GOLDMINE: Congratulations on Sway: The Best of Carla Olson & Mick Taylor. It is good year for Mick on vinyl.
CARLA OLSON: Thank you. Yes. The Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup deluxe package was released this year, too.
GM: It was the Mick Taylor era of The Rolling Stones that I grew up with in Cleveland. I was twelve years old and their live version of Chuck Berry’s “Carol” was played on our AM rock station in Cleveland. I bought The Rolling Stones’ live album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, which was their final album on the London label. I loved it and bought the sheet music book too. Then the following year, the same AM station was promoting the album Sticky Fingers with Mick Jagger on a radio ad that was humorously inaudible, sounding like, “Sti-ee Fin-gah” repeatedly. That was their first album on their own label and it arrived just as FM rock was beginning to take off in Cleveland. So those two albums became my introduction to Mick Taylor as a guitarist. How did the two of you meet?
CO: I was a Mick Taylor fan prior to his Rolling Stones days, when he was in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. I followed all of The Bluesbreakers guitar players. It was a real neck and neck tie for me between Peter Green and Mick Taylor. Then when Mick Taylor joined the Rolling Stones, I thought he added muscle to the group. Mick is a muscular player, bringing power to anyone he plays with, although he is shy on stage. When I was performing with The Textones, Bob Dylan’s road manager was a big fan, so he came to a number of shows, bringing Bob Dylan, Mick Taylor and others. When it came time to make a video for a song from Bob’s 1983 album Infidels, they suggested that I be in the video, stating that Mick Taylor, who played on the album, wouldn’t be around, and that I play a similar style of music. I was just a pantomime, but I did have to learn Mick’s parts on “Sweetheart Like You” and I learned them as good as possible. You couldn’t hear me, but it was convincing. When Mick came to one of our Textones shows, he said that he would like to do some recording with me on any project that I was working on. I invited him to come to L.A. to work on an album that I was doing with Gene Clark, but unfortunately Gene passed away before we could finish the album. This evolved into Mick coming and playing on a couple of my songs, and this probably would not have happened had that guy not asked me to be in Bob Dylan’s video.
GM: That is wonderful that your playing together and friendship has gone on for years. Going back to Sticky Fingers, the first single from the album was “Brown Sugar” with “Bitch” as its flip side, both exciting songs. Then the next single from the album was the softer “Wild Horses” on the A side and “Sway” on its flip side. Please tell me about the wah-wah guitar solo powerfully featured on your version of “Sway” with Mick.
CO: That is Mick, going on forever. We did concerts where he did the song with and some without the wah-wah and I love it both ways. Side one of this album, which is from our live shows, has it both ways, one as the opening number and one closing the first side.
The Rolling Stones
Flip side: Sway
A side: Wild Horses
Top 100 debut: June 19, 1971
Peak position: 28
Rolling Stones RS-19101
GM: In the middle of the first side is “See the Light,” which I think is a very good match for “Sway.”
CO: “See the Light” is an early Textones song from 1984’s Midnight Mission album and it is a Stonesy-like ballad. I thought it would be good to include in our concert. I wanted to do a project that let Mick stretch out. When I hear the studio version of “Sway” from Sticky Fingers, for example, it sounds like it fades when Mick was about to take off and I didn’t want to stifle him.
GM: There is a link between The Rolling Stones and Faces with Ron Wood stepping in after Mick left. You have combined these British bands by having Faces’ keyboardist Ian McLagan join you.
CO: Mac was one of the last great piano players. We dedicate the album to him. Very few people play like that anymore. He hit those keys pretty hard to be heard among our electric guitars. I saw Faces a bunch of times in the 1970s and Ron Wood is great, but Mac was the soloist.
GM: He really comes through on “See the Light” along with Tom Jr. Morgan on saxophone.
CO: I will tell Tom you said that. That will really make his day. That solo is what helped get us our record company deal. For many years, when we play the song live, that is the solo that Tom performs.
GM: Side two is a studio side, opening with a great up-tempo number, “Justice.”
CO: “Justice” is a pretty topical song in 2020. It began with words from a Howard University poet and I was able to put music to the words, about what was going on in the south in the 1800s. Mick and Mac are just monsters on that song and George Callins plays a great rhythm guitar part and Rick Hemmert, from The Textones, comes through on drums. Jesse Sublett is on bass. Jesse and I were in a band in the 1970s called The Violators in Austin, with Kathy Valentine.
GM: “Within an Ace” comes next and is bluesy and slower and the layered guitar parts remind me of one my wife Donna’s favorite songs, Derek and The Dominos’ “Bell Bottom Blues.”
CO: George and I would come up with these melodic lines and Mick would soar over the top. At the end of the song, Mick just kept on going, which is why there is this extended bit, which is just him, until we faded him out.
GM: On “Kinderwars” there is Mikael Rickfors, who I heard with The Hollies on their Romany album with “Magic Woman Touch,” which my friend Mark owned and shared with me in 1973.
CO: Yes, Mikael was in The Hollies, doing vocals, when Allan Clarke first wanted to go solo. Prior to that Mikael was in a Swedish band named Bamboo.
GM: I also enjoy the slide guitar on the song.
CO: That is Jim Lacey-Baker. He was a kid who came to one of our shows in San Diego and asked if Mick and I would produce some songs for him in a studio and gave us a cassette of a song he wanted to record. He had booked studio time for a day that we were coming back from San Francisco. I felt wiped out from the trip, but Mick said that he would go, so Mick and Jim recorded a few songs together and became really good friends through the years and still are. Mick’s part on “Kinderwars” is a John Coltrane-like solo and I had never heard a slide guitar played like that before.
GM: The album ends with an edgy finale, “Loserville,” very up-tempo, and Barry Goldberg’s organ comes through nicely.
CO: Mick plays a great slide guitar part on it, too. This is from an album with Mick, which came out in August 2001 and much like now, we weren’t able to tour to support it. The rest is history.
GM: I remember the aftermath of September 11. For a six month period I had a whole row of seats to myself on flights. So few people were getting out and traveling. Gia Ciambotti is among the harmony vocalists on that song. I know of her through her work with The Graces, and their song “Lay Down Your Arms.”
CO: Her dad John Ciambotti was in the band Clover with Huey Lewis. John was a great bass player.
GM: You also have some upcoming releases early next year. Ladies Sing Lightfoot includes one of my favorite people, Susan Cowsill. Americana Railroad includes Paul McCartney’s guitarist Brian Ray, who was wonderful in this year’s concert film The Doors: Break on Thru – A Celebration of Ray Manzarek, which I reviewed, playing “Back Door Man.” You are also included on the flip side of Brian’s new orange vinyl single “Got a New Thing,” performing a cover of Procol Harum’s “Whiskey Train.”
CO: “Whiskey Train” might just curl your hair. Brian was supposed to sing that one, but he insisted that I sing it. I am a Procol Harum fan, but I had never sung that song before. It is really powerful and will also be on Americana Railroad, which will be in a double vinyl format along with a single CD format. I certainly appreciate all the coverage that you and Goldmine give us. We will get through this lockdown, get over it, and take our music back on the road.