Mick Jagger, famous rock singer in the iconic band the Rolling Stones, celebrates his 75th birthday today, 26th July 2018. I remember asking my mum excitedly when I was a teenager who she liked best: the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, thinking she would say the Beatles. She replied, “Beethoven of course!” and with a sigh I realised I wouldn’t be finding any memorabilia stashed away in a dusty box to take along to Antiques Roadshow.
Since then, I confess to being more of a Beatles fan. I’ve listened to more of their music and, with a brother-in-law who grew up on the outskirts of Liverpool, a trip to the Cavern Club, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields was more accessible and appealing than a trip to Dartford, the home town of Mick Jagger. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of the Stones songs – ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is a particular favourite – but I thought it was about time I paid more attention to Mick Jagger’s legacy. Whether I could avoid simply adding to the already abundant coverage of the star’s wild lifestyle, many mistresses, children and drugs, I wasn’t at first sure! (Sorry Mick…)
However, digging through the Gale Primary Sources archives, I found many interesting sources and have learnt much more about the rock icon. These are some of the stories that appealed to me the most.
1 – Mick Jagger’s picture appears alongside Duke Ellington in a Sunday Times article from May 1964 in the column ‘Derek Jewells: a jazz/pop year notebook.’
In this article, Jagger and the rest of the band are presented as a group who are out to stretch the boundaries of music and conformity, but who are also canny enough to toe the line and wear ties to fit in (when they need to). Amusingly, Mick Jagger is quoted as saying “we don’t think we are ugly,” backed up by Keith Richards saying, “it’s you who are ugly, because you’ve got a straight nose and ordinary eyes.”
2 – Jagger is mentioned four times during 1972 in the music round up column in ‘The Observer News for the American Soldier in Vietnam, 1962-1973,’ an Archives Unbound collection from Gale.
In June 1972, the Who and the Stones performed in front of a travelling circus which included lions, tigers and a few elephants. Ron Geiman, author of the column, suggests that the main attractions were not actually the animals but ‘Mick Jagger and Peter Townsend…freaking out the viewers.’ In the August issue of that year, Jagger reportedly brags that he might stand on his head or take off his clothes during a gig in New York City to celebrate his birthday. I’m not sure he’ll be making the same claim in 2018, but you never know!
3 – In 1982, the Daily Mail ran a story entitled ‘Day Mick Jagger died.’
The false rumours that he had died of a heart attack at 2am on 1st December 1982 apparently amused Jagger who had been quietly residing in Paris under a pseudonym. He is quoted as saying “I’ve got to laugh…already I’ve been shot twice, had an earlier heart attack, and now today I’m dead all over again.” I noted with some sense of irony that this might be the news piece where Jagger and Rupert Murdoch appear together for the first time, as apparently Murdoch’s newspaper the New York Post had a full page obituary ready to roll…
4 – A year later, in 1983, the Daily Telegraph reported that the Hell’s Angels were taking the death rumours to a whole new level.
Hell’s Angels admit that there has been an open contract to kill Mick Jagger since an altercation at a Rolling Stones concert in 1969 when the Hell’s Angels were paid to be security guards; they felt Jagger had “turned against them after [this concert]…in which one spectator was stabbed to death.” A member of the gang known only as ‘Butch’ is quoted as saying ominously “eventually it will happen.” Some things clearly don’t go to plan – as we can attest with the existence of this 75th birthday blog post!
5 – Last but not least, the story that caught my eye the most: an article from The Independent in 1999 entitled ‘The insidious allure of Mick Jagger and the pike’.
The title got me thinking all sorts of things about Jagger, including whether he took up fishing as a hobby alongside being a lover of cricket and football. The link is rather more tenuous, but seems to capture the essence of one of the most famous rock stars the UK has produced. Annalisa Barbieri manages (in my mind anyway) to capture Jagger exactly when extolling the virtues of the pike, saying; “A bit like Mick Jagger: you see him and think ‘what’s the fuss all about’, but see him in the flesh and the attraction is obvious. Pike are really beautiful fish, weird looking, but awesome none the less”. Which takes us perfectly back to my first point in this blog post, with Mick Jagger insisting “we don’t think we’re ugly”.
Having done my digging – I agree with Mick. And to celebrate his birthday, I’m off to buy myself a Rolling Stones album!