Friday, July 26, 2013

Mick Jagger, 70 and still rolling

Mick Jagger, Denmark 1963

Mick Jagger turns 70 today. Imagine that. Literally a generation ago (or several), the frontman for the Rolling Stones gave pop culture a whole new level of sex and suggestiveness that shocked parents and seemed to liberate teenagers in a way the moptop Beatles never could. 

Whether one wants to imagine the aging Stone still gathering no moss, at least onstage, Sir Mick has always been quick with his lip in interviews. While he squirmed at the idea of sitting still for interviews he always knew their value as publicity and gamely cooperated -- unlike Dylan or even Mick's partner in rock, Keith Richards, for example.

Here's Mick in 1995, talking to Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone magazine at the ripe old age of 52, looking back at a professional career that even then had spanned 33 years. And although the Stones are more an industry than a rock band at this late date, who's to say that Mick, Keith, and Charlie won't continue to put on a show as long as there's a five-pound note left in the Bank of England's vaults?

Keeping things interesting, Mick has a supergroup with Eurythmics legend Dave Stewart, reggae star Damien Marley, jazz soulstress Joss Stone and Indian musician and producer A.R. Rahman. With his old chums in the band there's a couple of new Stones songs, the expected collection of past hits, and an extended tour this year (called "50 and Counting"). But who's counting, indeed.

Sir Mick, 2011

WENNER: What did you think was going on inside you at 15 years old that you wanted to go out and roll around on a stage?

JAGGER: I didn’t have any inhibitions. I saw Elvis and Gene Vincent, and I thought, “Well, I can do this.” And I liked doing it. It’s a real buzz, even in front of 20 people, to make a complete fool of yourself. But people seemed to like it. And the thing is, if people started throwing tomatoes at me, I wouldn’t have gone on with it. But they all liked it, and it always seemed to be a success, and people were shocked. I could see it in their faces.

WENNER: Shocked by you?

JAGGER: Yeah. They could see it was a bit wild for what was going on at the time in these little places in the suburbs. Parents were not always very tolerant, but Keith’s mum was very tolerant of him playing. Keith was an only child, and she didn’t have a lot of other distractions, whereas my parents were like “Get on your homework.” It was a real hard time for me. So I used to go and play with Keith, and then we used to go and play with Dick Taylor [who was later in the Pretty Things]. His parents were very tolerant, so we used to go round to his house, where we could play louder.

WENNER: What was it like to be such a success at such a young age?

JAGGER: It was very exciting. The first time we got our picture in the music paper called the Record Mirror – to be on the front page of this thing that probably sold about 20,000 copies – was so exciting, you couldn’t believe it. And this glowing review: There we were in this club in Richmond, being written up in these rather nice terms. And then to go from the music-oriented press to national press and national television, and everyone seeing you in the world of two television channels, and then being recognized by everyone from builders and people working in shops and so on. It goes to your head – very champagne feeling.

WENNER: You became quite the pop aristocrat in swinging London.

JAGGER: Well, it’s quite a while until all that. But the earlier bit was even more exciting. The suits, the ties and getting ready for “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” the innocence and naiveté of it all, and famous photographers wanting to take your picture and being in Vogue. In England they were very ready for another band. It was funny, because the Beatles had only been around a year. Things happened so quickly. Then there were a lot of popular bands, and all these bands were from the North of England. Most people in England don’t live in the North, and people are snobby in England, so they wanted a band from the South. We were it. ...

Jumpin' Jack Flash, 1980

WENNER: Can you define rock & roll for me? What is it about? Is it about sex, violence, energy, anger?

JAGGER: All those things: energy, anger, angst, enthusiasm, a certain spontaneity. It’s very emotional. And it’s very traditional. It can’t break too many rules. You have certain set rules, certain forms, which are traditionally folk-based, blues-based forms. But they’ve got to be sung with this youthful energy – or youthful lethargy, because youth has this languorous, lethargic, rebellious side to it as well. So they can be sung as an alternate mode of thrashing, this slightly feminine languor, the boredom of youth as well as the anger, because youth has those two things. To represent those emotions, this form seems to work very well.

WENNER: Boredom and anger, which are both a form of rebellion.

JAGGER: Yeah, a statement of rebellion. Drawing the line where your generation is. ...

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