The Tucky Buzzard tracks are interesting cuts, if not hugely successful! “Whisky Eyes” musically foreshadows GOAT’S HEAD SOUP in some ways, very moody with some hints of dark funk to it and nice fuzz-tone soloing. Bobby Keys and Jim Price appear on that track and “My Friend” too. The latter has a very produced, dated vocal, but is a solid track nonetheless. Mick adds vintage fills (think of his fills in “100 Years Ago”), and a searing end solo that ranks with his best.

The new energy of the Taylor-Stones fusion carries over onto STICKY FINGERS, which was in many ways the Stones’ most musically accomplished release to date. It came out in April in the U.K., June in the States, preceded by the single “Brown Sugar,” whose B-side was “Let It Rock.” This version of the Chuck Berry classic was recorded live at Leeds University. The horn section on the A side, and indeed throughout the whole album, completed the hard-edged R’n’B sound that Taylor and the Stones had been looking for; this was not an album that the band had been capable of making a few years earlier. The GET YER LEEDS LUNGS OUT boot showed that the band was already more polsihed than GET YER YA-YA’S OUT had been.

“Brown Sugar” is the most popular radio song from this release, of course, the perfect follow-up to “Honky Tonk Woman,” but several lesser-known standouts also appear. “Bitch” roars out of the speakers with horns blaring, as nasty and terse as its title. The compact mesh of rhythm and lead is a nice example of how the two guitarists pushed each other. There were quieter moments too. The version of Fred McDowell’s country blues “You Gotta Move” garnered positive response for Taylor’s authentic slide playing; he would make this number a standard in his live sets of the 80’s and 90’s. “I Got The Blues” is a ballad along the lines of “Love In Vain,” while “Moonlight Mile,” with its delicate strings and Taylor’s quasi-Oriental lines, shows the grace and elegance that the Stones were fully capable of. “Wild Horses,” with Taylor on Nashville-strung guitar, also goes this route. The Stones had pursued balladry and soft sounds before, of course, but these songs had a brighter polish and more of a natural flow than “Lady Jane” and “Ruby Tuesday” had.

Taylor’s playing came to the fore on the country-rock hoot “Dead Flowers,” “Sway,” with his slide solo in the middle and beautiful soaring lead on the close, cut off far too soon, and finally “Can’t You hear Me Knocking,” with its wonderfully loose finale jam. In this percussive groove extravaganza, Mick follows the sax lead with one of his own, wringing everything he can out of the notes, making time stand still. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” was, instrumentally, the most ambitious piece released by the Rolling Stones. They had released the 11-minute “Goin’ Home” on AFTERMATH years earlier, but it was more notable for its quantity than its quality. Not everyone was enthralled by the Stones’ work on this track; in IT’S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW, critic Jon Landau sniffed “For old times’ sake I do hope that the really boring guitar solo is by Mick Taylor, and that those great surging chords in the background are by Keith Richard...”

With the Stones’ erratic individual schedules, numbers would be written and recorded without all members present. This was the case with both “Moonlight Mile” and “Sway,” both constructed by Jagger and Taylor without Richards. “Moonlight Mile” started out as a Richards acoustic doodle put on tape as “Japanese Thing.” Jagger and Taylor would expand it to the epic that appears on vinyl. Despite this fact, all original compositions on the album were credited to “Jagger/Richards.”

Erratic as the Stones schedule already was, it only got worse. Jagger married jetsetter Bianca Morena de Perez, upping the number of paparazzi surrounding the band. Like so many other British musicians of the time, they had become tax exiles, and had to hoof it out of England. As a unit, they moved to France in March of 1971. This was toughest on Taylor, the newest and therefore least financially stable Stone - he had started out with the band on salary at 150 pounds per week and eventually became an equally paid member; 1/5 of the split, though no songwriting royalties, as those were all Jagger /Richards. He also had just had a new daughter, Chloe, in January, with his girlfriend Rosie Miller, later to become his wife.

Being a Stone involved much more than simply being a musician, which was a culture shock for Taylor. As a Bluesbreaker, he had been playing constantly, with nightly gigs and daily jam sessions all of the time. With the superstar Stones, there were so many more complications. October of 1971 found Jagger telling ROLLING STONE “I think Mick Taylor wants to play on stage with somebody. I think he’s a bit frustrated. We’re not touring all the time. I don’t want to tour all the time. I don’t know what he wants to do.”

What Taylor did was play on two lesser known albums, both released in 1971: B.B. Blunder’s WORKER’S PARADISE, to which Taylor lent his slide guitar playing to one track, “New Day,” and also Reg King’s self-titled debut album. Neither was what you’d call gangbusters in terms of sales, but Taylor soon enough found himself absorbed by the “Jungle Disease” sessions that became the Stones’ next project, to be released under a different tile.

The follow-up to STICKY FINGERS was 1972’s double album EXILE ON MAIN STREET. This was recorded in the finest of Stones fashion, mostly in late 1971, at Mick Jagger’s house in England, and most notably in the basement of Keith’s house in Nellcote, France. The album has the live feel and party atmosphere that reflect the recording grounds. The mix was muddier, with buried vocals and meshed guitars; few clear cut leads were at the front of the mix as they were on the previous album. The polish that showed on STICKY FINGERS songs like “Wild Horses” and “Moonlight Mile” was stripped off to show a rootsier side.

EXILE finds the Stones re-examining the sounds of gospel (“I Just Want To See His Face”), 50’s style rock’n’roll (“Rip This Joint”), their blues predecessors Slim Harpo and Robert Johnson (“Hip Shake” and “Stop Breaking Down”), their own blues raunch (“Casino Boogie,” “Ventilator Blues”), and country sounds (“Sweet Virginia”). On top of all this,. there is the rock that only the Stones could create, a filtration of ALL of their influences plus their own musical personalities: the joyful “Loving Cup,” which had debuted at Hyde park in 1969, “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy,” the cool “Rocks Off,” the slippery slide of “All Down The Line,” the pleading “Shine A Light,” the haunting “Let It Loose” short, the album is a treasure trove of great songs.

The recording sessions were madness incarnate. Philip Norman, in SYMPHONY FOR THE DEVIL, wrote “From June to September, Keith’s most steady companion was Mick Taylor, who lived with Rose in a much less grand house up the hill from Nellcote. One weekend when the crowd of hangers-on there was particularly large, Keith and Anita knocked on Taylor’s door and said ‘Can we come in for some peace and quiet?’...’I can remember fifty people sitting down to lunch,” Mick Taylor says. ‘It was like a holiday camp.”

Taylor expanded his role on EXILE, playing bass on “Tumbling Dice,” “Torn and Frayed,” “I Just Want To See His Face,” and “Shine A Light.” He received songwriting credit along with Jagger and Richards on “Ventilator Blues,” his first writing credit as a Stone, and “Stop Breaking Down” had each member’s name in the credits, as a “traditional arranged by...” Lead guitar highlights include his racing slide work on “All Down The Line” and two riveting solos on “Shine A Light.” Throughout the album, however, the beauty of the guitar work is the meshing, as on songs like “Tumbling Dice” and “Rocks Off.”

Despite later statements to the contrary, there was a definite sharing of the playing between the two guitarists at this point. On tour, and on the two subsequent albums, this dynamic would change; however, the video of the Montreux rehearsals, broadcast on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” and heavily circulated on tape since, shows that the two were capable of swapping quite ably. While Taylor was definitely more of a lead player than any member of the Stones, he also supported and pushed Richards. It was a changing situation, however; as Keith plunged more heavily into his addictions, he clung more to rhythm, and Taylor more strictly to lead. The idea of two lead guitarists as originally envisioned was indeed fading.

In Al Lewis’ UNKNOWN STONE: THE MICK TAYLOR STORY, Mick compares his role on EXILE to the other albums: “I haven’t contributed more on this album as an instrumentalist because the numbers aren’t structured that way.They’re basically very rock’n’roll, and the songs are more important than any instrumental work that’s going on...I think we all contributed more on this album than we have in the past - just in terms of ideas really. Well, we have that feeling going on STICKY FINGERS, but you can’t really compare the two albums. They are totally different - both recorded in a different way.”

“Usually we book studio time and go in a certain time each day and work. But here we would go in at all different times of the day or night and whoever was around would play. So there was always a lot of variety. I’m playing bass on four or five songs, for instance. And Keith plays piano. Mick plays guitar on one or two numbers. I’ve always liked playing bass and wherever there’s the opportunity I take it. I think it’s the best album the band’s cut since I’ve been with them.”

The concert film LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THE ROLLING STONES was filmed during the EXILE tour. It is out of print, to the frustration of many who feel that at this point the band was at their peak. Compounding that frustration is the shelving of alive album from the same tour. Bootleg videos of LADIES AND GENTLEMAN do circulate, however, and the film shows the band in its entirety, including several great close-ups on the fretboards. The Stones sounded tighter than they did in 1969, with the larger backing band contributing tastefully. There are different versions of the video in circulation; the one to look for is the full 15-song version. It is a major shame that this remains unreleased; arguably, Taylor’s status would be greatly increased if more people got a look-and-listen to this gem.

For a seedier look at the Stones’ 1972 tour, try Robert Franks’ movie COCKSUCKER BLUES. This film mixes black and white footage of groupies and hangers-on with some footage of the group and some color concert footage as well. It is admittedly an uneven work; it does show some of the tedium of touring all too demonstratively! However, it helps to explain the craziness of the touring juggernaut that the Stones were at this point: electrifying onstage, but always surrounded by distractions and detractions of a decidedly non-musical nature. The tour through the U.S. even included a stay at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion!

With the level of expertise the Stones had achieved, they were a near-seamless live band, working each number to perfection. For some, they were almost too perfect, too professional. Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone: “God knows I still love rock’n’roll. Still, I’d like to see the band experiment more, with form as well as content. Because myself, I like SATANIC MAJESTIES...I mean, Mick Taylor has even more strange ideas than me an’ I know Charlie wouldn’t mind goin’ along with it...I wouldn’t want to be a band people think they could rely on.” The Stones did begin the tour with many EXILE songs in the set, but soon dropped numbers like “Loving Cup” and “Torn and Frayed,” leaving the set heavier on better-known songs.

The differences in opinion regarding the Stones’ direction were not helped by the living conditions. Keith in particular was concerned that living outside of England in temporary quarters disrupted much of their unity. While Mick Taylor may indeed have wanted the band to move in more experimental directions, perhaps pones where he had a more active role, complications set in. In September, Charlie and Bill were arrested in France on drug charges that would hover over their heads for months. Jagger was often busy with his new wife Bianca and the high-flying crowd he was able to circulate with, though he did take a break in October to begin mixing the live album that would not be released. Keith had moved to Switzerland in August and was distracted by various chemicals.

After the 1972 tour, while the Stones did enjoy some vacationing, they did also return to work. At Elektra Studios in Hollywood, per Al Lewis, the band recorded five tracks with Taylor writing credit: “Leather jacket,” “Potted Shrimp,” “Aladdin Story,” “Dancing In The Light,” and an untitled instrumental (possibly “Separately”?). None of these would make it onto an official Stones album.

November of 1972 and March of 1973 saw the Stones in Jamaica recording the underrated GOAT’S HEAD SOUP. Keith bought a villa there in December of 1972. During the recording, producer Jimmy Miller and engineer Andy Johns were both taxed by their own drug problems, and dropped out. Between the laying of the initial tracks in November and the final recording and mixing in March, the band played a benefit date to respond tot he December earthquake in Nicaragua, Bianca’s home country. This show had the Stones performing oldies like “Route 66” and “It’s All Over Now,” plus “No Expectations” with Mick’s magical slide guitar. They played two nights in Honolulu; and in February they toured Australia and New Zealand. The seemingly non-stop tour would run through Europe as well. In Hawaii, Mick Taylor told Rolling Stone why he was such a reserved performer: “I don’t want to upstage Mick (Jagger).”

In the midst of all this, Taylor laid some guitar tracks down in January for keyboardist Nicky Hopkins’ solo album, THE TIN MAN WAS A DREAMER. The album was platter of Hopkins compositions which features a number of studio pros and British all-stars, including the Stones’ horn section of Bobby Keys and Jim Price, as well as such notables as Ray Cooper, Chris Spedding, Klaus Voorman, and Prarie Prince. Taylor plays on three tracks: “Dolly,” a Lennonesque ballad with a squiggily wah-wah solo; “Speed On,” on which he handles rhythm guitar; and “Lawyer’s Lament.”

Once the Australian tour ended, Taylor did some globe trotting and visited Indonesia. He returned to England to join Mike Oldfield onstage for a performance of TUBULAR BELLS at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Mick Jagger was in the audience observing, and perhaps saw a hint of what was to come for Taylor. Mike Oldfield was a virtuoso guitarist whose ambitious instrumental project became legendary. TUBULAR BELLS was a dazzling studio creation of orchestral guitar work that definitely caught Mick Taylor’s ear. It was light years away from the campy Chuck Berryisms of “Starfucker” and “It’s Only Rock and Roll” that the Stones would continue to pursue.

A note of contention here among Taylor collectors: it has been stated in the press, notably in GUITAR WORLD, that Taylor appeared on the album TUBULAR BELLS and/or on THE ORCHESTRAL TUBULAR BELLS, but his name appears on neither. He WAS on a televised broadcast of the concert mentioned above. While we’re at it, THE ROLLING STONES A TO Z among others claims that Taylor is on John Mayall’s EMPTY ROOMS, but again he is not listed on the album; chances are good that he does not appear on any of these three records, though they are all worth buying anyway!

In BLUES MAN #19, Al Lewis asked Mick if he had ever been asked by Oldfield or Billy Preston to join their bands. Mick replied “I did play with Billy Preston as you know and with Mike Oldfield I helped the founding of Virgin Records with that particular album (TUBULAR BELLS). I did a couple of live concerts which were done at the Queen Elizabeth Hall which was basically the beginning of Virgin Records, but I was not asked to join their bands. The only band that I was ever asked to join while I was with the Stones, and it wouldn’t’ve really necessitated me leaving the Stones was Free/Bad Company. It was around the time we finished GOAT’S HEAD SOUP. I met Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirk in Jamaica and they didn’t have guitar player and we weren’t touring at the time and they asked me if I would do a tour with them. But I really couldn’t do it because of my involvement with the Stones. But it would’ve been a nice idea actually.” They instead connected with ex-Mott the Hoople axeman Mick Ralphs, and Bad Company would achieve massive popularity. One has to wonder what would’ve happened had Mick Taylor said yes?

GOAT’S HEAD SOUP was released at last in August of 1973. While neither the band nor the critics have much good to say about the album - Keith calls it a “marking time” album, and Taylor says “it’s a bit directionless” - it certainly had its share of great moments. It sold well, and arguably brought in a pop audience that might not have “gotten” EXILE. “Angie” and “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” still get airplay, and deservedly so, but there are some other stellar moments on the album too.

The wistful “100 Years Ago” is a funky number full of clavinet that features Keith on bass and Taylor’s wah-wah action, especially during the break-out jam at the song’s end. THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE ROLLING STONES states “The funk hit the hardest when, towards the end of the song, Mick Taylor took off on a heavily wah-wahed solo, elevating a perfunctory exercise in contemporary fashion into something that stepped aside, and looked beyond.” “Winter” is a soulful Jagger vocal showpiece which achieves transcendence with the soaring lead guitar that slices through the orchestral flourishes and cymbal crashes. “Silver Train” is perhaps the most upbeat song on t he album, a rocker from 1970 that has some excellent slide work but was dropped from the live set because of its similarity to “All Down The Line.”” Another blues rocker was “Hide Your Love,” per Al Lewis another Jagger/Taylor composition that Taylor did not receive credit for. Their flirtations with funk and dance music, which reached their zenith with 1978’s “Miss You,” had a forerunner in “Dancing With Mr. D.” This track received some criticism for its silly lyrics, and, like some of the remaining songs, just didn’t stand up to the strength of the Stones’ previous string of albums. This is the disc that Keith refers to as his “junkie music,” and there certainly is a spaced-out, unfinished feel to the album. However, careful listenings without the expectation of EXILE PART 2 do yield some very rewarding moments. Is GOAT’S HEAD SOUP indicative of the “weird stuff” that Jagger said that he and the others wanted to work with? In hindsight, it seems that it is not the album that ANY of the musicians wanted to make, but it does show that they were very willing to experiment with sounds and textures.

An interesting note is that “Tops” and “Waiting On A Friend” were recorded during these sessions as well. They would not surface until 1981’s TATTOO YOU, with the result that Taylor sued the Stones, as there was no credit given for his playing on those tracks, and presumably no financial compensation either! Other outtakes that still have not seen the official light of day include the instrumental “Separately,” which features Hopkins and Taylor; “Save Me,” a funky rocker that is stronger than some of the album’s cuts but also is somewhat reminiscent of “All Down The Line”; and the throwaway “Who Am I.” Other titles include “After Muddy and Charlie,” “Chris Cross,” and “Jamaica.”

Another track recorded here was “Through The Lonely Nights,” an acoustic-flavored ballad which may have Jimmy Page on it. This track appeared as the flip side to the 1974 single “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll.” “Through The Lonely Nights” deserves to have much greater exposure; the vocals and harmonies are exquisite, the composition mixes everything from country tastes to reggae; and the weeping guitar solo has a distorted edge to it that burns as it mourns. Unjustly obscure.

The tour for this album showed the band to be wonderful and loose, albeit too smooth for some once again. “Dancing With Mr. D.,” “Angie,” “Star Star” and “Heartbreaker” would mainly be played from the new album, with “100 Years Ago” airing only once. Taylor’s lead guitar was much more prominent on the live versions of these songs than on the studio cuts. Two recordings from this tour were played on the King Biscuit Flower Hour, and concretely display were the band was in their sonic evolution. At this point, Keith was playing rhythm almost strictly, with the increasingly restless Taylor literally playing circles around him. The quiet guitarist’s itchiness with the “greatest hits” set that the band was regularly playing led him to filigree and solo at almost every point possible, with “Midnight Rambler” and “Can’t Always Get What You Want” clocking in well over ten minutes. Taylor’s solos on the latter song were jaw-dropping, however, and well worthy of the excursion.

It is well worth noting that Taylor’s frequent soloing live was not a case of egotistical musician showing off; British journalist Nick Kent, in Victor Bockris’ KEITH RICHARDS: THE BIOGRAPHY, describes Keith’s addiction at this point: “All his guitars had capos on them so he didn’t have to play bar chords. There was a different guitar for every song because he was too fucked up to make the effort. He was on automatic most of ‘73. Certain nights were good, but he was on automatic. He was numb. He wasn’t even there.” All lead guitar duties were thus left to Taylor, recalling the Bluesbreaker days.

The band was heavily into the glitter image at this point, with all members sporting some make-up. Mick Taylor found himself pulled into the quagmire that Richards was firmly esconsced in. The musicians were surrounded by dealers and unhelpful characters of all sorts. Nick Kent continues, “It was a drug tour. Mick Taylor was becoming seriously lost in a drug fog. Between ‘73 and ‘74 a lot of people in the music business got into heroin. It went from being a thing they did every weekend to something they did every day and they sorta didn’t know what happened. Taylor became like that.”

Even if he was slipping, Taylor remained very active in 1973 and 1974. His work with Oldfield is just one example. His playing with Hopkins was not the only side work he did with a Stones keyboardist; he also sat in with Billy Preston’s God Squad, who opened for the Stones. Jagger joined him to jam at London’s Rainbow Theatre in October of 1973. The two Micks also appeared in Los Angeles to join Bill Wyman in the studio where he was working on his first solo album, MONKEY GRIP. Taylor is not credited as appearing on Wyman’s finished product. He did appear as lead guitarist on the album BILLY PRESTON’S LIVE EUROPEAN TOUR, released a bit later, in August of 1974.

Preston was an excellent keyboardist and over-the-top performer who had worked with the Beatles toward the end of their stint, and was with the Stones in the mid-70’s. His band, the God Squad, opened for the Stones’ European gigs in 1973. In his band, Mick Taylor got to unleash torrents of red-hot solos while Billy worked the crowd like a preacher. Preston was definitely one to let the show become a free-for-all, musically as well as visually. Pictures attest to Taylor wearing an enormous Afro wig onstage! Some of the photos from the album sleeve show Mick playing a Stratocaster onstage, and Billy with Bianca onstage (!!). The liner notes declare “ crosses your mind that with Preston playing warm-up instead of the Jefferson Airplane, Altamont might have turned out very differently.”

The feel of this live album is that of a jam session, a loosely organized gospel revival. It opens with “Day Tripper,” a short upbeat funky version, with Mick flying freely through the fills while holding down the main riff. The protest song “The Bus (medley)”, which appears in edited form on the bootleg MICK TAYLOR: ON THE KILLING FLOOR, is here in all of its majestic sprawl, wandering all over the place. Mick gets to stretch out as he had with John Mayall, and he goes from funk chord jams to screaming solos. You can se how Billy and Mick had affected songs like “100 Years Ago” through this. “Let It Be” is worshipful and shimmering as it should be, with Mick’s aching fills on the edge of feedback. A groove very much like “Slave” appears, and out of nowhere, Billy notes that he worked with the Stones AND Ray Charles, and veers into “Let’s Go Get Stoned”! His solo jam “Billy’s Bag” ends side one.

Side two begins with his hit “Will It Go Around In Circles.” “Outta Space,” familiar to fans of the Stones 1975-76 live material, gets very adventuresome, and as was his wont, Preston calls on the band to keep it going. Taylor responds with a beautifully smooth solo. “Higher (vamp)” rolls with loads of audience participation stuff (and also the inspiration riff for Drivin’ and Cryin’s “Fly Me Courageous”?) and free jamming. Having such free reign to solo and jam as he wished undoubtedly kept Mick Taylor in the frame of mind to play (or overplay as some critics would have it) as ferociously as he did during the Stones’ set. Indeed, the Stones’ set must have felt confining after Preston’s. “Get Back” finishes things up. This live album is currently out of print, and is somewhat of a Holy Grail for Taylor collectors. It, with documents like HEADIN FOR AN OVERLOAD, certainly disputes any notions of Mick not being able to play well at the time! He more than held his own for BOTH bands on that tour.

Also in 1974, Taylor appeared on two albums by the jazz flautist Herbie Mann, pushing his playing even further. LONDON UNDERGROUND, released in April, is a collection of mostly jazzed covers of rock songs, including instrumental versions of “Bitch,” “Layla,” and “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which found Mick sharing guitar duties with fellow Brit Albert Lee. REGGAE, released in August, again teamed Taylor with Albert Lee. The highlight of that album is a Jamaicafied version of the r’n’b classic “My Girl,” an 18+ minute version that takes up one whole album side and gives all of the players a chance to shine. These two albums ALSO remain out of print; one would hope that the record companies would consider putting these out in some kind of format, or at least collecting the Taylor tracks and releasing those!! Perhaps they will appear on CD as METAMORPHOSIS has appeared in recent years.

In the same busy year of 1974, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger joined a recording session at Ron Woods’ house in May, only to find Keith Richards there! Richards was helping Woody out on his solo album, I’VE GOT MY OWN ALBUM TO DO. The Stones song “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll” resulted from the Wood sessions. Taylor and Jagger joined Richards in appearing on Wood’s album. The contributions are not listed on the CD as to who did what, but it sounds like Mick Taylor on slide on the track “Far East Man.” In UNKNOWN STONE, it states “Taylor ends up playing on four tracks. He plays bass on “Far East Man” and “Take A Look At The Guy.” He plays electric guitar, bass, and Wurlitzer on “Shirley,” and ARP synthesizers on “If You Gotta Make A Fool of Somebody.”” There are no individual credits on either of the CD re-releases of the LP that I’ve seen, unfortunately. The album ends up being VERY Stonesy, with Mick and Keith vocals appearing, and two Jagger-Richards compositions debuting. This is an essential part of any Stones’ fan’s collection. Mick Taylor would also appear on slide guitar on one track, “It’s Unholy,” on Woody’s next solo album, NOW LOOK, from 1975. His sound is very similar to the tone and licks of “All Down The Line” on this one.

The Stones had gone to Musicland Studios in Munich in November of 1973 to start recording the follow-up to GOAT’S HEAD SOUP. Taylor did not accompany them, due to an illness that many found mysterious. Rumors flew that he might join Billy Preston or Mike Oldfield full-time; others felt that drugs or alcohol might be the problem. In January of 1974, the band returned to Munich, this time with Taylor, who put overdubs on the already-recorded tracks. Again he played more instruments: bass, congas, and synthesizer as well as guitar. The songs “Living Is A Harder Love” and “Drift Away” were recorded but not released. Of the songs that did make it onto the LP IT’S ONLY ROCK’N’ROLL, Taylor felt he deserved songwriting credits on “Time Waits For No One,” “Till The Next Time We Say Goodbye,” and “If You Really Want To Be My Friend.”

“Time Waits For No One” is certainly regarded as Taylor’s masterpiece and farewell statement. THE COMPLETE ROLLING STONES RECORDING SESSIONS states: “If artifacts are required to immortalize the individual, then the guitar virtuoso performance by Mick Taylor is his vinyl piece de resistance (Carlos Santana has been trying to copy the style displayed ever since!?)” In UNKOWN STONE, Taylor himself said “The best one, for a guitar solo anyway, is “Time Waits For No One,” which is the first song we recorded for the album. We hadn’t seen each other in about three months, and it was done in one or two takes. That was kind of a bit like the recording of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” in the sense that we worked out how to play the song, and there was going to be a space for a guitar solo, it was a first take. I mean the backing track and the guitar solo is the first or second time we actually ran through the song, so the guitar solo was done live. It’s got a long sort of extended guitar solo at the end, which is because it was a good solo and it’s peaking. That’s how long the track goes on for.”

“We had done a bit of a layoff because we had just finished with the American tour, and everybody went to different pats of the globe and had a rest. I went to Brazil, which is possibly why there’s a little Latin influence in there. Yeah, join the Rolling Stones and see the world.” The song remains in the eyes of many as an obvious testimony to Taylor’s musical role in the band. As Tony Sanchez stated in UP AND DOWN WITH THE ROLLING STONES, “ only has to listen to the complex musical tapestry that Taylor weaves on a track like “Time Waits For No One” to realize that this is quite outside the scope of the material that Mick and Keith have written.”

Other notable moments are found in “Short And Curlies,” a chugging blues with Taylor’s slide guitar laughing over the thick chords. “Dance Little Sister” foretold of the somewhat simpler, straight-ahead-rock direction the Stones would demonstrate on at least a few songs on every album from then til now. Meanwhile, “Fingerprint File” took the dance music/funk sound the Stones had been toying with and added to it. Mick Taylor played bass on this one. The funk sound was one that Ronnie Wood would be more comfortable with, and that the Stones would explore more on BLACK AND BLUE and EMOTIONAL RESCUE.

IT’S ONLY ROCK ‘N’ROLL was released in October of 1974; once again, many critics and die-hards were unimpressed, but sales were enormous. The band was ready to begin recording the next album only three months later back in Munich. They had not toured at all in 1974, and surely looked forward to another quick recording session and subsequent set of live dates in the summer of 1975. It was not to be as they planned.


Mick Taylor told Mick Jagger of his decision to leave the Stones first, on December 4. Jagger told ROLLING STONE “I’m sorry to see him go, but I think people should be free to do what they want to do. I mean it’s not the army, it’s just a sort of rock’n’roll band. It’s very hard for me to explain exactly why he quit. I’m not Mick, so it’s difficult for me to explain his personal reasons. But when we went to Eric Clapton’s concert at Hammersmith (London) last week, and to the party at Robert Stigwood’s afterwards, Mick and I talked. He just said he’d played with us for five years, and he felt he wanted to play some different kinds of music. So I said ‘Okay, that’s fine,’ and that was that. We were due to return to Munich about two or three days later to start recording, so I didn’t really have much time to talk to him. But we did have a couple of hours. There wasn’t any kind of row or anything.” Mick Taylor told a fan in 1992 that actually, Clapton’s solo tour had provided some inspiration for him to try and do the same.

The other Stones worked on new songs for a week in Munich before Taylor’s official announcement hit the press on December 12: “The last 5 1/2 years with the Stones have been very exciting, and proved to be a most inspiring period. And as far as my attitude to the other four members is concerned, it is one of respect for them, both as musicians and as people. I have nothing but admiration for the group, but I feel now is the time to move on and do something new.” His resignation did not really give the Stones much time to prepare, as they were already at the studio’s door. Jagger and Richards were undoubtedly none too pleased, and some harsh statements were made by both as well as some very kind ones, depending on which day or year afterward they were interviewed.

In KEITH RICHARDS: A BIOGRAPHY, Victor Bockris quoted two esteemed rock critics on the matter. Roy Carr wrote “It was a shock announcement, especially since on IT’S ONLY ROCK’N’ROLL he finally seemed to have meshed perfectly into the band’s overall sound. But in personality terms he was shy, and had never become a natural group member. A contributory cause was certainly the songwriting upsets, but more importantly there was a desire by Taylor to broaden horizons.” Critic Robert Palmer concurred: “Taylor was the most accomplished technician who had ever served as a Stone. A blues guitarist with a jazzman’s flair for melodic invention, Taylor was never a rock’n’roller and never a showman.”

Tony Sanchez quotes Taylor as saying to him “I’m getting tired of it. I feel like I’m losing touch with reality.” Sanchez adds “Five years on the road had given him a crash course in world weariness and a feeling of desperation had come over him - he had to get out now, or go the perilous way of Brian, Keith, and Mick...He was hurt when Jagger and Richard implemented his ideas for subtly changing the sound of the Rolling Stones - particularly on GOAT’S HEAD SOUP and IT’S ONLY ROCK’N’ROLL - but refused to acknowledge his contribution by granting a single songwriting credit. He never confronted them, never had the strength to fight them, but he felt - just as Brian had - that he was being ill-used.”

Sanchez wrote that Taylor had gone from being an innocent to becoming someone who had snorted so much cocaine that he needed to have his nasal septum replaced with a plastic partition. Philip Norman, in SYMPHONY FOR THE DEVIL, concurred with the idea that drugs were a large part of Taylor’s exit: “...(Taylor) was now a heroin addict, though, he says, not quite past the threshold to permanent enslavement. Mick Taylor, in effect, was running for his life.” Sanchez sums up the situation with a picture that too many fans still have: “He (Taylor) slid quietly away, married Rose, lived in a cottage with honeysuckle around the door near Rye in Sussex and rehearsed with jack Bruce...The last time I saw Mick he had split from Bruce, his marriage was in tatters, he was living with a lady who pushed cocaine for a living and he had been reduced to selling off his gold discs.” It is true that in January 1976, Mick had sold his gold disc for IT’S ONLY ROCK’N’ ROLL for 75 pounds at Bonhams’ Auction House in Chelsea. Taylor has admitted that his post-Stones drug problems were intense, but declares that they were not a problem while he was with the band. He has never cited them as his reason for leaving.

At the time, Taylor hotly denied that there was any personal conflict or any problem over songwriting credits, but in later years has admitted that he did feel he deserved some credit for many tracks. He told ROLLING STONE in 1975: “I’d worked with them in such a way, and for so long, that I didn’t think I could go much further without some different musicians. So when this chance with Jack Bruce came up, well, I wanted to be with him. I’d known for several months that Jack wanted to put together a new band. We’d played a lot together lately, and we’d really hit it off well. It was all for purely musical reasons. There was no personal animosity in the split. There was no row, no quibbling or squabbling.”

Keith Richards agreed with the idea of musical differences being the main issue. He told GUITAR PLAYER in 1977: “The thing with musicians as fluid as Mick Taylor is that it’s hard to keep their interest. They get bored, especially in such a necessarily restricted and limited music field as rock’n’roll.” Bill Wyman noted “I think Mick was sort of bored with the Stones. He didn’t like working 10 hours on a track when he could master it in 2.”

This concurs with what Mick told GUITAR PLAYER magazine in 1980. “It was when I felt that it wasn’t going somewhere that I left...You have to remember, though, that I was a bit younger than everybody else, and when I joined them, they’d already been successful for a long time. You know, there are some people who can just ride along from crest to crest; they can ride along on somebody else’s success. And there are some people for hwom that;s not enough. It really wasn’t enough for me.”

Certainly the musical success of friends like wunderkind Mike Oldfield must have gotten Taylor thinking about what he could do as a solo act. Progressive rock was burgeoning at the time, and hearing complex music on the radio and seeing its major success commercially must have provided a temptation of sorts. Certainly the music he later made with Jack Bruce, and definitely the material on Taylor’s first solo album, indicates that this was a large consideration.

In late 1974, with the condition of Richards, the disspation of some of the Stones’ musical vision, creativity, relevance, and with Jagger’s extracurricular interests in themix, it seemed to many that the band was about to call it quits anyway. Who could have predicted, in 1974, that the Stones would last another 25+ years with continually increasing commercial success?! Still, even with their perceived problems, the Stones were huge in 1974, and it seemed inconceiveable that anyone would just walk out of such a position.

When asked by ROLLING STONE in January of 1975 about the songwriting issue, he responded “I’m very disturbed by those had absolutely nothing to do with those things. I’m very upset about it, because I really loved working with them for the past five years - we’ve had some really great times. And I’d like to work with them again. But how are they going to feel if they open a paper somewhere and see something completely wrong, making all sorts of claims and sounding as if it comes from me? Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I think the rumors were started by an interview I did in a trade paper, but the things I said were taken out of context. And I never wanted the things I said written, reported or repeated. Whatever I felt about credits on songs has nothing to do with my decision to leave. If Mick or Keith ever want to do solo albums, I’d really like to be in on them. And that’s especially why I want these rumors killed, because I don’t want my friendship with the Stones jeopardized, or anything I may do with them later.”

Mick Taylor’s anguish over the public perception of the split was palpable, and no doubt lead to a certain amount of disenchantment with the press. What did not help was his wife’s statement in the same article: “Mick is a musical was just a question of having musical acknowledgement. If you know him or have anything to do with him, you know that he doesn’t think of the money at all like that.” Actually, the typical rock’n’roll “old lady” theory was pointed at by some as a factor in Taylor’s departure. Nick Kent, who claimed to have met Rosie often while scoring heroin, wrote “Mick Taylor was a great guitarist, but he had a very stupid wife. They broke up since, but she was always pushing Taylor. He felt he should get songwriting credit because Keith hadn’t turned up to a few sessions and he’d done a few riffs with Jagger.”

In later years, however, Mick would address the songwriting issue somewhat differently. In 1990, he said to the jazz magazine DOWNBEAT, in regard to songs like “Sway” and “Time Waits For No One” and songwriting credit, “I was told I would get credit for those songs - that’s one of the main reasons I left. They don’t write songs like that now, do they?”

In 1997’s British GUITAR magazine, he cooled down this statement: “I don’t think it was a deliberate thing to rip me off. People just didn’t care enough, didn’t take the trouble to make sure I got paid. It was a kind of lazy arrogance.” The same article finds a very conciliatory statement from Richards from 1996: “Mick’s a great weaver...his touch, his tone, and his melodic ideas wowed me. I never understood why he left...” A very disturbing rumor has surfaced that Taylor receives no money whatsoever from his work with the Stones. This seems incredibly hard to explain in any fashion.

In the decades that have passed, as is clear, good and bad things have been said by the Stones and by Taylor about their partnership and the split. The Stones certainly have changed since, and have never, in most critics’ eyes, hit the peaks of EXILE or STICKY FINGERS again. Whether they could fairly be expected to is certainly one strong question; another is, how much did it have to do with Taylor? While the answers are elusive, and conflicting comments may continue to be made, the fact remains that for a few golden years, at the heart of the World’s Greatest Rock Band’s sound was the pairing of one of the genre’s most skillful and idiosyncratic rhythm masters with one of the most fluid and melodic lead players. While Taylor and Richards alike both maintain that the change was needed by all, the image and sound of the two on stage, Richards back by the drums, bobbing with the slashing chords, and Taylor standing stationary to the side, wholly absorbed by the beautiful sounds he caressed from the bent strings and wove into the Stones’ mix, remains transcendent.


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