This Rolling Stone gathers near Diss

He is the forgotten man of the greatest ever rock group who has played in front of thousands of screaming fans at some of the most prestigious venues across the globe.

IT is a question that Mick Taylor always gets asked. Why did you leave the Rolling Stones?

At the time of his departure the band were at the height of their fame and without him they went on to sell out stadiums around the world.

He is reported to have walked out after five years with the rock-and-roll legends after saying he "saw the group as not going anywhere".

The guitarist, who lives near Diss, seldom talks about his time with the group, but last week he lifted the lid on life with the Rolling Stones and said he had no regrets at leaving when he did.


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"In the period when I left, the band was in one of their down times," he said. "It was an unhappy time for me, and probably for the rest of the band as well.

"It was just after the release of It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, the last of the six albums I did with them. It is probably publicly known that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger had fallings out from time to time and this was one of those, really. Me and Bill Wyman talked about it. He got very frustrated at that time but he stayed.

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"In a way, that sort of friction and chaos can produce great music, but it was getting harder and harder.

"Around that time we were either in the recording studio or living in the south of France.

"From being just an ordinary musician making £50 a week, I suddenly for no good reason had to become a tax exile. It wasn't that I had tax problems, but they did.

"I have no regrets about leaving when I did. I do not wallow in nostalgia. I have lots of regrets about other things, but then what musician or anybody approaching their 60th birthday doesn't have regrets?"

Taylor joined the Rolling Stones in 1969, replacing Brian Jones shortly before Jones was found dead in a swimming pool.

He worked on such albums as Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street, and was described recently by drummer Charlie Watts as "clearly the best solo guitarist the Stones had".

But after five years he walked out and was replaced by Ronnie Wood of the Faces.

He described his time with the band as a "rollercoaster" and praised Mick Jagger for keeping the group together.

He said: "I fell into it quite naturally and picked up bad habits. I really did think they were a spoilt bunch of pop stars when I joined them. It took me a while to catch up - but I did.

"It was more or less like a rollercoaster. There were huge stadium tours. The longest one was about six weeks and the longest we ever played on stage was maybe an hour and a half. Now there is so much more history to draw on they do two- hour sets. They found a whole new market in terms of touring stadiums for vast numbers of people."

He continued: "Mick Jagger is very clever, very intelligent and very funny. If it wasn't for Mick Jagger's ability to organise things and keep things going, the band would have never stayed together. He basically managed to pull them all together and got them to carry on."

Still friends with his former band mates, he said: "I am still friends with them, especially Bill Wyman. I have not seen Mick Jagger since 1999. But there is no ill will on my part and I cannot think of any reason why there is anything but good will on theirs."

Taylor also knocked suggestions that the band was the most raucous of their time. "Being in the Rolling Stones was mostly hard work and mostly fun," he said. "It was no more excessive or decadent than any other rock-and- roll band at that time."

He paid tribute to guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, describing him as a "huge influence".

"Jimi Hendrix was such a huge influence on all of us, not just guitar players. I knew him very well. Off stage he was very shy and quiet, but on stage he was completely the opposite."

The former Stone got his first big break at the age of 16 in 1965. "Eric Clapton inspired me and that is how I got my first job," he said. "I went to a show John Mayall was doing with the Bluesbreakers in Welwyn Garden City. For some reason Eric Clapton hadn't shown up to this gig. I watched the first half which they did as a quartet. Then I went backstage and asked if I could stand in with them. I borrowed Eric Clapton's guitar and that is how it started."

Only 10 when he first began learning the guitar, he said: "My mother's younger brother was in the Army and he was in Germany.

"I suppose during that time the GIs were there and the American forces and he heard lots of American music. He bought himself a guitar and taught himself. I used to hate school dinners so I would go to my grandmother's house for lunch. Afterwards I would go upstairs and play his guitar."

Currently touring with his new band and due to play the Waterfront in Norwich on Wednesday, the group includes guitarist Denny Newman, acclaimed keyboard player Max Middleton, bassist Kuma Harada and drummer Jeff Allen. They will be supported by Norwich band Lot 55.

Taylor said people attending the gig could expect a great night. "We do some original songs and a few cover songs and we sometimes even play a couple of the Rolling Stones songs that I am associated with," he said. "I don't think I have ever played in Norwich before, so I am really looking forward to it."

Mick Taylor & His Band play the Waterfront in Norwich on Wednesday at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12.50 in advance from the box office on 01603 508050, www.ueaticket bookings.co.uk and Soundclash in St Benedict's.

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