Mick Jagger: A Stone Alone The star has just released The Very Best of Mick Jagger, the first overview of his many solo projects since 1970. He recently discussed the CD, the current state of the music scene and what’s different about working without the Stones.

Mick Jagger: A Stone Alone

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Next, we'll track the solo career of one of those singer-songwriters. You may have heard his name. He's a front man for The Rolling Stones.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: After 45 years, you can still hear the same rebellion and menace in Mick Jagger's voice.

(Soundbite of song, "Put Me In The Trash")

Mr. MICK JAGGER (Singer): (Singing) Yeah, you put me in the trash. Yeah, you gave me up for lost.

INSKEEP: A collection called "The Very Best of Mick Jagger" has just been released. And Jagger spoke with journalist Ashley Kahn about that CD, and what was different working without the Stones.

ASHLEY KAHN: With or without The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger has lasted so long because he's created rock and roll that's built to last.

(Soundbite of song, "It's Only Rock 'N Roll (But I Like It)")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I know it's only rock 'n roll, but I like it.

KAHN: What makes a song timeless?

Mr. JAGGER: When it's played a lot. The more you keep banging away, the more it becomes a classic.

(Soundbite of song, "It's Only Rock 'N Roll (But I Like It)")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I know it's only rock 'n roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do.

KAHN: Jagger has always struck a balance between careful studio craftsmanship and raw, spontaneous energy.

(Soundbite of song)

KAHN: He spoke of how he goes about trying to capture that elusive first-take quality.

Mr. JAGGER: When you're recording, this is a very fine line to get something as good as you know you can get it - and as crafted as you want it.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JAGGER: A lot of people do songs line by line. And I like to do the whole song, do the whole song again, whole song again.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JAGGER: The overall feeling you want people to get is you opened your mouth and it came out just like that. But of course life isn't really like that.

(Soundbite of song, "Stray Cat Blues")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I bet your mama don't know you bite like that. I bet she never saw you touch my back.

KAHN: Jagger first stepped out as a solo artist in 1970 when he starred in the movie, "Performance."

(Soundbite of song, "Memo From Turner")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I remember you in Hemlock Road in 1956. You're a faggy little leather boy with a smaller piece of stick.

KAHN: "The Very Best of Mick Jagger" is the very straightforward title of a new CD collection. It features 17 songs he recorded over a 35-year period without any of the Stones.

Mr. JAGGER: If you've been in a band for 40 years, you know, I think you should be doing a lot of work on your own as well. You get a certain amount of freedom if you do a solo record which you don't really have if you're in a band.

(Soundbite of song, "Just Another Night")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) Give me just another night, just another night with you.

KAHN: The music on the CD is a mixed bag: fun, funky, with lots of high-energy rockers, a few ballads, and collaborations with the likes of David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz and U2's Bono.

(Soundbite of song, "Joy")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I was looking for the Buddha, and I saw Jesus Christ. He smiled and shrugged his shoulder, and lit a cigarette.

KAHN: There are also a few first-time releases, like a soul tune from a late-night session put together by John Lennon in 1973.

(Soundbite of song, "Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup)")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) Don't want another man loving you (unintelligible)...

KAHN: The collection reveals Jagger trying on a wider range of styles and sounds as he spent more and more time away from the Stones.

(Soundbite of song, "Charmed Life")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) Yeah. Living a charmed life.

KAHN: One thing brings these different flavors together.

Mr. JAGGER: They're all sung by me, that's about it. In the end, I'm the singer and I'm just singing, you know, that's what you do, and then that's what I did with the Rolling Stones as well. People say it must have been really different, and the thing is, it's not really that different.

(Soundbite of song, "Charmed Life")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) When I step out on the dance floor. Charmed life...

KAHN: What was the reaction from other Stones when you said, okay, I'm going to try the Mick Jagger career now?

Mr. JAGGER: When you work with people in any creative endeavor, they never like you to do anything else. You know, they just want you to work with them. So that's just a sort of classic reaction.

(Soundbite of song, "Evening Gown")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) People think that I'm crazy when I flash that California smile.

In the end, no one else is in the studio. It's usually midnight and you're singing the song. It doesn't really matter who's playing at the time. As long as it sounds good to you.

(Soundbite of song, "Evening Gown")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) But I can still paint the town all the colors of your evening gown, while I'm waiting for your blonde hair to turn grey.

KAHN: Much has changed in the music business since Jagger first began recording. Today's world of song-by-song downloads leaves him with a feeling of deja vu.

Mr. JAGGER: You know, at the beginning of my career, we didn't make albums, really. You know, we used to make just songs, you know, and then rock bands sort of created albums, like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd or The Rolling Stones. I don't really know if that's going to continue, given the state of music-buying and at the moment is really worth doing anymore. So I think in a lot of ways it's evolved - it's gone around in a huge circle.

(Soundbite of song)

KAHN: Sir Mick Jagger. He's healthy - still touring, still recording, and still looking for ways to bottle the lightning.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Ashley Kahn is author of "A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album." He's also a regular voice on this program. The new CD is "The Very Best of Mick Jagger." And you can listen to three of his previously unreleased tracks at npr.org/music.

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