The arrival of a new Rolling Stones album is a momentous occasion. Yesterday afternoon (September 6), at an exclusive event at east London’s Hackney Empire, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood confirmed that the 24th Rolling Stones album ‘Hackney Diamonds’ will arrive next month on October 20. It brought to an end weeks of speculation following a cryptic newspaper advert published a couple of weeks ago that had led an excited friend to text me: “I’m hoping this ‘Hackney Diamonds’ bollocks is what I want it to be!”
You see, new Rolling Stones albums are things worth getting worked up about. For a start there hasn’t been one for 18 years, which is so long ago that back then I had to go to Woolworths the day it came out to buy it on CD, like we used to in the old days. For most bands that would be a lifetime ago, for the Stones it’s a long weekend. After all, they’ve been putting out albums for almost six decades.
Yesterday, Jagger recalled their very first album launch: “Keith and I were in a pub in Denmark Street, and we had the album,” he remembered. “There were two journalists, one from NME, and one from Melody Maker. We bought them a pint of beer, and we said: ‘Here’s our album.’ (Keith chimes in: “Have a listen.”) And then we went out. That was it. There were no photos, nothing. But it sold well! The reviews were… mixed, but it sold well.”
It’s safe to say there were a fair few more bells and whistles to usher ‘Hackney Diamonds’ into the world, an album that Jagger explained takes its name from a slang term for broken glass, “like when you get your window screen broken on a Saturday night in Hackney.” First up, there’s a video for lead single ‘Angry’ starring actress Sydney Sweeney, who follows in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie [1997’s ‘Anybody Seen My Baby’] and Kristen Stewart [2016’s ‘Ride ‘Em on Down’] in the grand tradition of Hollywood stars looking very attractive in a Rolling Stones video. The video sees Sweeney dancing on the back seat of a car as she’s driven east along Sunset Boulevard while cruising by dozens of billboards. Each represents a different era of the Stones, from their genre-defining pomp onwards, while the song tears by with what Richards has since aptly called a “damn funky riff.”
‘Angry’ is the sort of track you might have expected The Stones to return with after almost two decades away: a jab right between the eyes. The rest of the album, Jagger promises, will feature love songs, country songs, ballads and gospel. (Richards on hearing this: “You’ve never been to church in your life!”).
That gospel track, ‘Sweet Sound of Heaven’, will feature vocals from Lady Gaga, just one of a host of eye-popping guests rumoured to appear on the record including Stevie Wonder, Elton John and even Sir Paul McCartney. Who would have guessed the Beatles and The Stones would be collaborating six decades on? You’d have got long odds. Perhaps even more remarkably than that for Stones aficionados is the fact that Jagger has confirmed there’s one track featuring both original bassist Bill Wyman and a posthumous appearance from drummer Charlie Watts, recorded in 2019, meaning the original Rolling Stones rhythm section appears in full on the album.
The other fascinating name on the credits is that of Andrew Watt, who’s made himself the producer du jour after his collaborations with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop and Post Malone. His work with Osbourne produced the Best Rock Album Grammy-winning ‘Patient Number 9’, so it’ll be intriguing to see what influence he can have on The Stones’ well-honed sound.
But the guests and producer, as stellar as they are, aren’t really the point. What’s most exciting about the arrival of a new Stones album is the return of familiar comforts and well-loved joys. There will be rock and roll, heavenly choirs and Keith Richards will be allowed to sing one drunken, heartbroken waltz (apparently called ‘Tell Me Straight’) that will somehow break your heart. There will be surprises too, after all Richards has quit smoking, but more than anything it’ll just be a joy to spend more time with rock’n’roll’s original diamond geezers.
The Rolling Stones’ new album ‘Hackney Diamonds’ will be released on October 20