By Shirley Halperin, Jem Aswad
Christopher Polk/Variety (Jagger and Richards); Chris Willman/Variety (McCartney and Starr)
Almost 60 years since first meeting, it looks like the Rolling Stones and the two surviving Beatles may come together on a new Stones album. Variety hears from multiple sources that Paul McCartney has recorded bass parts for a forthcoming Rolling Stones project being helmed by 2021 Grammy producer of the year Andrew Watt. Ringo Starr is also slated to play on the yet-to-be-announced album.
Recording sessions took place in Los Angeles in recent weeks and, while it’s unclear which tracks will make the final cut — or whether McCartney and Starr would end up on the same song — the album’s production is nearing the mixing phase. Frontman Mick Jagger said in 2021 that the group has “a lot of tracks done,” and guitarist Keith Richards said in a New Year’s Instagram post last month that “There’s some new music on its way.”
Watt, who shared two Grammys at the Feb. 5 ceremony for his work with Ozzy Osbourne, has become the go-to for veteran rock acts, despite having a discography that leans heavily into pop terrain — like Justin Bieber’s “Peaches” and Dua Lipa’s “Break My Heart.” The guitar virtuoso has himself sat in with such legacy acts as Pearl Jam, Iggy Pop and, of course, Ozzy. He also boasts a close relationship with Elton John, with whom he worked on John’s “Lockdown Sessions” in 2020, which included the Dua Lipa-assisted “Cold Heart,” and the Britney Spears-John duet “Hold Me Closer” in 2021.
McCartney and Watt have worked together in the past. In a 2021 interview, he said as much, describing a meeting with the producer. “I went around for a cup of tea, and of course we ended up making a track,” said McCartney. More recently, he was asked in a Q&A posted on his official website what he was looking forward to in 2023. Said the Beatle: “I’ve been recording with a couple of people, so I’m looking forward to doing even more. I’ve started working with this producer called Andrew Watt, and he’s very interesting — we’ve had some fun.” Though he did add, “Beyond that, I don’t have anything massive planned … at the moment!”
Variety has reached out to reps for the Stones, McCartney, Starr and Watt for comment.
The Stones, who have not issued a new album of original material since 2005’s “A Bigger Bang,” have been at work on new full-length for years, with occasional new songs released as singles or as part of a long string of greatest-hits collections connected to their semi-annual tours. Their last album of newly recorded material was “Blue & Lonesome,” a collection of blues covers released in 2016 and featuring Eric Clapton on two songs.
Whatever form the Stones’ next studio album takes, it is very likely to include songs recorded with the group’s legendary founding drummer Charlie Watts, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 80. While the group has since toured with longtime friend and collaborator Steve Jordan on drums, Jagger and Richards confirmed in a 2021 Los Angeles Times interview that Watts — who missed just one concert in nearly 60 years as the Stones’ drummer — had recorded his parts for a number of songs before his death. “Let me put it this way,” Richards said. “You haven’t heard the last of Charlie Watts.”
Despite their long acquaintance and fierce but (usually) outwardly friendly rivalry, members of the Beatles and Rolling Stones have rarely collaborated musically. The Stones’ second single (and first hit) was a cover of the Lennon-McCartney composition “I Wanna Be Your Man” in 1963, although no Beatles performed on that recording.
Four years later, Lennon and McCartney sang backing vocals on the Stones’ single “We Love You” in a show of generational support: The song, hardly the Stones’ best, celebrated the overturning of a trumped-up drug conviction that saw Mick Jagger and Keith Richards briefly jailed. That same year, Stones multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones played saxophone on a Beatles track that ultimately became the jokey B-side “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” although it wasn’t released until 1970. Not surprisingly, 1967 — the year of the “Summer of Love” — was probably the high point in Beatles-Stones relations: They even saluted each other on the covers of their albums released that year, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Their Satanic Majesties Request.”
In November of 1968, Lennon and Yoko Ono performed two songs for the concert TV special “The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus” (which was not released until 1996) as part of a one-off supergroup that also featured Richards on bass, Clapton on lead guitar and Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell.
Over the following years, various Beatles and Stones not named Lennon, McCartney, Jagger or Richards would cross paths in the studio when guesting on sessions by artists including Leon Russell and Billy Preston, amid occasional potshots at each other in the press.
Yet even as the bandmembers became octogenarians, the rivalry remains. In 2021 McCartney said of the Stones, “they’re a blues cover band, that’s sort of what the Stones are. I think our net was cast a bit wider than theirs.” Just a few weeks later, Jagger shot back at the group’s Los Angeles concert that McCartney was in the audience and would “join us in a blues cover.”
New Rolling Stones recordings would be released through Universal Music Group worldwide. While no announcement had been made at the time of this article’s publication, the Rolling Stones have toured every year since 2012 (except 2020, dates for which were postponed to the following year) and a 2023 summer tour seems very likely.