The Rolling Stones paid tribute to late drummer Charlie Watts while launching their new album Hackney Diamonds.
The veteran rockers also announced the first single from the album, “Angry”, alongside a music video starring Sydney Sweeney.
Hackney Diamonds is scheduled for release on 20 October. The Stones, comprising Mick Jagger, 80, Keith Richards, 79, and Ronnie Wood, 76, hosted an event for the album at the Hackney Empire in east London on Wednesday.
Onstage, the “Paint It Black” band were interviewed by US talk show host Jimmy Fallon about the record, and why it’s taken them 18 years to put out a new album of original songs.
Jagger joked they had been doing “other things”. “Maybe we were a bit too lazy, so we said, ‘Let’s put a deadline,’” he said. “We had this chat and said, ‘Let’s make this record at Christmas and finish it by Valentine’s Day.’”
However, Jagger said that the group were extremely proud of the record. “I don’t want to be big-headed but we wouldn’t have put this album out if we hadn’t really liked it,” he said.
“We said we had to make a record we really love ourselves. We are quite pleased with it, we are not big-headed about it, but we hope you all like it.”
Speaking about the absence of fellow founding Stones member Watts, who died in 2021, Richards said: “Ever since Charlie’s gone it’s different – he’s number four, he’s missing. Of course he’s missed, incredibly.
“But thanks to Charlie Watts we have [replacement drummer] Steve Jordan – his recommendation, that if anything should happen to him, he’s your man. He’s been a friend of ours, I’ve worked with Steve so it was natural progression. It would’ve been a lot harder without Charlie’s blessing on that, you know.”
The rockers joked of their long-running creative tensions as Richards quipped he and Jagger still clashed over how their songs are best played. “Mick says, ‘it goes a bit slower,’ but honestly you play it by f***ing ear. If it feels right then it is right. Making an album is controlled madnesss. Mick is the controller and I’m the madness.’
Hackney Diamonds will include two tracks featuring Watts on drums, “Live By The Sword” and “Mess It Up”, which appear back-to-back near the middle of the album.
The group originally recorded 23 tracks for the record, but this was whittled down to a final 12.
Fans were also shown a first look at the music video for “Angry”, which stars Euphoria actor Sweeney. The 25-year-old was in attendance at the event with her mother.
Speaking at the event, Sweeney said that she had “freaked out and called my family” upon being asked to appear in the video. “This is the biggest thing ever,” she said. “I didn’t know it was going to be the first single but I love the song, it’s stuck in my head.”
While discussing the new record, Jagger joked that he and Richards had originally “thought the theme of the album should be ‘anger’”, adding: “We had a second idea, which was to make them a bit more eclectic, with ballads. So we’ve got a mixture.”
A number of other details about the album were also announced, including the titles of the other tracks and potential collaborations.
Jagger also confirmed that original band member Bill Wyman features on one of the tracks, “Live By the Sword. “We asked Bill to come in and do one track so we have the original lineup on one track,” he said.
The frontman described the feel of the song as being “slightly retro”.
As for other features, the band announced that they would be collaborating with Lady Gaga on the song “Sweet Sound of Heaven”, described as a “gospel song”. Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder are also set to feature on the album, with the former Beatle playing bass.
Wood also said that McCartney was loving it” and was “blown away” in the recording session. He also revealed that the song “Dreamy Skies” concerned “Mick trying to get away from it all and listen to Hank Williams”.
“Tell Me Straight” sees Richards take up lead vocal duties, although the legendary guitarist admitted to Fallon that he had “no idea what [the song’s] about”.
Before settling on the title Hackney Diamonds, the Stones considered naming the album either “Hit And Run” or “Smash And Grab”.
You can find the full tracklist below:
2. “Get Close”
3. “Depending On You”
4. “Bite My Head Off”
5. “Whole Wide World”
6. “Dreamy Skies”
7. “Mess It Up”
8. “Live By The Sword”
9. “Driving Me Too Hard”
10. “Tell Me Straight”
11. “Sweet Sound Of Heaven” (featuring Lady Gaga)
12. “Rolling Stone Blues”.