WAG: What made you decide to write an autobiography?
I had been writing my autobiography most
of my life. I must have been through umpteen different
starts and stops. Some were derailed by my drug
and alcohol use and inability to complete cycles
begun, whilst others got put aside due to offers
to produce recordings with talent in locations that
I could not resist.
Stoned includes long passages
from other people--either through interviews or
print excerpts from their own books. Why did you
choose this format over a more traditional one with
a single narrative voice?
This format, apart from my being clean,
is what made it possible to remain engaged and complete
the book. I am a fan of the medium in which I have
succeeded, and thus I have a tale to tell for some
amount of people. I love me—but I would have
got bored with a simple "I did this, I thought
that, and then I" format. I am challenged and
engaged by communication with others' deeds and
therefore have to ask the reader to share my interest.
Pete Townshend, John Paul Jones, Nik Cohn, Chris
Stamp, Vidal Sassoon and Mary Quant were all part
of the two hundred and fifty people who screamed
"the swinging Sixties" loudest and first;
therefore, I wanted their voices and experiences
in my story. I think they help me explain the time
better, and in a world where we all have our own
truth I might give the reader a wider one. Jean
Stein's Edie: American Girl (edited by George
Plimpton) has always seemed to me to be the way
to go, especially when serving up a world dominated
by spark, drugs and ego. The device is also an assist
to help you Be There Now.
Did you find that putting the
book together with so many voices was something
like producing a record?
Exactly. I am the basic track, my guests
are the overdubs, and the time and events are the
Did you have a clear understanding
that the book would take this shape from the beginning
or did it change as you worked on it?
I always had in mind a choice of three
endings for this first book. The first was "And
then I met the Rolling Stones," which might
have been deemed a bit cheeky in the ego department.
The second was "And then we recorded 'Satisfaction,'"
but that process brought America into the game,
which is a separate story. Post-Beatles music, and
therefore mine with the Rolling Stones, has two
lives. The first is making it in Britain when America
was a fantasy and not a possibility; the second
is the world that opened up for all of us once the
Beatles had hit. Before that, America was not even
a holiday possibility, just a field of dreams we
survived on via its films and music. The only British
pop records that made it in the States were one-off
freaks like Acker Bilk's "On The Shore"—not
even Cliff Richard could get a look in.
Stoned seems cathartic.
What was writing the book and reviewing that period
of your life like for you emotionally?
Catharsis is a process of " getting
rid of." I had nothing to get rid of. I'm applauding
the time and the people. Stoned is a celebration
and a history. It's a time that is often overlooked
by those on the left side of fifty by the accordianing
in of those years, as if we kicked off with peace
and love. That only came about when the fame and
money weren't working. Stoned tells of the
ride up, when every waking day had us beaming at
not having had to settle down and work for the Man.
Most of the people in Stoned were war-babies
who'd been told to tow the line for the sacrifices
of our elders. Thank God, we didn't; thank God,
we rocked the boat. Thank you, Eddie Cochran ! Thank
you, James Dean!
The Rolling Stones have a running
habit of turning down interviews, and they avoid
discussing the period your book covers. Why do you
think that is?
I can't see any valid reason for discussing
your yesterdays unless it's part of your work process
today. I certainly would not make a habit of it.
It's a very dangerous box to allow yourself to be
fitted into. The Rolling Stones have to be engaged
in tomorrow or it's over. I'm certainly not interested
in Bill Wyman or Mick Jagger except as present-time
objects in this wonderful world of words, and I
understand them not being interested in me. They
are in my life, at the moment, but I'm not in theirs.
What do you think was your greatest
accomplishment as a producer in the 1960s? And what
do you think was your greatest failing?
Providing the environment in which the
Stones could produce their music, cheer leading
them into "go," making enough valid suggestions
that ended up as recorded moments and knowing when
to leave the room. I did not have "a greatest
failing"—the work worked.
Will there be other volumes in
your autobiographical output or did Stoned
sum up everything you want to say?
Well, your reader will know we haven't
met. I'm not done by a long shot. I'm nearly through
2Stoned, and if the reader will have me,
there could be Stoned Free. 2Stoned
basically covers 1964 to 1967 and our coming to
America. As you know, Stoned ends just as
the Beatles have taken America, and the Stones are
getting ready to go. It's a heady time, and this
one may qualify as cathartic. I seem to be clearing
my universe in the process of getting it done. Finally,
if Oscar Wilde were alive today, he'd have just
finished a CD of duets with Leonard Cohen, Beck
and Marianne Faithfull.