Photo: Mark Seliger
The Rolling Stones have announced their new studio album, Hackney Diamonds, coming October 20, 2023, via Geffen Records, after an elaborate teaser campaign. The news arrived at a free-wheeling press event with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, that was hosted by Jimmy Fallon, and live streamed from the Hackney Empire Theatre in London, on September 6 at 9:30 a.m. ET on YouTube. The band introduced the album’s first track, “Angry,” and its accompanying video, shot on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles and featuring actress Sydney Sweeney while paying homage to iconic billboards of the ’70s. The band’s beloved drummer, Charlie Watts, who died in 2021, performs on two of the album’s 12 tracks, “Mess It Up” and “Live By the Sword,” both recorded in 2019.
Richards was asked about Watts’ absence. “Ever since Charlie’s gone, it’s different, of course” he said. “Of course, he’s missed… incredibly. Thanks to Charlie, we’ve got Steve Jordan, who [Charlie picked]. It would have been a lot harder [to continue] without Charlie’s blessing.”
The decision to release a new studio album required one overriding decision. “We have to make a record that we really love ourselves,” said Jagger. Twenty-three tracks were recorded at the various sessions.
Hackney Diamonds marks the Stones’ first collaboration with New York-born producer and musician Andrew Watt, who was named Producer of the Year at the 2021 GRAMMY® Awards and has worked with Post Malone and Elton John.
Richards was asked how they came up with the name for the album. “We were flinging ideas around for titles and we went from ‘Hit and Run,’ ‘Smash and Grab,’” he said, “and somehow we came up with Hackney Diamonds, which is a variation of them both.” Fallon later asked him if recording is still fun. “Yeah, it is fun,” he said. “It’s where the guys can get together and pass around ideas without any interference. When it works… it’s a great place for a band to work it all out.”
“When you go in, you’ve got to please yourselves. It’s playing for yourselves first,” added Jagger. “Later on, you might think, ‘Oh, people might like this’… or maybe they won’t like this.” (laughs)
The news of the live event was shared at around 1:40 p.m. via a clip featuring The Tonight Show‘s Jimmy Fallon indicating that he would host a Q-and-A with Jagger, Richards and Wood in attendance. The teaser campaign evolved almost daily for the previous week. On September 1, the Stones shared a brief audio clip of a new track, “Angry,” and made it available on a micro website, DontGetAngryWithMe.com, that intentionally took a long time to load. The latest teaser followed one on August 29 at around 4 p.m. ET when the band’s social media platforms displayed images of the artwork for the upcoming album, Hackney Diamonds. Photos of the artwork were displayed on buildings throughout the world (e.g., Wellington Arch in London, the Brooklyn Bridge), and the microsite for the album title went “live.”
The rumor mill for the new Rolling Stones studio album began working overtime on August 21 when an internet sleuth noticed an “advertisement” from a U.K.-based company called Hackney Diamonds. The ad makes numerous not-so-difficult-to-follow references to the band including the fictitious company’s age (“Est. 1962,” the same year as the Stones and, yes, the 60th anniversary gemstone is a diamond), while name-dropping numerous song titles in its “wink wink” ad copy: “Our friendly team promises you Satisfaction. When you say Gimme Shelter we’ll fix your shattered windows.” There’s even a tiny Stones’ lips-and-tongue logo above the company’s name. And if you were to go to microsite HackneyDiamonds.com and clicked on the Privacy link, you’ll be taken to a page from the Universal Music Group, the Stones’ label. It all resulted in two noted music forums, SteveHoffman.TV and IORR.org, to spin off lengthy threads of news of the new album into ones specifically for the album’s presumed title, Hackney Diamonds. (The original IORR thread—if you need to ask what the letters stand for, you better brush up on your Stones’ discography—began on Dec. 9, 2016. When the discovery of the title was shared, the spinoff thread was created after—get this—the original thread had reached 704 pages.)
Those calling the U.K. phone number reportedly got a recording that says, “Welcome to Hackney Diamonds, specialists in glass repair. Don’t get angry, get it fixed. Opening early September. Mare Street, E8. Register for a call at HackneyDiamonds.com. Come on then!”
The new Rolling Stones studio album has been in the works for years, way before the passing of Watts in 2021. And although the Sept. 6 news event made no mention of guest artists on the album, on June 9, 2023, came a report from the Sun newspaper that Bill Wyman, the bass guitarist for the band’s first three decades, had flown to Los Angeles and recorded a track on the album. Wyman, who left the Stones in 1993, agreed to perform on the still-untitled album as a tribute to Watts, who also is heard on many of the sessions he participated on before his death in August 2021. A source told the Sun, “Bill hasn’t seen the band together for years, but always loved Charlie. This record’s really a tribute to Charlie, so he couldn’t say no.” Wyman turned 86 last October 24. He’s not the only surprise guest expected on the new album.
In a June 24 interview with Variety to promote his new book on London’s Chelsea neighborhood, Wyman confirmed his involvement but indicated that it was done remotely. “When Mick (Jagger) asked if I would play on one of the tracks in tribute to Charlie, of course I immediately said yes,” he said. “But I haven’t flown in decades, so I just went over to Metropolis Studios here in London and recorded my part. Mick indicated he’s delighted with the track, so that’s a bonus, but that’s the extent of my ‘return.’ Are we finished talking about the Stones today?”
That same week, Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood were in New York, reportedly filming a video. Or was it an album cover?
The Rolling Stones Hackney Diamonds Track Listing
Depending On You
Bite My Head Off
Whole Wide World
Mess It Up
Live By the Sword
Driving Me Too Hard
Tell Me Straight (lead sung by Richards)
Sweet Sound of Heaven (with Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga)
Rolling Stone Blues
On Feb. 21 came a report from Variety that Paul McCartney had recorded bass parts for the album. [The publication said that Ringo Starr was also expected to contribute to it but the next day a Stones representative said that was not the case. The rep noted that McCartney performs on one song.] Though the Stones released a new studio album in 2016, Blue and Lonesome, it was essentially a blues covers album. Hackney Diamonds will mark their first new studio effort of new material written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards since 2005’s A Bigger Bang.
McCartney has a recent history with Watt. “I’ve been recording with a couple of people, so I’m looking forward to doing even more,” he wrote on his website. “I’ve started working with this producer called Andrew Watt, and he’s very interesting — we’ve had some fun. Beyond that, I don’t have anything massive planned … at the moment!”
In an August 2023 interview to promote his own 2023 tour, McCartney told Brazil’s O Globo, “I realized that I had known these guys forever, that I had been to their shows, and they to ours, and that John (Lennon) and I had even done some backing vocals for one of their songs. But I had never played with them, all together, in the same room. So I loved it.”
Variety‘s story indicated that the Stones were recording in Los Angeles over the winter. In October 2022, both Jagger and Richards were spotted entering and exiting New York City’s famed Electric Lady Studios.
In an Oct. 2022 interview with U.K.’s The Sun, Ronnie Wood confirmed that Watts performs on some of the upcoming album’s tracks, as does drummer Steve Jordan. In 2021, Richards told the Los Angeles Times, “You haven’t heard the last of Charlie Watts.”
Wyman reunited with the Stones at this performance in London in 2012.
In a Jan. 11, 2023, tweet, Richards posted a brief clip where he said, “There’s some new music on its way,” and even teased a possible 2023 tour: “Hopefully we’ll get to see you…. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
All the way back on Oct. 28, 2020, Jagger shared a clip from what was possibly a new track from an upcoming Stones album. The legend posted a clip on his social media platforms of a 46-second video of him singing a song identified as “Pride Before a Fall.” In a Sept. 8, 2020, interview with BBC Radio 2’s The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show., Richards revealed that a new Stones album was definitely in the works. The guitarist confirmed that the band was in the process of laying down studio tracks—or was until the coronavirus interrupted the project.
Asked at the time in the early months of the pandemic if he had been in touch with Jagger, Richards told the interviewer, “Yeah, all the time, exchanging ideas. But,” he added, referring to his chief collaborator, “’I’d rather be looking you in the face, man.’”
On April 23, 2020, the Rolling Stones surprised their fans with a new song, “Living in a Ghost Town,” though its not on Hackney Diamonds. The song, Richards said, “came from a first bunch of things we recorded for this album. But because of all of this… the virus… it’s screwed up any plans you could have had. ‘Oh, we’re not on the road… you can go in the studio…’ It’s not that simple. We’re biding our time at the moment and I’m gonna do a little bit of work on it with Don Was, our producer, next month, just to prod things along a little bit. Otherwise, until we can all get back together again, we’re like an octopus with all the legs chopped off, you know? I’m missing this year… I’m supposed to be on the road now.”
“Ghost,” the Stones’ first original music since 2012, was recorded “well over a year ago,” meaning at least in 2019, said Richards, “and then shit hit the fan [and] Mick and I decided that this one really needed to go to work right now.”
As recently as May 23, Jagger posted a tweet of him strumming a guitar with a brief comment, “I’ve been keeping busy in the studio.”