Okay...this story is unbelievable and crazy...but true. It was my best Bastille Day ever. Maybe one of my best times all around that just happened to fall on the day before, the day of and into the day after Bastille Day.
It was July 1977. I was in London wrapping up the final bits on Cat Stevens' section of my book, Starart.
I also needed to get final approval from Ron Wood on his section, but he was in Paris. So, I went out to Heathrow to catch a flight to Paris where I would hopefully pin Ronnie down for 5 minutes. It was always difficult to meet up with him. Times and days of meet-ups consistently changed. When I was initially working with him, I'd call his house at the allotted time and invariably the housekeeper/gatekeeper would say he was out or sleeping. Then a day or two later, after several more phone, he would call me at 2am and ask if I could come over. It was frustrating at times but an amazing experience overall. And, oh, the stories I could tell.
Anyway, I arrive at Heathrow and run into Tom Waits. Completely random. I knew him from our mutual hangout...The Troubadour. We had a nice visit in the waiting-for-planes area then I was off to Paris. As expected, the first night was a bust. The second day Ronnie summoned me (okay...he asked me nicely) to come to the recording studio. That's right, Pathé Marconi Studios just outside of Paris. That's where they were recording...yes, people...THEY...The Rolling Stones.
I caught a taxi and arrived on time. I thought maybe Ronnie would come out to meet me and look over his section of the book in the lobby and send me on my way. I was wrong. Instead, I was ushered into the inner sanctum. The recording studio. Inside where the guys were jamming.
The studio where Ronnie introduced me to everyone. "This is Bill." "Hi Bill." "This is Charlie." "Nice to meet you Charlie." "This is Keef." "Hey, Keith." And somewhere in there was a "She's the one that's putting my art into this book. She's come to show me." I think it was Keith that said, "Let's have a look." At some point I was presented to the other Stone. ery formally. "I'd like you to meet Michael" was how the introduction went. Yup, the man otherwise known as Mr. Jagger. I stayed perfectly cool. "Hello."
Everybody looked at the layout I had created for Ronnie's section. And they were all happy to be represented in a few of Ronnie's drawings. I guess I passed the test because I was then invited to hang out for the session. I happily parked my ass on an large anvil case - not in the booth, not in the waiting area, not in the parking lot - right there inside the studio, just feet away from The Rolling Stones. I soaked up every second of every minute of every hour that I was there. As it turned out, they didn't actually record any tracks for their upcoming album (Some Girls and Emotional Rescue...two of my favorite Stones albums). They spent the whole night jamming the blues. I can tell you right here, right now, it doesn't get any better than that.
Except when you're called upon to help in the decoy mission to get Mick Jagger out of the studio. The paparazzi were out in force because of his impending break-up/divorce from Bianca. When we exited the darkness of the studio, we were bathed in the full daylight of Bastille Day. Ronnie invited me back to his flat, so I hopped in the car with him and Keith Richards and Ronnie's wife and whoever was driving and thought to myself 'if I'm going to die in a car crash it might as well be now.' Upon arriving at Ronnie's flat, I made a joke at Mr. Richard's expense, which could have backfired and been the end of me, but thankfully Keith had a great sense of humor.
I believe we had some food or other nourishment and then I took some photos of Ronnie sketching. This is the first time one of these photos has been seen or even printed. I didn't use them in Starart and I'm not so sure I even showed them to Ronnie.
Later that day I went back to my hotel to change and then it was off to a Bastille Day party at some place on the Champs E'lyse. Yes, with "them." I remember we were walking down the Champs E'lyse to get to the place but it was at the part of the celebration where every person in France (or so it seemed) was walking up the the Champs E'lyse. It was a wall of people. Partying and celebrating as if they were storming the Bastille.
By the time I had to head back to London, I had been up for a magnificent three days and two nights. Now, that's how it was done in '77.