Personal Playlist: Mick Jagger
As his new project, Superheavy, prepares to release its album, the Rolling Stones singer talks Beyoncé, Howlin’ Wolf and hearing the ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ riff in a song from Thailand.
Mick Jagger greeted me last month with a firm handshake as he welcomed me into a hotel room at Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about music. The Rolling Stone was in town shooting a video for his newest collaborative project, Superheavy, a group also featuring Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, A.R. Rahman and Damian Marley. The album, a merger of Stones-style swagger, deep Jamaican rhythms and a dose of dance floor energy, was recorded in Los Angeles last year, and comes out Sept. 20 on Universal Republic. A more detailed look at the project will arrive in these pages in the weeks to come.
Pop & Hiss: What are you listening to these days for pleasure?
Mick Jagger: If you’re an actual musician, you have to do all kinds of stuff: You have to vaguely listen to what’s going on so that you at least know. [If someone asks] ‘Have you heard Beyoncé’s new single?’ You can’t just say no. And, yeah, I have downloaded Beyoncé’s new single. And that’s a great record. But then there are the things you buy that you’ve bought before. I just bought “The Best of Howlin’ Wolf, Vol. 2,” and there’s stuff that wasn’t on volume one; it’s just as good but it’s a little more rare — well, not “rare,” but it’s nice to have them all in one place.
And there’s an amazing thing that I heard when I was in Argentina. I was listening online to one of those American college stations and there was a version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by this Lao band. So I went on the playlist of the college station, and wrote it down because it’s in Thai. I thought, “OK, I’m never going to find that.” And there it was! The record’s called “The Sound of Siam.” And it’s not just that track — that’s just the one that got my attention. Some nutter put together the [collection]. I’ve got a couple of Thai friends, and I played “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and they said, “We can’t understand this. It’s actually not in Thai. It’s in some country dialect we don’t speak.” You find the weirdest things.
It’s gotta be thrilling to hear something you created transformed like that.
It was just a funny sound. It’s not really even “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” but the riff is. So that’s how I pick up all kinds of stuff, you know? That’s what I like doing.
And it’s fun finding music that way these days.
Yeah, because before, this would be so seriously difficult to do. It would involve many trips along Sunset Boulevard asking shop assistants. There are some good things about the record business being what it is.
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: Mick Jagger performs during the show at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times