The Rolling Stones have announced details of their first album of new songs in almost two decades, titled Hackney Diamonds.
Featuring a constellation of guest stars, including Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder and former Stones bassist Bill Wyman, it also contains the final recordings with the band of the late drummer Charlie Watts, who appears on two tracks.
Hackney Diamonds – east London slang for a window broken during a robbery – has the ever-exciting sight of “Jagger-Richards” mentioned throughout the songwriting credits. It’s the first time Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have written an album of new music since 2005’s A Bigger Bang, and the first studio album of any kind since 2016’s blues cover collection Blue & Lonesome.
The album’s producer Andrew Watt, known for helming a string of recent hit albums from artists as varied as Elton John, Justin Bieber, Iggy Pop, Post Malone and Miley Cyrus, co-wrote three songs.
Lead single and opening track, Angry, was released alongside the album’s announcement: powered by a classic Stones riff and a strutting beat, Jagger is in boisterous form as he mopes over a lovers’ quarrel. “It hasn’t rained in a month, the river is dry / we haven’t made love and I want to know why,” complains the 80-year-old singer, who ends up getting angry in the coda : “I’m still taking the pills / and I’m going to Brazil.
Reviews of the album are currently embargoed ahead of its October 20 release date – with more high-profile guests to be announced – but the Guardian has heard in advance. The energy is often high, with one blistering rock’n’roll song joined by many others with that typical Stones beat, including one with a disco bass line. There are also stripped-down blues numbers, bucolic country-rockers and lighter pop-rock ballads.
After announcing their appearance with an advert in the local Hackney Gazette newspaper, Jagger, Richards and Ronnie Wood announced the album at a press conference at the Hackney Empire Theater in east London, in conversation with the American talk show host – and frequent Jagger impersonator – Jimmy Fallon. . “I don’t want to be big-headed,” Jagger said, surrounded by broken chandeliers and a shattered glitter-studded tongue logo, “but we wouldn’t have released this record if we didn’t We didn’t really like it.”
It was a poignant spectacle without Watts, died at the age of 80 in August 2021 having played with the band straight after its inception, which he joined in 1963. Steve Jordan now plays drums with the band, appearing on their 60th anniversary tour in 2022 and on nine of Hackney Diamonds’ songs.
“Since Charlie left, it’s different – he’s number four, he’s gone,” said Richards, now 79. “Of course he missed, incredibly. But thanks to Charlie Watts, we have Steve Jordan – his recommendation that if anything happens to him, he’s your guy.
Watts’ cause of death has not been announced, but last year Richards suggested he died of cancer, saying, “I think he tried to keep it a secret for a while. some time last year, so [his death] was a real shock. He had had cancer a year or two before. And he beat that one. He just got a double whammy, bless his soul.
The trio, however, were in fine comic form on stage, Jagger jaunty in a black brocade bomber jacket as he jumped out of his chair to introduce the record. “Maybe we were a little too lazy,” he said of the 18-year wait. “So, we said to ourselves: let’s set a deadline… We did it quite quickly. There were lots of ideas floating around and we put them together just before Christmas. On Valentine’s Day, the album was recorded and mixed, with Watt having “kicked our ass”, according to Jagger.
There were flashes of classic Stones lasciviousness, the 76-year-old Wood saying of playing with Van Morrison and others in between tours: “You’ve got to keep your fingers moving when you get to our age – keep everything moving.” When asked if he ever married someone who came to a Stones gig, Richards replied: “I could marry them all, maaaan!”
Richards sings one of the album’s 12 songs, Tell Me Straight, telling the audience to rounds of laughter: “I can tell you straight that I have no idea what’s it’s about. Mick tried to steal it so you know it’s good.”
Sydney Sweeney, the US actor best known for roles in The White Lotus and Euphoria, appears in the Angry video and was in the Hackney Empire’s front row. “I freaked out, called my family and brought my mum,” she said of getting the call to appear. “This is the biggest thing ever.”
With throngs of onlookers outside and swathes of international media inside, it was a grander occasion than the first ever Stones press conference, Jagger said. “Keith and I were in a pub in Denmark Street [in central London], and there were two journalists from NME and Melody Maker. We bought them a pint of beer and said: here is our album.