide on Thanksgiving. It will be transmitted in the U.S. on ABC-TV and in the U.K. on Channel 4.
Jagger says he is interested in playing selected solo dates in support of the album, although nothing has yet been scheduled. "If I do it, I'd like to play theaters-that fits the mood of the record and it would be fun."
The singer also leaves open the question of whether there will be live dates with the Stones next year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the group's first gig at London's legendary Marquee Club July 12, 1962.
"We're trying to cook something up," Jagger says cryptically. "I don't want to talk about it too much yet, but the 40th anniversary is a good party to give." He adds that it is unlikely there will be "a complete new album," but hints that some kind of anniversary release is under consideration.