The Day Mick Taylor Joined the Rolling Stones
The musical contributions that guitarist Mick Taylor made to the Rolling Stones often take a backseat to the bigger picture of the band’s story. But as the guitarist who tended to play off the melodies sung by Mick Jagger, many feel as though he has an immeasurable part in the group’s legacy, performing on some of the most critically acclaimed albums of their career.
Though he performed with various groups in his teens, Taylor’s first big break into music was when he was called upon to replace Peter Green in John Mayall‘s Bluesbreakers in 1967. His tenure with the band would be short-lived, appearing on two records with the group and touring with them in the United States.
But if Taylor thought playing with the Bluesbreakers was akin to being called up to the big leagues, nothing could have prepared him for the next invitation he was about to receive. In early 1969, as guitarist Brian Jones became increasingly detached from the rest of the Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards began pursuing Taylor to join them. He initially laid down guitar parts on “Live With Me” and “Country Honk,” both tracks from 1969’s seminal album Let It Bleed.
By June, the group had realized that Jones’ relationship with the band had become irreparable. He was fired, and, on June 9, 1969, it was announced that Mick Taylor was his replacement. His first recording session as a member of the Rolling Stones was “Honky Tonk Women.”
Taylor was set to make his live debut with the group at a free concert in London’s Hyde Park on July 5. But a pall was cast on the event when Jones drowned in his swimming pool two days earlier. The concert, performed in front of an estimated 250,000 people, became not only the world’s introduction to Taylor, but also a tribute to the late Jones.
In early Nov. 1969, the Rolling Stones embarked on their first American tour in more than three years, breaking attendance records throughout the country. The tour was captured on the live album, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert. It was on this month-long tour that the tragic death of concertgoer Meredith Hunter occurred at the group’s show at Altamont.
Two more studio album’s followed, Goats Head Soup in 1973 and It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll a year later. It was during the sessions for the latter that Taylor decided to leave. Part of it was due to being uncredited as a co-writer on two songs, “Time Waits for No One” and “Till the Next Goodbye.” But as he revealed in the 2012 documentary Crossfire Hurricane, it was also because he was, unknown to the band, becoming addicted to heroin. He officially quit on Dec. 12, 1974, shortly before sessions for Black and Blue began.
“I think he had a big contribution,” Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone. “He made it very musical. He was a very fluent, melodic player, which we never had, and we don’t have now. Neither Keith nor [Ronnie Wood] plays that kind of style.”
For his part, Taylor has no regrets with his decision to leave the Rolling Stones.
“It doesn’t necessarily follow that because you’re in a successful rock ‘n’ roll band, you’re going to stay in a situation like that and be satisfied,” Taylor observed. “For me it was personally restricting. I’m not saying that it wasn’t fun. It was a helluva lot of fun; it was great. But I had to move on and do something else.”
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