The Rolling Stones have spoken exclusively to MOJO about how both Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney came to appear on their new album, Hackney Diamonds.
Speaking in the new issue of MOJO, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood recall how Lady Gaga ended up on Hackney Diamond’s epic gospel blow-out, Sweet Sound Of Heaven, which also features Stevie Wonder on piano and Moog.
When the Stones were recording in LA’s Henson Studios with producer Andrew Watt, Gaga - who had previously joined the band to perform Gimme Shelter live in 2012 - was recording next door and came in to watch them record.
“I thought she would just be watching in the control room,” Jagger tells MOJO’s Danny Eccleston, “but she walked in the live room, starts looking at me and I think I know what she wants to do. So we give her the headphones and the iPad with the lyric sheet and she started singing.”
“She’s such a fucking badass,” added Watt. “I watched her follow Mick’s phrasing. It’s such a natural thing. It wasn’t like, OK, second verse – here’s the feature. She joined the band on that song. She’s almost embodying [Gimme Shelter’s] Merry Clayton.”
Ronnie Wood, meanwhile, told MOJO that it was Paul McCartney who suggested Ozzy Osbourne/Elton John producer Watt for Hackney Diamonds, following abandoned sessions with Voodoo Lounge/Bridges To Babylon/A Bigger Bang producer Don Was.
“I was telling Paul we needed someone to kick us up the fucking arse,” says Wood, “and he said, ‘I’m working with this young boy, he’s got a lot of front. We’re doing some really adventurous tracks together. You try him.’”
The band reveal that it was Watt who suggested that McCartney should play fuzz bass on snarling _Hackney Diamond_s track Bite My Head Off, and also called in Elton John for some “Jerry Lee” style piano on Live By The Sword.
“Macca wanted to put the dirt on it,” recalls Keith Richards, “we were like, OK.”
"Don't worry if you don't think it's the best thing since sliced eggs, Ronnie, just play it."
While two tracks featuring late drummer Charlie Watts were recorded in 2019, the majority of Hackney Diamonds was recorded over two sessions in New York and LA between September and November 2022.
“My plan was just to have a lot of songs and then not have people think about them too much,” recalls Jagger. “Just play them. Because you don’t want to be thinking, Is this any good? Do I like it? Does it sound like something else I’ve done? Don’t worry if you don’t think it’s the best thing since sliced eggs, Ronnie, just play it.”
“If the lead singer wants to record, you get him while the mood’s on, knowwhatimean?” Richards said of Hackney Diamonds’ relatively swift turnaround. “Because you can have some good stuff, but if he don’t feel like singing it or he’s not in the mood… I mean, that is the power of a lead singer. He can dangle that in front of me.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Jagger, Richards and Wood discuss losing Watts in 2021, the band’s infamous 1967 drugs bust and the enduring relationship between Mick and Keith. “I love the silly sod,” says Richards.