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Sunday 18 August 2019

Remembering Keith Richards and Mick Jagger's feud on the 30th anniversary of Richards' solo debut Talk is Cheap

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on stage
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on stage
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger's falling out, once upon a time, wasn't so much a marriage break-up. It was more a civil war between two of the biggest ego maniacs in the music industry.

Listen to this account from Chris Kimsey who co-produced the Stones's Undercover album in 1983: "That was the worst time I'd ever experienced with them. We recorded a lot of it in Nassau [Bahamas], then mixed it in New York at the Hit Factory. I would get Mick in the studio from like, midday until seven o'clock, then Keith from like, nine o'clock till five in the morning. They would not be together. They specifically avoided each other. Mick would say, 'When's he coming in? I'll be there later'. After about a week, it was killing me. And it was such silly things, like one would say, 'What did he do?' And I'd play a bit, and the other would say, 'Get rid of it'."

The human riff Keith Richards channelled his anger at control freak Jagger - over Jagger's solo albums like 1985's MTV-schmoozing She's The Boss and 1997's super-smooth Primitive Cool, and over Jagger's naked indifference to the Stones - with his debut solo album Talk Is Cheap in 1988. With the help of Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, the Memphis Horns, Patti Sciafia, Mick Taylor, Michael Doucet and Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Talk Is Cheap swung and rocked like a Stones album no longer did.

On You Don't Move Me, there was no doubt who Richards was singing about: 'You made the wrong motion/ Drank the wrong potion/ You lost the feeling/ Not so appealing/ Why do you think you got no friends?/ You drove them all around the bend/ Now you wanna throw the dice/ You already crapped out twice," Richards snarled in reference to Jagger's She's The Boss and Primitive Cool.

Elsewhere you had the Exile on Main Street-sounding looseness of Big Bang, Whip It Up and Take It So Hard.

"Mick Jagger's recent solo may be high on style and sass, but it's tough to beat Talk Is Cheap for real primitive cool," wrote David Frickle in his 1988 review in Rolling Stone magazine.

"Indeed, Richards's first solo album is a masterpiece of underachievement. He does nothing more or less than what he's always done on Stones records, slicing and dicing classic blues and Berryesque motifs into junkyard-dog guitar growls, singing in a shaky tortured-tonsil yelp that makes Jagger sound like Metropolitan Opera material."

To mark the 30th anniversary of Richards's incendiary solo album, Talk Is Cheap is reissued in a deluxe edition together with six unreleased bonus tracks: covers of Eddie Taylor's Big Town Playboy ("Walk the streets all day, come home late at night") and Jimmy Reed's My Babe, a demo of Mark On Me plus three quintessentially Keef instrumentals.

Talk Is Cheap gets better with age. Like its creator.

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