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Rolling Stones Story – Q&A with Paul Ashworth
How did the Rolling Stones Story come about?
I had been working as a “Mick” for some years both as a professional double and performer with a band. The Rolling Stones Story was an opportunity to move in a slightly different direction. The theatre show came about as a project with a successful established company, and aims to give audiences a real flavour of The Rolling Stones, moving through the different eras of the band’s career in true spectacular Stones style. It’s a full show with costume changes, lights and all the rest, but designed to also suit smaller venues such as regional theatres so that we can tour the show to as many people and places as possible. At the end of the day, my job is about playing a role and what better place for that than in a theatre?
Have you always had a love of music? What did you do before The Rolling Stones Story?
My teenage bedroom was plastered with posters and collages I made from pictures in the Musical Express and it was always my dream to be in a band. It was a long road to where I am now; I’ve done everything from a chef to a teacher to a sports car dealer! I was still working when I started performing as Mick Jagger, and along the way my sideline and hobby gradually became my full time job. I love being able to get on stage every night in a different city with the band and call it work.
What’s your favourite song to perform from the set and why? Or, if one is too hard to choose, do you have a top 5?
It’s very hard to choose a favourite song by any artist let alone by ones with such long and prolific careers. I love the darker 70s period of The Stones when they were battling various demons. If I had to pick from the show set I suppose I’d go with Jumping Jack Flash or Street Fighting Man. Jumping Jack Flash is just a masterwork. The lyrics are random and meaningless but yet so great in combination with the tune. It’s a song that is utterly transformed by playing it at different tempos and I never get bored with it. I love Street Fighting Man for it’s slightly punky energy and the way that it captures the rebellious spirit of the time. Amazingly we have seen people do salsa dancing to it on several occasions, so it’s a very versatile number!
What do you like most about being on tour? And what’s been your favourite gig on tour so far and why?
I love visiting different towns and theatres as every one has its own character and it is great being in dressing rooms that have hosted so many famous names, from Marlene Dietrich to Lucinda Williams via Norman Wisdom! Travelling around all over the country is tiring but it’s a good to feel that you’ve done something with your day, and when I listen to the traffic report on Radio 2 all the problem hotspots they are talking about are places I know (and probably hate). I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite gig but I know that the great ones are when there’s the perfect combination of the band and the crowd; when everyone is enjoying themselves and getting into the show – we are very fortunate to have had so many gigs like these and I hope we go on to have many more.
Tell us five things you couldn’t live without when you’re on the road?
Bottle of wine: in case the bar is shut when we get back to the hotel.
My phone: to stay in touch with family and the world and to keep the spreadsheets up to date. I am mocked for my Jagger authenticity about money. It’s just about being careful, I’m really not obsessive.
My slightly flamboyant boots and jacket: because I don’t get away with wearing them when the wife is around.
The world’s biggest collection of non-prescription pills and liquids: I very rarely use any of them but it gives me a sense of security. I’m not neurotic but I just worry about anything that might affect my voice. Well, actually I do use nose spray, ibuprofen and cough mixture before every gig. Maybe I am a bit neurotic...
Whisky: in case the bar is shut when we get back to the hotel and the others have scrounged most of the wine... have I got a bit of a problem?
Do you have a favourite anecdote from on-the-road?
I always feel intensely embarrassed when someone, who thinks we’re the real deal, (generally abroad) insists on buying us all a drink and I try to gently put them right. While I do, Adrian (our Keith Richards) will be kicking my ankles progressively harder hissing “shut up you pratt – free drinks!”
Once, we had someone from a theatre company come to check us out at a festival we were playing before discussing the show at their venue. Adrian was in the mood for showing off so thought he would hop down on to a lower platform to do a solo closer to the crowd. The problem was, it wasn’t a platform – it just looked that way in the dark. Soon after he jumped off the main stage, he disappeared up to his armpits into a stack of gear being stored front of stage. He managed to climb out and get back on stage a bit dazed and only mildly injured. The best thing was that the guy from the management company thought it was a deliberate drunken “in character” move! Until now anyway...
How do you like to relax after a tour?
After a run of shows, for the first day I probably won’t get out of a dressing gown. After that, it’s back to being a househusband until the next tour. However, cars are my weakness and I can always find something to do to at least one of the four that I’ve got if I ever find myself feeling bored. I’m like Jay Kay from Jamiroquai...if he was on benefits.
What’s your plan for the future of The Rolling Stones Story?
I hope that we can build on what’s been an already great first year and continue to tour and get to every corner of the country. I have a few target venues that have been a long held dream to play, both here and abroad, but I don’t want to jinx it by naming them!
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
It’s very difficult to pick one specific highlight as I have performed in some fantastic places across both Europe and the UK. As a Grand Prix fan, playing next to the starting grid in Monaco was really special, but I am a genuine optimist in that I always think the NEXT show is going to be the highlight.
Have you ever been star struck or met your heroes?
I like to think I‘m someone who wouldn’t be too star struck by anyone, no matter much I admire their work. I was however really upset to miss out on an offer to work with the actual Mick Jagger on a video, due to being on a job abroad – that’s been the closest I’ve got to meeting one of my heroes. In reality, if I did meet my heroes, I’d probably say something that I thought was really funny, upset them, and end up being shown the door.
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