In your mind, whats the difference between the Stones we see in this movie versus the Stones in, say, 1972? Much older [laughs]! Im still singing the same old songs, you know. Its just a more matured style of playing, with maybe some of the more extravagant edges taken out. You know, the band — they were very inconsistent back then. They would do a fantastic show one night, fucking raise the roof and be amazing, and the next night they would do a terrible show, where the tempos are wildly wrong — too fast, too slow, terrible train wrecks and awful mistakes. Now its a much more consistent-playing group. Looking at old footage, you appear to be even more physically frenetic onstage now than in the old days. How can that be? The problem for me is that you need a certain amount of physicality and oxygen and fitness just to sing. So if you use too much up dancing, you got nothing to sing with. Ill err on the side of the physicality, and I let the singing down. So I cant make the notes some nights. Ive overdone the physicality. How did you feel looking at the long, intense close-ups on you in the movie?
It was a little bit too much, I felt. But directors always like to use slow numbers to have these lingering shots. Yeah, I didnt care for it too much. Boring. It didnt look very good.
Your performance of "Far Away Eyes" is really campy and funny in the movie — its a reminder of how much acting there can be in your singing.
All of these songs have characters. Theyre all different. Thats the thing about the Stones, they have lots of other kind of facets which make them kind of interesting. Theyre not really stuck in classic-rock mode.
If you were forced to define that particular character . . .
Oh, God, dont force me [laughs]! Dont force me to intellectualize it. I just do the characters. Ive done a couple of songs — even very early, on those songs like "Dear Doctor" and all that — theyre that sort of character. I have an affinity with that country thing, I think.
Is it always a character in your songs?
Oh, no. Sometimes its closer to your own persona. See, I dont know how this works for other singers. The thing about rock & roll is people expect it to be real, sincere and heartfelt, or something — its not supposed to be manufactured. Pop music is allowed to be silly and saccharine, and nobody minds as long as they like the tune. Rock musics got its own set of conventions, but then you got to sort of break out of that because otherwise youre stuck in this thing, this one character.
Buddy Guy was really up in your face as youre playing blues harp, but you dont seem intimidated.
Im not intimidated. I might have been when I was twenty. Well, not even then.
Is there anyone who could intimidate you onstage at this point?
What are the first movies that you remember responding to as a kid?
My mum used to love musicals, so shed take me to all these musicals, which is a form I never liked. She loved Doris Day. Judy Garland. So I had to be dragged to these movies.
I remember reading that you and Keith both liked "Jazz on a Summers Day," which was filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958.
That was a big movie. That was the seminal movie for a lot of people, including filmmakers. We had a little chat about Jazz on a Summers Day with Marty [Scorsese].
The thing about Jazz on a Summers Day, its very much one night. And its got this very mellow feel, and you get these shots of the audience dancing, romantic and slightly tipsy. I think its the first time I ever saw Chuck Berry perform. So I saw it several times just for that. Its so weird because hes kind of put down by the other musicians in the movie. Because hes not jazz, which is something we experienced a lot when we were starting out, being put down by jazz musicians.
What struck you about his actual performance?
I remember talking with Keith — I was amazed how big his hands were. You know, I was looking at my hands on the guitar, and, Jesus, its so easy for him. Im stretching, and he doesnt even bother. I was amazed at his fluidity.
Ill read another quote from you. . . .
God, youve been digging around. Get off of fucking Google [laughs].
You said at some point in the Sixties, "Were not comedians, were not going to make Beatles movies." What did you think about the Beatles movies — "A Hard Days Night," "Help!"?
I just couldnt see the Rolling Stones doing anything like that. It did seem a bit too zany for my taste in movies. John was such a kind of serious person in a lot of ways. It was a little bit over the top, all the cuts and plots in the thing.
The Stones have made so many movies. Are you able to watch "Gimme Shelter," for instance?
I dont listen to anything, I never listen to any of [the Rolling Stones] records, and I never watch any of their movies. Lets get it out of the way. You know, I dont go home at night and put on Gimme Shelter, believe it.
Any chance youll finally release "Cocksucker Blues"?
Yeah, I wouldnt mind releasing it. Its fine.
How do you see the film now?
Thats a good movie. It didnt come out — but thats a classic. I wanted to make one kind of movie, but the director fucks you over because he doesnt want to do the movie hes agreed to make. I said, "You could make this dark movie, but you got to have these other up moments because being on tour is all about going onstage, you know?"
What you have for breakfast is fascinating, and what drugs youre taking and what birds youre shagging, thats all very lovely. But then for you, the going out onstage is the important part, and you have to include that. And [Robert Frank] wouldnt include it. So I got really mad at him, as we fired him. Thats the problem you can get into with hiring directors.