Mick Jagger

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Mick Jagger Pencil Portrait
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Last update: 23/02/12

Postscript: 10/11/18

It’s almost impossible to consider drawing Mick in a conventional pose. His public image is synonymous with the leering “in your face” stance beloved by so many second rate impersonators. Just recently I acquired the “Jumpin Jack Flash” promo video in glorious colour (I wiped the b & W alternative), and from the moment Jagger utters the immortal line “I was baaaaawn in a crossfire hurricaine” one cannot help but smile, for Mick is without doubt one of the world’s great showmen; in fact there’s an arguable case to be made for him being the greatest of them all.

He’s a song stylist because it’s evident that he’s not really a singer although I must confess to a sneaking regard for his lower range tones – deep, rich and rather engaging, used sparingly but always to tasteful effect. No let’s be honest Mick has never attempted “standards” because he can’t; put simply he doesn’t have that type of voice. However he is unique and it is that very quality that has sustained the Stones on and off for the 50 years they’ve been around as a performing unit. I love them; always have done. Their harmonies are invariably ragged, their approach to recording near “ramshackle” and yet they can rightfully claim their pole position as the world’s greatest rock & roll band. In fact it is that precise distinction between rock’ & ’roll and music in general that avoids any direct comparison with The Beatles. The Stones benefited from the high tech era of live performing whilst the technology to support their huge stadium tours was seemingly invented the day after The Beatles retired permanently from life on the road. In contrast, The Beatles aura as a live amphetamine fuelled powerhouse unit is recalled only by those lucky enough to have seen them in Hamburg; extant recordings being inconclusive and dating from a period when the band was moving onto greater things. Those interviewees concerned are in no doubt that as live performers the Fabs would have acquitted themselves well in comparison with the Stones whilst within the context of ‘vinyl production’ even the most ardent r & b aficionado would probably concede that The Beatles defined the possibilities of the recording studio as an audio workshop more than any other artist.

So why do I like them? Well, firstly their uniform lack of good looks. The probability of not boasting at least one heartthrob amongst a group of five men was unlikely, yet it gave the Stones a unique homogeneity from which Andrew Oldham was able to cultivate their “anti-establishment” image. Brian Jones looked absolutely wasted -my contemporaries and I won’t even boast comparable eye bags in our seventies – and the Stones founding member was dead at 27!. Bill Wyman could have been plucked from a “stone age” movie and lied about his birth date, Mick was the original Angelina Jolie minus the sultry looks, Charlie – bless him – looked more like a draughtsmen commuting everyday by train, and Keith could have been a “Beatle” but chose a life of elegant wastefulness that presently supports his image as a ”walking miracle.” I laugh constantly with them and if they’ve singularly failed to generate a great album since 1978’s “Some Girls”, there’s still always something to get your head around on every Stones release.

As for Mick Jagger the man – seven children by four women perhaps says most of what can be said. He’s socially aspirational and in accepting a knighthood made a predictable gesture even though, unlike other similarly feted rock musicians, he has no known record of charitable work or public services. Keith Richards might be on record as saying that he does not wish to take the stage with someone wearing a “coronet and sporting the old ermine” but at the heart of it all is the wider issue of accepting an award from the very same establishment that had sought to incarcerate them 36 years earlier. I’m with Keith on this one – I never forget. How on earth can anyone allow the passage of time to dilute the memory of people that have attempted to destroy you?

Becoming Sir Mick may have driven a wedge between the Glimmer Twins but where Mick really let his financial mask slip was the unsuccessful attempt to invalidate his marriage to Jerry Hall despite the resultant bastardisation of his children that would have legally ensued. In addition, there was the question of a one year postponement in 1998 of a series of UK concerts with valid ticket sales honoured for a further twelve months. I will return to his second marriage in a while but let us first revisit the 1998 tour cancellation.

Labour was imposing full taxes on foreign-earned income of any British resident who worked in the UK at all during the tax year and the 200 strong entourage, roadies, security staff etc would have indirectly cost the Stones 40% of the tour’s total earnings. Previously, under 1977 legislation, British people who lived and worked abroad for more than a year were exempted from British taxes on their earnings if they spent 62 days or less on UK soil. Blair’s Government shifted the goalposts; hence the one year delay strategy. Since US ticket prices on the 1999 tour were as high as $300 a seat the interest earning possibilities for Stones monies on deposit were presumably highlighted to Jagger by his advisers.

Officially The Stones were concerned about their staff. Of course, the true ‘ins and outs’ of the Labour Government’s FED (foreign earnings Deduction”) legislation as it affected the band were never made clear. What is known is that patient fans wading through turnstiles a year later were not awarded interest payments on their monies; evidently another victory for the ‘power of stardom.’ Would anyone normally purchase an item and be prepared to wait twelve months for delivery?

As for the “marriage that never was”, Jerry Hall was awarded circa £12.5m and this classy mother probably deserved every penny. She believed her marriage was valid under Balinese law whilst Jagger maintained they both knew otherwise. Well it’s a “rare bird” that stays with any man for an appreciable period of time without marriage and that’s lesson number one for the male ‘handbook of life’. In any event, the case confirmed a petitioner spouse’s right to a financial settlement if the couple ‘appeared’ to be married. What on earth was Jagger thinking? She’s talented, intelligent, tolerant beyond the call of duty (Mick fathered another child with a multi lingual broadcaster in 1999), discrete and had raised a family of four with him. Just how much money does anyone really need? *

*More than £190m it would seem – (the latest 2010 estimate). On a more intimate ‘male level’ we can factor in the shabby treatment of guitarist Ronnie Wood (a mere hired hand on retainer fees for thirty years before Keith fought and secured equal partnership status for his mate), and the near obsessive stranglehold on the Stones songwriting empire, (Bill Wyman might have written the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” riff on the piano but he only ever received performance royalties). In contrast, Lennon and McCartney gave Starr a one third share in royalties for “What Goes on” and he only contributed a few lyrical changes. Perhaps we should expect little else from a London School of Economics student but his parsimonious nature casts a pall on his public image. As for his first wife, Bianca, she has completely re-defined herself in the public’s eye as a Social and Human rights advocate of considerable note. Perhaps there’s something to be said for fleeing the “Jagger bubble.”

On a positive note, Mick, from all sources, takes parenting seriously, and showed suitable love and deference in making a one day return journey to Britain from Las Vegas whilst on tour to be with his dying father. However, I am not aware of truly “close friends” in Jagger’s world and indeed Keith described him as “unbearable” in his 2010 autobiography “Life”.

Is there a case for the defence? Arguably yes in certain quarters. Here’s the background story to Mick’s bogus response to Keith’s autobiography, which the writer Sean Egan regrettably interpreted as being genuine whilst preparing his excellent literary compendium, ‘The Mammoth book of The Rolling Stones’ (2013). Nevertheless, irrespective of whether these are Mick’s own words, they reflect many of the sentiments he may genuinely feel about sustaining the Stones’s empire throughout Richards\‘s comatose years.

http://www.examiner.com/article/slate-com-s-mick-jagger-response-to-keith-richards-memoir-is-a-joke\

\http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/low_concept/2010/11/please_allow_me_to_correct_a_few_things.single.html\

Postscript :

In early 2018, Keith Richards would take a shot at his bandmate Mick Jagger in a Wall Street Journal profile. The 74-year-old rock icon said, “Mick’s a randy old bastard. It’s time for the snip – you can’t be a father at that age. Those poor kids!”

Jagger, 73 at the time, had made headlines the previous December becoming a father for the eighth time with his 30-year-old girlfriend Melanie Hamrick giving birth to their son, Deveraux. After the comment had gone viral Richards regrettably took to Twitter to apologize for suggesting his bandmate get a long overdue vasectomy: “I deeply regret the comments I made about Mick in the WSJ which were completely out of line. I have of course apologized to him in person.”

My apologies for the amount of links included here but frankly I cannot wrire much more about Jagger. In comparison to Richards, he cuts such a pathetic figure these days. The old adage “It’s only Mick being Mick,” has a very hollow ring to it now; the merest hint of envy in millions of men about Mick and his ladies now having long given way to sheer ridicule. If there comes a pivotal moment when a man must ‘reign himself in’ to avoid looking pathetic, no such epiphany has clearly ever been bestowed upon Jagger and don’t hold your breath over the Stones’s front man ever being challenged on this point during interviews.

https://nypost.com/2014/03/17/mick-jaggers-model-girlfriend-lwren-scott-commits-suicide/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/10900908/Mick-Jaggers-mystery-woman-is-27-year-old-ballet-dancer.html

http://www.2oceansvibe.com/2018/05/25/secrets-to-mick-jaggers-everlasting-health-and-energy/

I wouldn’t imagine anyone taking issue with a septuagenarian pursuing a rigorous exercise regime, but might I be bold enough to suggest that were Jagger to devote more of his down-time to songwriting rather than yoga and ballet, The Stones might not find themselves now more than four decades distanced from their last great album?

Recommended listening

Retail sales don’t always reflect quality or a lack of it, but it’s safe to say that Mick’s solo albums haven’t exactly set the world alight. His last all new release in 2001 registered embarrassing sales and he’s unlikely to venture in that direction again unless the whole Stones bandwagon pulls in at the retirement saloon.

Check out the remastered series.

The Rolling Stones (1964 – Decca LK4605)

This release is arguably the greatest debut album by any band anywhere and strikingly devoid of the band’s 45 single releases to date – an unheard of deviation from standard record company marketing ploys at the time.

It’s among the earliest batch of vinyl recordings I ever owned and from the opening romp through Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” to the closer “Walking the dog,” a then recent US smash for Rufus Thomas, all the vital ingredients of the Stones sound is here; the twin lead guitars of Richards and Jones simultaneously defying and challenging the traditional group concept of rhythm and lead whilst the celebrated “kick ass” section of Charlie Watts on drums and Bill Wyman on bass both anchor and propel the Stones music onwards and upwards. They may look remarkably well dressed in suits on the front cover, but from their facial expressions you wouldn’t bet against them burning down your town. God how my grandmother hated them!!!

Out of our Heads (1965 – Decca LK/SKL 4733)

On Paul McCartney’s prompting, the Stones cut a cover of the Larry Williams hit “She said yeah.” The former Beatle would nail an equally impressive version on his 1999 “Run Devil Run” album and by imbuing his vocal performance with sufficient histrionics, he wrestles the song from the Stones front man. However Mick acquits himself well ,and the Stones version remains my favourite thanks to the heavily reverbed guitar solo from Keith Richards that slices through several stop/kick starts from Charlie on drums. You almost want to stop the song in mid stream to start again which I actually did repeatedly as a child, until I was compelled to buy the CD reissue later in life. Young people don’t know what they’re missing by not experiencing the combined thrill and trepidation of dropping a stylus halfway onto a disc. “You’ll ruin it” I can hear my mother shouting from below “and then you’ll be upset”. She was right, but it took a while.

I personally recorded a version of Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike” in 2010, and when it came to overdubbing the guitar solo I didn’t hesitate to slavishly ape the Stones arrangement. The unexpected tonal movement to F minor from E7 instead of resolving once again to A major sets us up for a solo that wends its way through a chordal shift to B minor before negotiating a final resting place on the E7 turnaround. As the writer Alan Clayson so aptly put it – ‘the solo lived a separate life from the rest of the number.’

There’s much else to commend this album including Chuck Berry’s ‘Talkin ‘Bout you’ and another favourite of mine ‘Oh baby (we got a good thing going)’ which starts with a guitar ostinato that sounds as if it should have been played in reverse. Trust the Stones to be peverse!

Aftermath (1966)

The Brian Jones showcase – anything up to six different instruments played with great finesse by the Stones founding member enhance the tonal range of this album – the first release to feature exclusively Jagger-Richards compositions. Ian Stewart mirrors his own “near invisible membership” of the group, with superb honky tonk piano soloing on “Flight 505,” the reverb drenched effect suggesting a contribution recorded five miles from the studio.

Beggar’s Banquet (Decca LK/SKL 4955 – 1968)

Recovering from the artistic nadir of “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” The Stones return to form with a pot pourri of rock, blues, folk and gospel. Reinvigorated by the endless possibilities of open tunings Richards love affair with the guitar steers the band into militant sloganising (“Street Fighting Man”),mock satanism (“Sympathy for the Devil”),biblical blues (“Prodigal Son”) and groupie sex (“Stray Cat Blues”). Jagger revels in his new found personna whilst session pianist Nicky Hopkins shines throughout.

Sticky Fingers (COC 59100 – 1971)

There might have been teething problems with Andy Warhol’s zip design, but it was nothing compared to The Stones barely restrained seething over Decca Record’s perceived “royalty discrepancies.” Cutting loose under their own label the band let rip with an eclectic mix of rock, country and Atlantic soul. Mick’s cod Nashville twang on “Dead Flowers” raises a smile as far removed from the pale faced angst of “Sister Morphine”, a paean to drug induced hospitalisation. Marianne Faithful remains due some contributory songwriting royalties for this number but knowing Mick I wouldn’t advise her to hold her breath. “Brown Sugar” and “Bitch” ramp up the tempo and were to become “in concert mainstays”, the former allegedly about an interesting session of horizontal jogging Mick had undertaken with a couple of nubile ladies of the darker skinned persuasion. With Mick, anything is possible but it could also just be another entry in the Stones ledger of outlandish fables.

Exile on Main Street (COC 69100 – 1972 remastered 2010)

Keith Richard’s “tour de force” and discussed further in the Richards’ commentary elsewhere on this website.

Some Girls (CUN 39108 – 1978)

Overcoming his marital woes, Jagger’s ultra commercial “Miss You” fired The Stones into the commercial stratosphere with a radio friendly disco smitten bop. “When the whip comes down” is a homage to the sado-masochistic predilections of New York’s homosexual community – Mick is rumoured to have ventured into such territory himself – whilst “Respectable” is classic ‘driving music’ ably assisted by the twin guitar tapestry of Messrs Richards and Wood. The killer track is “Far Away Eyes,” a Country and Western ‘piss take’ where Jagger sounds off like a Billy Graham styled evangelist, complete with mid-Californian overtones.

The last truly great Stones album.

Tattoo You (CUNS 39114 1981)

Yes I know – a mishmash collection of outtakes spanning at least nine years but hey, I’ve a sneaking regard for this album. For sure, Mick may have parked his cinematic aspirations by walking off the set of “Fitzcarraldo” to re-consign his life to the album-tour-album grind but the collection is melodic fare itself. Mick Taylor’s presence is all over “Tops” (the ex Stones guitarist sued and won royalty payments for his non-credited compositional input), “Waiting on a friend” is as warm and engaging a melody that Mick & Keith have ever written, Richards is mischievous on “Little T & A” (tits and arse for the uninitiated) and uncovers another killer riff in open G tuning for the hit ’45 “Start Me Up.”

Recommended viewing

Being Mick (2001)

A fly on the wall documentary cataloguing a year in Mick’s life as he finishes his album “Goddess in the doorway”, oversees production of the film “Enigma” and parties with Elton John to “talk shop” about a recent Madonna concert. It’s revealing to a point – the rather vacuous hobnobbing with acquaintances all presumably “hard to find” when real personal misfortune strikes, Mick’s undoubted prowess as a father (a side to his personality that Jerry Hall has always championed) and the rather uneasy relationship with sycophantic employees who can never really question his artistic judgement in the way Keith can.

World in Action (1967) / Look of the Week (1967)

Sprung from jail and with barely enough time to restore colour to his cheeks, Mick meets senior establishment figures to discuss the Stones rebellious image and society in general. It must have been rather daunting to be interrogated by The Times editor William Rees-mogg, Bishop of Woolwich Dr Robert Robinson, Jesuit Priest Father Corbishley and Lord Stow Hill but Jagger acquits himself well. He’d rather not pontificate about his anti establishment views and the motivation for forging a musical career was to “have as good a time as possible”.

In the second interview he admits to an alternate persona on stage and informs John Cowen, Professor of Psychology at Manchester University that audience reaction to the Stones is markedly different in certain countries, particularly at concerts heavily populated by young men.

There are countless other interviews available but all fall into the PR/promotional category which is fine within itself but hardly insightful.

Recommended reading

Nothing really on Mick personally beyond the usual “hack biographies” intimating that he’s a “closet conservative” with both a large and small c. Spend £25 if you’re desperate to confirm the obvious or failing that, put the money towards my limited edition fine art print of the Stones lead singer!

Surfing

The Rolling Stones Database

http://www.nzentgraf.de/\

The ultimate Rolling Stones database.

An extremely useful repository of factual information. In contrast, the official site http://www.rollingstones.com/\ looks like a colourful shop window but you won’t find the merchandise at the best available prices! Official sites are always worth a periodic visit for breaking news but in my view have little else to commend them.