Mick Taylor

Write-up by Carol Rock

Mick Taylor. Mere words simply cannot do proper justice to this man and his talent. He has an uncanny ability to make his guitar sound like a human voice, complete with wails, moans and cries-sometimes even screams! Mick is famous for his beautiful vibrato and his ability to squeeze every possible sound (and - yes -- even some impossible ones) from a note and making it last and last.

A guitarist's guitarist, Mick's style of playing has influenced many of today's popular artists, and he is admired and respected all over the world by his peers and fans, alike, for his slide and blues guitar.. Mick had an impact on the Rolling Stones and their music that will never be forgotten. To this day, many people feel that Mick brought a beauty and soul to the Stones' music that they haven't had since he left.

Some examples of his magic

Listen to Mick's soulful wailing on the Get Yer Ya Ya's Out version of Love in Vain; his solo on Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Heartbreaker; and his psychedelic/blues solos on 100 Years Ago that play right alongside Jagger's vocal lines, both from the Goats Head Soup album. In addition to his lead solos, check out his unique bass lines on Dancin' with Mr. D and Comin' Down Again (also both from Goats Head Soup); and Tumblin' Dice and Shine a Light from Exile On Main Street. Absolutely wonderful! One of the most beautiful Stones songs, Angie, was co-written by Mick Taylor on the piano. This was a huge crossover hit, and is just one of many songs that showcases Mick's incredible talent. He wrote the melody, but was never given credit for it. Mick also sings backup vocals on Comin' Down Again. His vocal is the prominent lower-pitched voice singing right along side Jagger's lead. Fantastic!

How It All Began

Before joining the Rolling Stones, Mick had a very respectable career with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. He was just 17 when he was first discovered by John Mayall. One night, Mick and his buddies were in the audience at a Bluesbreakers show outside of London. Eric Clapton, who was a member of the band at the time, failed to show up for the gig. At the time, Mick was in a local band called "The Gods", and knew all of the Bluebreakers' songs. After the first set, Mick was convinced by his buddies to approach Mayall about sitting in for Clapton. He did, and blew everyone away that night. Being shy and soft-spoken, Mick then disappeared after the gig without leaving his name or telephone number. Mayall searched for him but was unsuccessful. A year or so later, when Mayall needed a replacement for Peter Green, he placed an add in a trade paper. Mick applied for the job, and got it on the spot. He toured with the Bluesbreakers for 3 years, and made very successful several albums with them.

As Mayall began to move in different direction with his music, Mick felt it was time to move on. By this time, he had become quite an accomplished blues guitar player. Mick had just left the Bluesbreakers when he got a telephone call from Mick Jagger, whom he had never met before. In an interview, Mick said "John was really a good friend of theirs. He'd known them for ages John was at one of the Stones' recording sessions when they were working on Let It Bleed. They told him they were looking for a guitarist because they wanted to go on the road again; they hadn't done much for a couple of years. And he said, 'Well you can have my guitarist because he's just left.' "Jagger asked Mick to come down to the studio, and after one session, he asked Mick if he wanted to be a Rolling Stone. Mick said "yes" and that was it. The segue to Mick was so natural, he simply walked into the studio where the band was finishing up Let It Bleed, recorded Live With Me and overdubbed Honky Tonk Women, and that was that. Because of Mick's incredible talent, he was given complete freedom to play as he saw fit.

Mick Taylor, We Really Miss You!

Many people feel that the Stones made their best music during the time Mick Taylor was in the band. Indeed, he is considered one of the best blues/slide guitarists in the world. During his years with the Stones, Mick made many songwriting contributions for which he never got credit - simply beautiful and creative songs like Moonlight Mile from Sticky Fingers (his is the only guitar on this song, and Jagger's vocals follow his lead); the hauntingly beautiful Time Waits for No One; Can't You Hear Me Knocking (that's his extended jam at the end); and Sway (no Keith to be found here -- check out his lead on this one!). (The very best version of Sway, by the way, can be found on Mick and Carla Olson's Too Hot For Snakes release, done live at the Roxy in Los Angeles in 1990. Mick says this is his favorite version, and he has an extended wah wah solo at the end that is unbelievable and really must be heard by all Mick Taylor fans!)

During this period, Mick and Keith were a fantastic combination. Mick says, "Playing with Keith was a very intuitive thing. It was like no other working relationship I ever had. It was a 24-hour-a-day . . . thing. It was a whole life style, a whole way of living, playing and recording." And "Keith and I had a very unconscious, instinctive relationship. We didn't work anything out, even in the studio, and on stage we really inspired each other. In fact the whole band was inspired. That side of things was great."

Mick Taylor was, by far, the youngest member of the Rolling Stones at the time. After the problems the Stones had had with Brian Jones, Mick's affable nature was a welcome relief. Musically, he was a huge asset. He was quiet, shy, soft-spoken and not one to grab the spotlight. Perhaps this is why he remained in the background and was, for a while, happy to simply play his guitar.

In actuality, Mick had a lot to say, and after five years, he was ready for a change. Much has been speculated as to the reason(s) why Mick left. In one interview, he said, "One of the reasons I left [the Stones] was to make a successful career for myself as a contemporary blues guitarist. There were lots of years afterwards when I didn't do that. But sometimes you lose your way, and have to go through all kinds of things to find yourself again." And "I was very clear about why I was leaving, but I wasn't clear about what I was going to do next. And it wasn't until after I left, and had to deal with things as an individual, that I realized how much being with the Rolling Stones had affected me . . . .You don't have to go to the bank, you don't have to do anything. I had to learn to grow up all over again and pay my dues."

I really admire Mick for leaving the Stones when he did, and why he did. It shows a great deal of strength and speaks volumes of his character. It would have been much easier to have simply stayed with the Stones and laughed all the way to the bank. But our beloved Mick Taylor felt that he had become stifled. He said, "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 whom that's not enough. It really wasn't enough for me."

It has also been speculated that the lifestyle the Stones were living at the time was not good for Mick. In this interview with a writer from The Boston Globe, Mick says, in response to a question about having any regrets about leaving the Stones, "No, not really. I'm one of those idealistic, artistic types," he said. "And if I stayed with the Stones, I might not be alive now."

This is a photo from his solo album, "Mick Taylor".

In 1979, he made a solo record entitled, "Mick Taylor." He wrote all of the music and plays most of the instruments on this record. Unfortunately, it was released during the punk/new wave period, and did not receive much air play. While it did not receive a great deal of commercial success, it contains some absolutely beautiful music and speaks very well for Mick to this day. Two highlights of this album are Slow Blues and the brilliant Spanish and A Minor, which was written entirely on the piano. Mick describes the music on this album as "kind of jazz flavored, jazz-oriented, without actually being jazz." One of the songs, Alabama, was done live as far as the singing and acoustical guitar are concerned. He hadn't planned to do it at all and it wasn't even a song. "Everybody else had gone home except for the engineer, and I was just sitting in the studio all on my own and this blues tune, this rift, came into my head. I remembered some words a friend of mine had written and just started to sing them. The slide guitar playing was overdubbed later."

Unreleased Gems

In addition to all of the beautiful officially released music Mick has made with the Bluesbreakers, Bob Dylan, Carla Olson and many others, there is a great deal of unreleased live music that is as good as -- or better -- than the live album, Get Yer Ya Ya's Out. Unfortunately, most of the world has not had the opportunity to hear it because of copyright problems. Mick said in an interview, "I like 'Sticky Fingers' as an album, and there are individual songs . . .that I like, but the best things were some of the live performances. Unfortunately, the only official live album from those days was 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' . . . The band had started touring again after not playing for two years and I had just joined. It's a good album, but we used to record nearly every tour that we did, and some of that stuff is very good. It never came out on an album because of copyright difficulties."

A terrific example of live Taylor/Stones is a concert the Stones did in Brussels in 1973. Of particular greatness is the song Street Fighting Man. Shortly after the beginning of the song, Jagger says, "Get 'em baby" as Mick launches into his solo. He truly blows the crowd away. Mick's solo lasts for almost 2 full minutes, and the crowd goes wild in response to his soaring notes as he goes up and down the scale. It is sheer pleasure. On Gimme Shelter, here is a perfect example of the well-known interplay between Keith's rhythm and Mick's lead. Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this! During this concert's version of Jumpin Jack Flash, Mick's guitar takes over the entire song. This is also a real treat.

Much has been written about which version of what song is better and continues to be a favorite topic and debate among Taylor/Stones aficionados who have been fortunate enough to hear this material. I have to tell you that the all-time, very best version of Gimme Shelter, in my humble opinion, is from Philadelphia 1972. Again, the synchronicity between Keith and Mick here is like no other. But when Mick goes into his first solo and his guitar begins to wail - well it is truly indescribable. Then, he drops back into Keith's rhythm; and before you know it, his guitar begins to scream again, only to drop down again. Just when you think you can't take it anymore, Mick takes off again. This is simply brilliant guitar playing at its very possible best.

The humble, gentlemanly, genius

One of the many remarkable things about Mick Taylor is that he truly does not know how talented he really is. To this day, he retains a gentlemanly, soft-spoken demeanor that belies his many accomplishments. In an article written about Mick, the writer says, "I can also sense Taylor's commitment to being a pass-it-on torchbearer in the wisdom he received from legendary bluesman Albert King." "He said, I got no time for cats who think they know everything. I'll still be learning how to play the guitar when I die." . . . . Taylor has a humility in the face of the force of the blues that reminds me of what he said about Jimi Hendrix: "I think he knew he was blessed, and when you know that, you don't take too much credit for yourself."

Mick's humility and kindness are what I admire the most about him, and there is so very much to admire. Here is a guy who was a member of the "Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World" -- a group who earned this title largely because of Mick Taylor's talent - and, in spite of his success, he remains unaffected and unspoiled. Mick gave Rolling Stones fans so much through his music; went through some incredible personal things that were part of the 60's culture; and not only survived, but remains such a gentleman who truly loves and is totally dedicated to playing the blues. Mick Taylor is not only a gifted musician (who works very hard at his craft), but he also has a big heart and a lot of class.

This is a picture of Mick in 1990 at a live gig with Carla Olson in LA
[This is a picture of Mick in 1990 at a live gig with Carla Olson in LA]

There is so much more to tell, learn and enjoy about Mick and his career. A giant thank you to Gary Paranzino for enlightening me, for it was his website that taught me a great deal of what I know about Mr. Taylor. Check out his labor of love at the Mick Taylor/Rolling Stones Websource at http://www.paranzino.com/mick/

There you will find sound files, a discography, a chatboard, pictures, and so much more. Gary's site has won many awards, and you will see why. Sit back, relax and enjoy this opportunity to see and hear one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

I would also like to thank Hans Geuens for giving me the opportunity to share my respect and admiration for Mick Taylor here on his site with you. Keep up the great work, Hans!

Also, a big thank you to Julian Sims, who recently saw Mick (16 May) at a gig in England, shared his experience with me, and confirmed what I was hoping to hear: Mick Taylor is still out there; alive and well; and continues to play the blues and blowing everybody away with his guitar. Go Mick! You will find a copy of his review on Gary's website.

And last -- but certainly not least -- thank you, Mr. Taylor, for giving us so much of yourself through so many years of beautiful music. It really doesn't get any better than this. May you continue to perform your magic for many, many years to come. I wish you the very best.

-- Carol Rock

DO visit Carol Rock's Mick taylor Website
And the other Mick Taylor website at http://www.paranzino.com/mick/

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1997 Carol Rock