I will survive

Yesterday's tabloid headlines told it: Jerry Hall wants a divorce. She had stuck it for years but now Mick Jagger had finally become too much, or too little. Serial infidelity, public humiliation, you name it. But maybe that's just what you get when you marry a rock star. Why would you tie that knot, and how would you keep it tied? A primer for rock wives by Ruth Picardie

This was the week that was for rock wives. Paula Yates, paramour of Michael Hutchence, was arrested in connection with that old friend of rock 'n' roll, drugs, hotting up the custody battle with rock ex Bob Geldof. Jerry Hall, meanwhile, was threatening Mick Jagger - caught in bed with a nubile starlet (again) - with divorce (again).

Who'd be a rock wife? Lots of people, actually. The girls, the glamour, the drugs are great when you're one of the girls. Plus, as one still-married rock wife puts it, "Actors aren't as rich as rock stars." (Mick is number 52 in The Sunday Times' top 500 list.) And as the same RW points out: "Without Mick Jagger, Jerry would be Marie Helvin." (Great legs, no point.)

It's a tough old game but it may just about be possible to survive it. Here's how:

1. At all costs, stay young. "However old and unattractive the rock star may be," says one RW, "there are always eager 18-year-old models throwing themselves at him and then promoting their own career by giving an interviewed to Hello!"

Indeed, since meeting Jerry in 1977, Mick Jagger as been linked with (among others) the following wannabes: the 18-year-old sloane Cornelia Guest; the 17-year-old sloane Natasha Fraser; the 22-year-old model Nicole Kruk; and now the 28-year-old model Jana Rajlich, with whom he has allegedly been cavorting in a far-flung hotel.

Jerry, on the other hand, is the grand old age of 39 and has had three kids. But fear not: this summer she posed naked for Vogue, proving that she's still got the body of any sloane/model/whatever lurking backstage. Paula, meanwhile, mother of four - enough to destroy any normal female body - wore high heels and frilly dresses throughout her last pregnancy, proving that she's still a babe.

2. Go on tour. "Women are not welcome," says one spouse who's done it and knows what it feels like. "There's always loads of animosity." Domesticity threatens the "boys together" machismo essential to life in a band. Remember Yoko Ono in Let It Be, in which she was widely believed to have split The Beatles? Now look at Patsy Kensit, evidently tearing Oasis apart. (Liam Gallagher wanted to go househunting for goodness sake, instead of going on tour.)

But follow your man, you must. "Otherwise, the best marriage in the world can't survive," says one RW.

But there is a counter view: "Touring and marriage don't go together," says another, firmly. "It's not that musicians are any more unfaithful than anyone else, it's the wealth of opportunity - you're in a hotel room every night for a year. Think how many office affairs there are, then multiply that by 100, and add a lot of nice, attractive, middle-class girls saying how nice you are. Even if you say "No" nine out of 10 times, there's always a chance you'll get drunk, feel lonely and think, Why not?

You have to have a fantastically strong marriage to survive both absence and infidelity."

Naturally, therefore, the rock wife cannot under any circumstances have a significant independent career, apart from dropping her knickers for Vogue. "The answer is to be Linda McCartney," says one RW. Thanks to Wings, she and Paul have only ever spent a couple of nights apart.

3. Hide your children. Naturally, they threaten the above arrangement: first, the rock husband may run off with the nanny (see Phil Collins); then they have to go to school. Also, children don't enter the rock vocabulary. "Do these old stars sing about babies and nappies?" asks one former rock wife, indignantly. "No. They sing about luurve. The girl in the song with the long blonde hair is probably the nanny - the ultimate indignity for the rock wife." Solution: pack them off to boarding school asap. Then get them to join the band, as in Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.

4. Call his bluff. Last time Jerry "exclusively" revealed her divorce plans to every paper in the country was in 1992, when Mick was linked with - shock - twentysomething model Carla Bruni. So far, this technique has been very successful: a month later the marriage had been patched up. It certainly has a better chance of success than Relate, since rock stars tend not to talk about their feelings. As one guitarist explained to me. "Musicians live in a fantasy world, communicating publicly, on stage and in lyrics, but never in private."

5. Fight fire with fire ... Patsy did it (hubby number one was the bloke in Big Audio Dynamite, next was Jim Kerr from Simple Minds); Paula did it (Bob was replaced by Michael). In fact, Jerry did it, too: she left Brian Ferry for Jagger when Ferry was on tour with Roxy Music. These women can be dangerous

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