Sly Stone Speaks, Shows Off His Chopper

noah | July 3, 2007 10:59 am

The forthcoming issue of Vanity Fair has an article that, frankly, we never thought we’d see: a chat between the long-reclusive Sly Stone and VF contributing editor David Kamp, who admits to pursuing the musician for an interview, off and on, for about 12 years. The chat eventually takes place at the Bay Area bike shop Chopper Guys Biker Products Inc., which we’re guessing will see an uptick in business from curious fans beginning, oh, around now or so–and yes, that is his bike pictured at right:

And then, like John Wayne emerging from ‘cross the prairie in The Searchers … a strange form advances through the wavy air in the distance: some sort of vehicle, low to the ground, rumbling mightily as it turns off the highway and into the parking lot. As it comes closer, the shapes become clearer: a flamboyantly customized banana-yellow chopper trike, the front tire jutting four feet out in front of the driver.

He sits on a platform no higher than 18 inches off the ground, legs extended in front of him, his body clad in a loose, tan shirt-and-pants ensemble somewhere between Carhartt work clothes and pajamas. His feet are shod in black leather sneakers with green-yellow-red African tricolor trim. Behind him, on an elevated, throne-like seat built between the two fat back tires, sits an attractive, 30-ish woman in full biker leathers. He always was good at entrances.

Stone’s ditched the mohawk that he sported at the 2006 Grammys, and he tells Kamp that he’s got a hundred (or 200) new songs that he’s written during his extended hiatus. He doesn’t mention if he’s going to perform them at his tour dates this summer–which include this month’s Montreux Jazz Festival–but he does take the time to reel off some lyrics:

“There’s one that says, ‘Ever get a chance to put your thanks on? / Somebody you know you can bank on? / Even sometimes you might embarrass them by pulling rank on? / Now, whatcha gonna do when you run out of them? … Another holiday, you’re drunk and curbing it / You can’t face a noun, so you’re straight adverbing it / You had an argument at home, and you had to have the last word in it / Now whatcha gonna do when you run out of them?’

For the uninitiated, the piece is a solid run-through of Sly’s career and subsequent disappearance–and it even explains the trainwreck that was the Grammy performance, which was more like a parade of already-ubiquitous music-biz types (Joss Stone, Steven Tyler) hoping to have some of Stone’s stardust rub off on him. “That wasn’t my gig. Really, that wasn’t my gig,” Stone insists to Kamp; his robotic appearance there was apparently the result of a motorcycle accident he’d had a few days prior. That denial–and Kamp’s description of an April show in Vegas–is really making us wish that we could hitch a plane to Montreux, especially since rumor has it that Prince is going to be there, too.

Sly Stone’s Higher Power [Vanity Fair]