I was the first to play a lot of places that never really had big shows till we showed up. At this benefit gig in Karachi, the venue was a big open field with the stage set up on a couple of open-bed trucks. It was makeshift but pretty cool at the same time.
People are people wherever you go. I always realised this, perhaps from having a childhood of travelling. They want the same thing. They all want to rock out.
After you’ve done charitable work for as long as I have it’s inevitable that you get to do things that you are touched by, or personally have a connection with. A friend asks you to do this or that and the next thing you know you’re involved. That’s how it is.
Rock star guilt? I’ve never heard that expression before. I don’t think guilt gets you involved. If I’m moved on some level then
I’ll help. If you feel that by lending your voice or name you can help instigate a change, then it’s a good thing.
I’m an optimist. It’s really important to step up and do things. Whether or not it leads to change is almost irrelevant. It’s the initiation of a movement which leads to something, which leads to something else. You can’t go through life and not be open to things or try and move things forward.
I got a call from Bob Geldof. He said, “It’s Geldof here. If I do this show [Live Aid] will you help me?” And I said, “Of course I will Bob”. And he said, “Okay, you’ll be hearing from me.” And then out of the blue I get another phone call about a year later saying, “The show’s on. This is the date. F***ing be there.”
Photography is just part of my creative thing and it’s pushed me to become more technical. I directed a video recently and I set up all the lights myself. I knew exactly how I wanted it to look.
Tina Turner’s work ethic was second to none. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as that. I can remember her being really sick once when we were on tour. But she went on stage, did a brilliant show and then they had to carry her off at the end. She wasn’t going to let herself or the fans down. Who would do that today? She’s got that built into to her. She’s old-school. Maybe her attitude helped me to figure things out.
Hats off to anyone who can make it these days. It’s so difficult now the Internet has come along.
I hope I don’t fit into any category. I don’t think you can plan your life like that. You get on with what you do and stick to the reasons you got into it in the first place. Which in my case is singing.
Even at the height of my career in the nineties I never saw the record company. They just never showed up. So I just got on with it and did everything myself.
One thing I always did was make sure I surrounded myself with really good people. I picked great musicians who I really admired.
The key to all of it is having a laugh. It sounds silly but it’s the truth.
I tour one week every month. It’s different to how most bands do it, but you get to have a life. When I first suggested it to my management eleven years ago they said, “You know what? Everyone is going to f***ng leave you; no one will stick around.” I said, “Well if that happens we’ll find people who do want to stick around.” And you know what? Nobody left. It’s a great gig. Guys in the band have babies. Crews get to go home so their wives don’t leave them. Why don’t more people do it? It’s not financially very smart.
Every once in a while a record would creep up the charts, but I was happy to keep my head down. U2? No thanks. I love that band but I don’t think I belong there.
Will I read Keith Richards’ autobiography? I’ve toured with the Stones. I think that’s the memory I want to keep. Someone once asked him, “What do you think to rock and roll these days?” And he said: “I am rock and roll”. I like that quote.
If you’re going to be a bachelor you’ve got to be very happy in your own skin.
Either way, it’s the quest for happiness that’s important. And maybe I will settle down one day. I’m only fifty.
The secret to happiness? I know the secret. Follow your gut. That’s it. If you’re really honest with yourself and everyone around you then won’t go wrong.
All I can tell you is this: I know when something feels wrong, and when it does feel wrong I pull out of there. It could be a person, a situation, a song, a dinner date, the temperature of my bath…
Everyone has that gut instinct. You just have to really tune into yourself.
Should people even bother making a record these days? Who really gives a s***? Make music if you feel like it and make sure it’s as good as it can be. That’s all that matters. When you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you can’t compete with the promotion the new bands get. I couldn’t do it. I’ve done American Idol. I don’t know if it made any difference. People probably went and got a cup of tea.
Before that show one of the youngsters said: “Man, how do you get there? How do you do it?” “Concentrate on the music,” I told him. Don’t think about your website or any of that other stuff. Did I mention working my ass off for thirty-five years? No I didn’t.
Canada will always be home, no question about it. Wherever the hell I am.
If you come visit, leave our women alone.
This article orginally appeared in the December 2010 edition of Esquire Middle East