Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mick Taylor, Velden, Austria, Oct. 6th, 2012

He’s played with some of the greats of the music world, such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Jack Bruce, Mike Oldfield (anyone remembers “Tubular Bells”?), the father of British blues himself, John Mayall and Eric Clapton, just to name a few. He’s been defined by Robert Palmer of the New York Times as “The most accomplished technician who ever served as a Stone. A blues guitarist with a jazzman's flair for melodic invention”.

But perhaps this man’s greatest claim to fame has been that of having played with the “greatest rock and roll band in the world”, namely the Rolling Stones. 

The man in question is none other than Michael Taylor, better known to the entire world out there as simply “Mick Taylor”. Taylor played at the Bluesiana rock café in Velden, Austria, along with the Ben Waters Band. Now nearly 64 years of age, Taylor put on a most entertaining 90-minute performance, highlighting what Mayall once said of him: “He’s one of THE best slide guitarists around”!

Taylor only lasted 5 years with Jagger and Richards but was a great part of the Stones’s history, including his first-ever live performance with the band in 1969, just three days after the death of guitarist Brian Jones, during the free outdoor concert in London’s Hyde Park in front of a “mere” 500,000 people. Indeed quite the “baptism of fire” for a man who was only 20 years old during the “summer of ’69” (as Bryan Adams once sang). 

These are just some of the accolades on behalf of his former band membes: “Taylor was noted for his smooth lyrical touch and tone which contrasted with Richards's jagged and cutting technique…I think he had a big contribution. He made it very musical. He was a very fluent, melodic player, which we never had, and we don't have now. Neither Keith nor Ronnie Wood plays that kind of style. It was very good for me working with him ... Mick Taylor would play very fluid lines against my vocals. He was exciting, and he was very pretty, and it gave me something to follow, to bang off. Some people think that's the best version of the band that existed" (Mick Jagger); Drummer Charlie Watts stated that "I think we chose the right man for the job at that time just as Ronnie was the right man for the job later on. I still think Mick is great. I haven't heard or seen him play in a few years. But certainly what came out of playing with him are musically some of the best things we've ever done" while Keith Richards added his own rather cynical observation: "Mick Taylor is a great guitarist, but he found out the hard way that that's all he is".

Taylor first approached Mayall’s band when he wasn’t quite 17 years old as Eric Clapton had not turned up to a venue where Mayall’s Bluesbreakers band had been playing. Taylor had approached Mayall during the interval, asking if he could play with them, mentioning that he'd heard their albums and knew some of the songs. After a moment of deliberation, Mayall agreed. Taylor said, "I wasn't thinking that this was a great opportunity… I just really wanted to get up on stage and play the guitar." But for those in the in the music scene the night was an event. "Let's go and see this 17-year-old kid try and replace Eric”! 

After Brian Jones was removed from the Stones in June 1969, Mayall recommended Taylor to Jagger. An impressed Jagger and Richards invited Taylor back the following day to continue rehearsing and recording with the band. Taylor’s work can be heard on the album Let It Bleed and the single “Honky Tonk Women”, which he also played in Velden. Taylor was also credited as co-author of one track from the Exile On Main Street album (1972), perhaps the band’s greatest album, “Ventilator Blues” ". His extraordinary guitar skills can also be heard on songs such as “Gimme Shelter”, “Brown Sugar”, “Midnight Rambler” and “Tumbling Dice”.

Taylor also played on such Stones albums as Get Yer Ya-Yas Out (1970), Sticky Fingers, the famous LP cover which had been designed by Andy Warhol (1971), Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (1972, Goats Head Soup (1973) and everyone’s favorite, It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (1974).


During the Velden show Taylor also sang “Blues For The Lost Days” (he still has a great voice too), a song which he did together with Mayall some years ago for his 70th birthday. On stage that day in Liverpool was also Clapton. When interviewed in Velden, Taylor was asked if he was worried about having to fill Jones’s shoes over at the Stones. “No, I was more worried of coming after Clapton”! He was also asked on those infamous days of “Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll”. Taylor: “There was a LOT of sex and rock’n’roll….then came the drugs! 

Taylor was also accompanied in Velden by his faithful Gibson Les Paul guitar, something which has helped him become one of the all-time greats of rock’n’roll guitarists.  

A great interview with Mick the evening of the concert, thanks to my Slovenian colleagues!

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