'I was having difficulties with drug addiction and couldn’t have lasted. ‘My life is so much better now than being a drug-ravaged member of the Stones. ‘But people who really know me ask another question – whether I regret joining the Stones.To me, that’s far more astute.’In truth, Taylor has always been ambivalent about the Stones – a fact that explains in part why he has never pursued what he believes may be millions of pounds in unpaid royalties.
For years, he has refused to discuss his time as a Stone and has brushed off the two questions that have dogged him ever since: why did he leave, and does he regret it?
Now, 61-year-old Taylor has broken his silence in an extraordinary interview with The Mail on Sunday.
‘People are always asking me whether I regret leaving the Rolling Stones,’ he said.
‘I make no bones about it – had I remained with the band, I would probably be dead.
Even guitarist Ronnie Wood, a relative newcomer who was only made a full member of the band in 1990, was estimated to be worth £70million during his recent divorce.
All of which is a source of bitter amusement to the shambling figure in a dark grey duffel coat, stopping to light his umpteenth cigarette of the day as he walks from his ramshackle cottage in rural Suffolk to the village shop.
From January 1971, he also had a daughter, Chloe, to support from a short-lived marriage to his first wife, Rosie.
His first public appearance with the band was the Stones’ huge free concert in Hyde Park, which became an impromptu memorial for the band’s founder and original guitarist Brian Jones, who had been found dead two days earlier.
For all his undoubted virtuosity on the electric guitar, he was never a huge fan of the band and found their brand of bar-room rock and roll musically limited.
‘When they asked me to come to the studio in 1969, I thought they just wanted me to play a session,’ he recalled.
It is clear that the scruffy, two-bedroom semi where he has lived for the past 20 years hardly fits the image of a former Rolling Stone.