29th August 1989
CD ‘ (CBS/Rolling Stones Records 465752-2).
Producer: Chris Kimsey & The Glimmer Twins. Sound engineer: Christopher Marc Potter.
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Ron Wood, Chuck Leavell, Matt Clifford, Phil Beer, Luis Jardim, the Kick Horns, the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Bachir Attar Farafina, Bernard Fowler, Lisa Fischer, Sarah Dash, Tessa Niles, Sonia Morgan.
Highest Charts Position : US 1 - UK 2
- Sad Sad Sad (MJ/KR)
- Mixed Emotions (MJ/KR)
- Terrifying (MJ/KR)
- Hold On To Your Hat (MJ/KR)
- Hearts For Sale (MJ/KR)
- Blinded By Love (MJ/KR)
- Rock And A Hard Place (MJ/KR)
- Can’t Be Seen (MJ/KR)
- Almost Hear You Sigh (MJ/KR/Steve Jordan)
- Continental Drift (MJ/KR)
- Break The Spell (MJ/KR)
- Slipping Away (MJ/KR)
The Stones, or more accurately the relationship between Mick and Keith, imploded shortly after Dirty Work, resulting in Mick delivering a nearly unbearably mannered, ambitious solo effort that stiffed and Keith knocking out the greatest Stones album since Tattoo You, something that satisfied the cult but wasn't a hit. Clearly, they were worth more together than they were apart, so it was time for the reunion, and that's what Steel Wheels is -- a self-styled, reunion album. It often feels as if they sat down and decided exactly what their audience wanted from a Stones album, and they deliver a record that gives the people what they want, whether it's Tattoo You-styled rockers, ballads in the vein of "Fool to Cry," even a touch of old-fashioned experimentalism with "Continental Drift." Being professionals, in the business for over two-and-a-half decades, and being a band that always favored calculation, they wear all this well, even if this lacks the vigor and menace that fuels the best singles; after all, the rocking singles ("Sad Sad Sad," "Rock and a Hard Place," "Mixed Emotions") wind up being smoked by such throwaways as "Hold on to Your Hat." Even though it's just 12 songs, the record feels a little long, largely due to its lack of surprises and unabashed calculation (the jams are slicked up so much they don't have the visceral power of the jam record, Black & Blue). Still, the Stones sound good, and Mick and Keith both get off a killer ballad apiece with "Almost Hear You Sigh" and "Slipping Away," respectively. It doesn't make for a great Stones album, but it's not bad, and it feels like a comeback -- which it was supposed to, after all
15th May - 29th June1989 London, Olympic Sound Studios. Producer:
Chris Kimsey & The Glimmer Twins.
Sound engineer: Christopher Marc Potter.
- Almost Hear You Sigh III (MJ/KR/Steve Jordan) -Steel Wheels-version
- Blinded By Love (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Break The Spell (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Can’t Be Seen (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Hearts For Sale (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Hold On To Your Hat (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Mixed Emotions II (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Rock And A Hard Place II (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Sad Sad Sad (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Slipping Away (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
- Terrifying (MJ/KR) -Steel Wheels-version
Keith and I and (financial adviser) Rupert (Lowenstein) had a small meeting first and talked about business. We were in a hotel (in Barbados) with the sea crashing outside and the sun shining and drinks, talking about all the money we're gonna get and how great it was gonna be, and then we bring everyone else in and talk about it... I'm glad we didn't (air issues), because it could have gone on for weeks. It was better that we just get on with the job. Of course, we had to revisit things afterwards.
With Mick, I mean, he's my mate, I know I'm going to fight with him. You don't think of it in terms of being carried out via the international press, and when you actually get back together again and start working, and it's just the 2 of you in a room, you're lying on the floor laughing. Remember when you said that I was a THIS, and I called you a THAT? And then we start cracking up. A lot of the problems are in other people's perceptions of us. Where we get off on each other is when we're working together, and when you walk into a room and say, Well, we've got to finish the record by June and it's already the middle of February and we don't have a song yet, and within 2 or 3 hours you've got 2 or 3 songs, you start to forget about all the other crap. You're on a roll, once things start going. I mean, nobody in their right mind breaks a roll. You follow it, and it's much more fun than recriminations.
It all sounds very boring, sitting around a couple of chairs and a tape recorder and a couple of guitars. Mick had a keyboard with him, and we flung out a few ideas. There were a couple that I'd started working on during my own album. They were embryonic at the time, and since I didn't use them, I said to him, Well, I think there's something here you might like... So we just started it. And within 2 days, we realized we had 5 or 6 songs happening. We didn't bother with anything else. I did have to take Mick to a few discos - which are not my favorite places in the world - because Mick likes to go out and dance at night. So I did that. That was my sacrifice. I humored him. And that's when I knew we could work together.
When Keith and I sat down originally and talked about going on the road, playing together, I never thought that it would be problematic. I think Keith thought making an album and going on the road with it was a huge deal, that we could never really do it. Historically, he was quite correct. We'd never made an album in less than a year. I thought, Let's get it ALL done in a year. Then we've done it. We've proved we can make a record, we've proved we can tour. We can do it and still be up for it, not be bored with it all. A year's only a year. So we just have to put up with each other for a year.
So the deadline was really important, in that the band really tightened up. After 2 or 3 weeks Mick and I had enough songs to call in the guys. I heard Charlie in there when I was out in the parking lot, driving up to the rehearsal joint, and I just sat there for 5 minutes, and I was smiling like, no problem. He was so crisp, so tight, I thought, we've got the songs, and now we've got the drummer, and so the rest of it (snaps fingers), it's like that.
Everything is there (at AIR Studios in Montserrat). A great bar, great restaurant, great cook. You got pool tables, a swimming pool, TV, video, all in the studio complex. The studio itself is like a plus. It's the best place to live on the island! Mick had reservations: I'll go crazy there for 2 months, there's nothing to do. And I said, You could always work!
I thought that after the 7-year lay-off time from touring and the recent re-amalgamation of Mick and Keith, I just sensed the vibe like, they know I've got a lot of ideas, but they wanted to get their Glimmer Twins thing back together - and I respected that.
(For Steel Wheels), we just had these little baffle boards on either side of the amps, just to stop one from flooding right over too much to the other, but not even with a deadboard on the end. We LET the sound move in, and then we put ambient mikes up, and just shift them around and see where it sounds more interesting - you know, where the ambiance might be... And then Charlie was straight out in the room. The only thing we did was build what we called the Love Tunnel for the bass drum, like a little plywood box that we knocked up on the spot, so instead of deadening the bass drum to stop it from ringing around the room, we used that... These are the cheapest things to do. It's much easier to make records like that.
I'd get up the next morning and I'd feel like I'd just done 15 rounds with Mick Tyson. Get out of of bed and my knees would buckle. I'd be lying there on the floor, and Mick would go, What's the matter with you? It's Charlie, man, I know it. Charlie was not going to let me off the hook. I think he was a little pissed, too, that I'd gone off and played with Steve Jordan. Like he was telling me, I'll show you how it's done.
I thought, Yeah, we need something like this, the unification of what this band is about. (Going to Morocco) really pulled a string in me.
A lot of (the band's adventurousness) had gone by the boards in the last few years... (T)he whole idea of pushing the envelope a little bit. We became a hard rock band, and we became very content with it. The ballads got left a little behind as well. The hard rock thing just took over, and we lost a little bit of sensitivity and adventure. And it's BORING just doing hard rock all the time. You gotta bounce it around a little.
For the Rolling Stones to cut 15 tracks in 5 weeks is fairly phenomenal, at least since the '60s. Given the deadline, there's no time to get into any peripheral bits. All the energy has gone into the work. I don't think the Stones have made a record in that condition - hot off the road (Mick, Keith and Ronnie were all touring solo at the end of 1988) - for maybe 20 years. Probably Between The Buttons was the last one made with everyone well oiled and ready to go.
(I)n actual fact, working to the deadline added an incredible amount of zest and much more decisiveness in the playing and in the decision making: Yeah, THAT'S the take, that's it right there. Instead of 30 or 40 takes, if you didn't have it in 5, screw it! We've got plenty more! (laughs) Try another one! In actual fact, nothing went much beyond that; some of them are 2 takes.
Things were happening so fast. And there was really nothing else to do. Two hotels, two restaurants. So we did a year and a half's work in 5 weeks.
Mick and Keith are relating very well right now. And they did a great job in my absence, like during the mixing of the album. I'm real pleased with the record overall. I've got lots of favorites... I have no non favorites on this album. A good case can be made for every single track on there.
Steel Wheels, you know, that was the miracle that it ever came back together, you know. Cause that was the hump that a band goes through.
Steel Wheels was a very tentative restart, in a way. It was almost another chapter. Certainly there was a lot of energy in there.