One has to be careful when tossing around phrases like “This may be the last time” in the context of Rolling Stones happenings. They have, for about 642 decades now, been making a mockery of such pronouncements. They make their own rules. The first time I saw the Stones as a pre-teen, the jeering, about how preposterous it was for men of their age to be prancing around onstage playing rebel rock’n’roll music, was deafening.
That was 28 years ago.
And so… a press conference in Hackney. Well, why not? Nobody does press conferences anymore: least of all to announce that they have “cut” some “new tracks”. And especially when everyone in the world already knows that you are releasing said tracks, as your first album for 18 years, entitled Hackney Diamonds.
Absence from the studio has certainly, Bowie-style, made the public’s heart grow fonder. It is difficult to imagine the scenes that were occurring outside the Empire on Mare Street – in brief: total pandemonium – greeting the announcement of 1997’s Bridges To Babylon or 2005’s A Bigger Bang.
But goodness, what a treat to see the three still breathing The Rolling Stones onstage together for the first time – outside of concerts of course – in God knows how long. They should do it more often because they are very, very good at this sort of thing. From the moment they were introduced by Jimmy Fallon – who later said he and Mick had “gone for a pint” in the Ship up the road the night before – it was hysterically entertaining.
Oddly, though this was an occasion ostensibly arranged to announce the 26th Rolling Stones album, nitty gritty details were thin on the ground. Ronnie Wood – who has now been a Stone for seven times as long as Brian Jones was – at one point let slip that Lady Gaga features on it, but there was no mention of the fact that Paul McCartney and Elton John appear on it as well.
But who cares about such trivialities when you have Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood being as ceaselessly funny as this? At one point, Fallon attempted a track by track run through. “What’s Angry about?” he asked. “Well,” responded Jagger, vowels as comically slurred as ever, “It’s about being angry, innit?”
The vibe, throughout, was warm. At one point, Fallon asked if any of the Rolling Stones had ever fallen in love with a woman in one of their audiences. “Oh, all of them, man,” cackled Keith Richards. The laughter from the assembled crowd said everything. Nobody wants The Rolling Stones to be anything other than The Rolling Stones. It’s why they were – are – able to then premier a video for lead single Angry with It actress of the moment Sydney Sweeney – present in the front row with her mum – writhing around in not-much-leather-at-all on the bonnet of a an open topped lips-red Mercedes cruising down Hollywood Boulevard.
So… will Hackney Diamonds be any good? There is no reason for the Rolling Stones in 2023, to use 60s/70s parlance, to “put out a record” unless it is. And everything they put out in the last decade or so has, in fact, been pretty good. 2012’s Doom And Gloom was a swaggering, …Jack Flash-esque joy. Living In A Ghost Town from 2020 – hastily reworded and released during lockdown – was also great. They still, in their sixth of God knows how many decades in total, have it. And we are still lucky to have them.
Hackney Diamonds will be released on October 20, 2023