Keith Richards explains why The Rolling Stones needed a break in the 1980s

16 March 2022, 11:32

By Mayer Nissim

The Rolling Stones' short break at the end of the 1980s was maybe the thing that's kept them going ever since.

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The Rolling Stones are one of rock 'n' roll's few ever-presents.

They formed in 1962 and have been together ever since, and are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year with one of their trademark massive tours.

Probably the closest they've ever come to splitting was when the bad feeling between core members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards came to a head at the end of the 1980s.

The band's mid-1980s albums Undercover and Dirty Work saw the pair moving in different musical directions, and both men attempted to launch solo careers outside the band for the first time.

Jagger released the albums She's The Boss in 1985 and Primitive Cool in 1987, while Keith Richards released his own solo debut Talk is Cheap in 1988.

The Rolling Stones on stage in 1983
The Rolling Stones on stage in 1983. Picture: Alamy

After the short break – the band never formally split – The Rolling Stones returned with Steel Wheels in 1989, which saw Jagger and Richards on better terms, paving the way for their continued collaboration to this day.

"It was a weird period," Keith Richards told Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 (via the Evening Standard)

"Looking back on it now, it was a necessary hiatus. Once we started back again, I felt stronger than I had for a long time."

He added that performing as the lead singer with his backing band The X-Pensive Winos had given him a helpful insight into what it was like to be Mick Jagger.

"I had learned a lot more about being the frontman," Keith said.

"In other words, I came back to the Stones with a lot more knowledge of what Mick's job entails. And it's quite surprisingly different, you're out there all the time."

Keith Richards in concert
Keith Richards in concert. Picture: Alamy

He added: "I mean, you are nonstop. With the Stones, I can slide my time. But doing the Winos, while I was working the Winos singing and playing guitar too, that tightened me up a lot.

"And I brought a lot of knowledge and a much tighter feel when I got back to the Stones."

Keith has also recently confirmed that the band are still working on their long-awaited new studio album, which would be their first since 2016's covers album Blue & Lonesome and first of new material since A Bigger Bang way back in 2005.

It will be their first album since the death of long-time drummer Charlie Watts, who has been replaced on tour and in the studio by Steve Jordan.

"It'll be interesting to find out the dynamics now that Steve's in the band," he told CBS Sunday Morning.

"It's sort of metamorphosing into something else."

"I was working with Mick last week, and Steve, and we came up with some, eight or nine new pieces of material. Which is overwhelming by our standards."

Keith added to the Daily Star (via Bang Showbiz) that he and Mick had been working together in Jamaica, where the group recorded 1973's Goats Head Soup.

"We were spending a week together putting material together and hanging around," Keith said, adding that they have more new songs than he can count.

He continued: "It was a very productive week. We had a setup there, bass, drums, and we got a very good sound going.

"Jamaica is good for sound. I was playing a lot of bass so it was taking on another angle. It's quite interesting – at the same time it's Stones man."