Rolling Stones unveil ‘Hackney Diamonds’ in a trendy London district
By Alex Marshall and Christopher Kuo
When the Rolling Stones released “Beggars Banquet” in 1968, the band had an unusual way of grabbing attention: a surprise food fight.
At the end of a feast with journalists in a posh London hotel, Mick Jagger celebrated the record, which includes “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man,” by smashing a cream pie into the face of guitarist Brian Jones. The event quickly descended from there, with band members and guests throwing food at one another, leaving faces drenched in cream.
On Wednesday, Jagger, 80; Keith Richards, 79; and Ronnie Wood, 76 — the band’s three current members — promoted their new album, “Hackney Diamonds,” in somewhat more sedate fashion: with a livestream on YouTube hosted by Jimmy Fallon.
Named after old British slang for the shards of glass that are left after a break-in, “Hackney Diamonds” will be released Oct. 20.
Richards, wearing a hat and shades, said that playing live is a “holy grail” but that recording albums is “where the guys can get together and pass around ideas without any interference.”
“When it works, it’s great,” he said.
Jagger, wearing a patterned jacket, said he didn’t “want to be bigheaded, but we wouldn’t have put this album out if we hadn’t really liked it.” He then added that he hoped the group’s fans would love it too. “I’ll drink to that,” Wood said, raising a glass.
After the 20-minute event ended, the band premiered the video for the album’s first single, “Angry,” featuring Sydney Sweeney. Jagger earlier said that the album had many tracks themed around anger and disgust.
The lunchtime event was held at the Hackney Empire, an old theater in the trendy Hackney district of London. Fallon, sitting in front of a broken-up version of the band’s lips logo and near three smashed chandeliers, interviewed the group before an audience of journalists and invited guests, although questions were not allowed from the floor.
The anticipated 12-track “Hackney Diamonds” is the group’s first album of original material since the release of “A Bigger Bang” in 2005 and its first since drummer Charlie Watts died in 2021. Two of the tracks were recorded in 2019 with Watts, Jagger said, including “Live by the Sword,” which he described as “retro.”
Richards said the band was obviously different without Watts. “He’s No. 4; he’s missing; he’s up there. Of course he’s missed incredibly.” He said that Watts had recommended the band’s new drummer, Steve Jordan, and that moving on “would have been a lot harder without Charlie’s blessing.”
Jagger joked about the long delay before this album, saying that the band — known for its extensive tours — had been a bit “lazy” and that the group needed a deadline. They forced themselves to hit the studio in December, he said. “We cut 23 tracks very quickly and finished them off in January, and mixed them in February.”
Fans of the Stones, which formed in 1962 and went on to become one of rock’s most enduring acts, have been awaiting a new album since “Blue & Lonesome” in 2016, which featured a dozen blues covers. Jagger told The Los Angeles Times in October 2021 that “Hackney Diamonds” would have been finished long ago if not for the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, the Stones teased the album via an advertisement for a fake glass repair company, called Hackney Diamonds, that appeared in a London newspaper. The ad’s text referred to several of the band’s well-known songs: “Our friendly team promises you satisfaction. When you say gimme shelter we’ll fix your shattered windows.”
In the interview with Fallon, the band said other album titles it considered were “Hit and Run” and “Smash and Grab.”
Philip Norman, who wrote “The Stones,” a major biography of the group, said in an interview that the release event was far from the band’s raucous 1960s and ’70s image but still managed to give its members an air of being “tearaways” by being held in London’s trendiest district. That was “typical Stones fakery,” Norman said, because the band had no previous association with Hackney.
Although the Stones have said “Hackney Diamonds” marks a “new era,” Norman said he was anticipating a classic Stones sound. “This is the Stones we know and some of us have loved for the past six decades,” he said.
The livestream generated interest online (at points 53,000 people watched live), but there was less hype on Hackney’s streets Wednesday. Before the unannounced event, a few dozen fans waited outside the theater to catch a glimpse of the band walking the red carpet.
Sam Poullain, 42, a marketing director, said that two months after he watched a school play on the Empire’s stage, he was back to see “the original rock ’n’ roll band.”
The enthusiasm was not unanimous. As the huddle to see the band grew, three schoolgirls walking past asked what was happening. Told it was the Rolling Stones, Anya Morrison, 16, said, “I’ve heard of them, I think.” Then she got on a bus home.