Mick And Me: How we met

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Nevil Skrimshire, jazz guitarist, retired

I WAS working at EMI records. I had been a plugger and was involved in putting together programmes for Radio Luxembourg. Somebody I knew at the Marquee said that he'd send me something I just had to hear. It wasn't just a record that arrived, it was Mick Jagger with a record, an early acetate of 'Little Red Rooster' or something.

Had it been any good, I could have passed it on to one of the A & R guys in the company. He played it to me, and I couldn't hear anything there at all. I said: 'It would be fine, if only you could sing.' It was all this growling he used to do. When you put what they were doing against people who were having hits at the time, well, I was used to hearing people who could really sing well. It obviously had some qualities that I couldn't see, but I sent him on his way.

A few years later, when the Stones had made it, I was at a press reception for some jazz musicians, and I heard this voice. 'There's that bloody Nevil Skrimshire]' Mick came over, and we had a chat. He said: 'You know what happened when you turned me down? I went back and told Keith, and he burst into tears.'

Alex Herbage, businessman

I PUT Mick on in his first big central London show in 1963. I ran a venue called Beat City in Oxford Street, and we had all the big attractions - Chuck Berry had just played there.

Alexis Korner, who I was working for, said to me one day: 'You've got to put on this band, they're the greatest thing.' We paid them pounds 600, a small fortune, the biggest sum they'd ever got. Even Chuck Berry only got pounds 500. For the support act, the agent, Phil Solomons, persuaded me to put on Tom Jones and the Playboys.

The venue held about 2,500, and it was absolutely packed. We started off charging 10 bob (50p), but ran out of change, and then someone said: 'Don't be silly, all the kids have got a pound, and they're dying to get in, so charge them a quid.' There was no air-conditioning or anything, and there was a line of ambulances outside dealing with people who had fainted. Dick Rowe (who signed the Stones to Decca) was behind the bar serving Coca-Colas.

Tom Jones and the Playboys died an absolute death. Jagger and the Stones were amazing, a brilliant show. They had never seen such a heaving crowd in front of them before. Mick was very nervous, not at all difficult. He was just the new young boy on the block. But I remember they wouldn't go on until we counted out the pound notes in front of them. We paid them all that money, and we still made a fortune that night.

Philip Townsend, former Rolling Stones photographer

I TOOK some early photographs of them, and when they had no money I used to buy them chickens from the chicken barbecue in the King's Road. I was with them at Olympic Studios when they were recording their first single.

Ian Stewart (the band's original piano player) thought he was still in the group, and he spent the session thumping away at his piano. What he didn't know was that Mick and Andrew Loog Oldham had conspired to take the microphone out, and when the single came out you couldn't hear any piano on it at all. Even at that time it was clear that Jagger was setting himself up as the leader, even though Brian Jones was supposed to be in charge.

Mel Miller, hotel proprietor

I WAS in a band on the same bill as the Stones in the early Sixties. I was the bass player with Russ Sainty and the Nu-Notes. We had one hit, an instrumental. Our guitarist, Rhett Stoller, also wrote the Match of the Day theme.

We played with them at the Californian Pool Ballroom in Dunstable. We impersonated them a bit on stage, we had wigs and all that. We shared the same dressing-room, a kitchen, and after the show Mick Jagger came over and he was very angry. He said: 'You're taking the piss]' I said: 'You went down brilliantly, what are you worried about?' Our paths have never crossed since.

Marianne Faithfull, singer and former girlfriend

BRIAN and Keith just laughed at Mick in those days (the mid-Sixties). He was considered unhip. Brian was the ringleader. He was the first one into acid, and that was one of the reasons they laughed at Mick - because he was so straight and conventional and terrified of hash or whatever. He drank - not often - but when he got drunk he was truly awful. Belligerent. A cliche drunk. I had met him a few times when he'd been drunk, and usually that was when he would try and get me in bed.

He just wasn't part of what was going on - not part of the Sixties. Mick was very frightened of drugs - always was. And that's been great in a way, because he's kept his health together. He's always pretended that he's been into dope like everyone else. It's all a sham.

*From 'Blown Away' by A E Hotchner, to be published in paperback by Simon & Schuster in September.

Leslie Woodhead, film maker

I WAS in the World in Action office in 1969 when a colleague got a call from Mick. He said: ' 'Ere, you've got great camera crews haven't you?' He wanted someone to film the free Stones show in Hyde Park. All our crews were freelance, but we didn't tell him at the time. So I went to a meeting in an office in Regent Street, where Jagger was with a lawyer and Allen Klein, the Stones' business manager. It was an extremely brisk and efficient meeting. Jagger said: 'We'll be on at this time, off at this time, how about a camera, here, here and here?' He was the most on the ball of all of them, almost Thatcherite in his businesslike precision. So we made the film and it was a great success. The next time I saw him was over 20 years later through a pair of binoculars when he was sitting in Imran Khan's box at Lord's.

Rod Luis, farmer

FOR MY 21st birthday in March 1970, my mother put on a great big do at the Swan Hotel in Lavenham, Suffolk, the only decent place to eat for miles. She was very keen to keep me on the straight and narrow, away from all the hippy thing, so it was a pretty formal occasion, black tie, and it doubled as a sort of coming-out party for my sister. There were about 200 people.

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman just happened to be having dinner in the restaurant that night. Bill had bought our family pile, Gedding Hall, after my grandfather died intestate. The party was incredibly loud, Led Zeppelin blaring at full volume, and at one point the three Stones appeared in the doorway, looking in. Someone with more guts than me said: 'Come on in'.

Mick was in snakeskin high- heel boots, and King's Road-tailored flares. Keith and Bill boogied the night away, but Mick was more reserved, and for much of the time he just sat at the side drinking my mother's champagne. I didn't talk to him much, but at one point he turned to me and said: 'Cor, this is a bit of a mind-blow for Suffolk, isn't it?'

Rt Hon Baron von Dombovar, retired jeweller

I USED to have a jewellery workshop near Harrods, the House of Gadany. One day in the early Seventies Marianne Faithfull walked in with an antique emerald ring that she wanted made smaller. Her mother, an Austrian baroness, knew my mother, a Hungarian baroness. She said her ring was for Mick Jagger, and that he loved it so much, but his fingers were just too skinny. She said she had been all over trying to get it sized, but that no one could do it. I managed it, and she was so pleased. Mick was delighted, and came in to tell me.

I knew about his outrageous professional act, his reputation, but in person he was so civilised, so educated. I had met a lot of modern people before, and he wasn't what I expected at all. I made another ring, of two hands holding each other, something that I thought I would never part with, but I could tell he was so impressed with it that I gave it to him. You see he was so refined, so kind to my mother.

John Sandilands, writer

IN THE mid-Seventies, the Stones were about to embark on an Australian tour when Radio Times arranged that I should interview Mick Jagger in LA. The Radio Times was quite a powerful organ then, and it was all arranged, an exact location and date, real red carpet treatment.

Needless to say, it didn't happen as arranged. Me and the photographer panicked - we'd come all that way. So we located his hotel suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, and the most appalling animal sounds were coming from behind the door. We knocked, and he opened it in his underpants. We said: 'We're from the Radio Times in London, Mr Jagger.' He looked us up and down for a minute and said: 'Blimey, is all this coming out of our licence money?'

So we set a time to meet. He never showed. We set another time, and he never showed for that, and so it went on for three days. The day they were leaving for Australia, I got a call to meet Jagger at 2am in the Beverly Wilshire coffee bar, and he actually turned up. For two hours he was the most charming and delightful company. Dimitri Kasterine, the photographer, had about half an hour with them in their suite. This was during their hotel room trashing period, and the suite was in a real Bosnian standard of devastation. The photographer couldn't move his tripod, because it became snared on some knickers on the floor. We departed utterly wrecked. The Stones left for the airport minutes later.

Julian Baskcomb, publisher

I WAS on holiday in Barbados for the 1981 Bridgetown Test. As I was working for the Northampton Chronicle and Echo at the time, I wangled a press pass so that I could file reports. On the first day me and a colleague saw a little bloke in a baseball cap standing by a wall outside the ground, and it was Mick Jagger. He said: 'Do you think you could get me in?'. I couldn't believe it: I'd been a Stones fan for years - in the past I'd gone all the way to Vienna to see them.

I got him into the ground, and we sat in the front row of the press box. He was very diffident, asking me, 'Do you think X is a better player than Y? What do you think of that shot?'. He didn't have that affected Cockney accent, he was just the middle-class Englishman abroad. He bought us rum and Cokes and asked us down to the Pepperpot club afterwards. Back home no one believed me until I showed them the photograph.

Nicholas Powell, television researcher

ONE summer evening in the early Eighties, I was playing cricket in Muswell Hill, a game organised by Chris Jagger, Mick's brother and rather a good fast bowler. It was a shambolic match, interrupted by the arrival of a chauffeur-driven Bentley containing Mick and Jerry.

Mick took the field and fielded quite demurely, and then the captain asked him whether he'd like to bowl. I was batting, playing quite well, and in Mick's first over I hit him for a couple of fours. He bowled gentle medium pace, no great threat. In his second over he bowled wide and I missed, and it went through to the wicketkeeper. He appealed for a caught behind, even though I hadn't touched it. The umpire looked at Mick, and because he was Mick he gave me out. When the game was over I complained in jest at the injustice of it all, and Mick said: 'Yeah, it works all the time.'

Nick Coleman, writer, Time Out

THREE years ago I was standing in a video rental store in Notting Hill, staring vacantly at the door in a state of video-shop white-out. There were perhaps half a dozen others in there too. Mick Jagger came in, very quickly but so unobtrusively he might have been a hair blown in off the street. Having crossed the 25 feet from door to counter, he exchanged perhaps four words with the proprietor, who produced a large cardboard box from somewhere, which Jagger tucked under his arm as he sped silently from the place. No one saw him come and go; the perfect example of professional celebrity invisibility. I said to the proprietor: 'Cor, that's the way to hire videos.' He gave me a filthy look.

John Huddy, art dealer

I WAS in Kathmandu in 1990, and I met a liaison officer at the American Consulate who let it slip that Mick Jagger was on his way to Nepal, en route to get married to Jerry in Bali. I bumped into him a few days later, and said: 'Hello', and I thought he'd say 'Bog off', but he seemed like he really wanted to talk. He asked me what I was doing there, and what I had seen. He was going off to Everest and Bhutan. I was very impressed with him. He wore shorts, a T-shirt, a Panama hat and had a Fodor's guide to Nepal in his hand - quite the regular tourist, not at all the image of Mick Jagger I'd grown up with.

Jill Krone, dress designer

THE Christmas before last, Mick Jagger turned up at a dinner party to which I'd also been invited. I remember he wore a maroon-coloured scarf which he never took off. We weren't introduced, but as we all stood ready to leave he caught me looking at a large diamond sparkling in one of his front teeth. He laughed and told me he once had an emerald there, but people kept saying: 'Mick, get that spinach off your tooth]'. He then asked if I'd come out for a drink, as he'd been cutting an album and was used to staying up all night. We went to Gaz's in Soho and then on to the Globe in Notting Hill.

People kept coming to sit at our table, and the talk was mostly about books, and about Lenny Kravitz and Prince and Michael Jackson. I was struck by two things: his terrific intelligence, and his incredibly bandy legs, which he tucked underneath him, so that he looked a bit like a shrink-wrapped chicken in a supermarket.

We hailed a taxi at about four in the morning, and he dropped me off at my flat, and then went down to Richmomd. He said that Jerry was about to give birth, which explained why he was in London at Christmas and not in Mustique.

Peter Rosengard, life insurance salesman/writer

ABOUT two months ago I was having breakfast with Clive Anderson, and he was saying how upset he was that one of his guests for that week's show had had to cancel and fly back to America. So I thought that I'd really impress him by finding a famous replacement. Later that morning I was in Savile Row trying on a nightshirt - a beautiful long red check thing. The owner spotted Mick Jagger walking past, and I thought Mick would be great for Clive's show.

I rushed out into the street, still wearing the nightshirt, and caught up with him under some scaffolding. I said: 'Mick]', and he turned round, and there he was, old wrinkle face, much taller than I'd remembered him from when I last saw him in Tramp about 15 years ago. So I asked him about doing the show, and he hardly thought. He just said 'No way' and walked off.

Catherine Jones

I WAS at a friend's 30th birthday party in the White Bear in Kennington in March when Mick and Jerry walked in. They were seeing a play with a friend of theirs in, an MP's son or something. Jerry went to the back, to the little theatre, and Mick bought the drinks. He was in black jeans and a leather jacket. That paparazzo guy was there, the one with the beard.

No one went up to them to ask for autographs, we were much too cool. Everyone was saying how plain they looked, and how disappointed they were that they looked so normal. As they were leaving, my friend Christine, whose birthday it was, shouted 'Hey]' and they turned round and gave her a broad smile. The joke then went round that Mick had sung happy birthday to her, but it never happened.

David Margolis, 11-year-old schoolboy

I WAS at a circus a few weeks ago, at a birthday party for Matthew, my friend, and Mick Jagger was sitting next to us. There were clowns, acrobats and everything. We sang happy birthday to Matthew, and Mick Jagger joined in.

I knew who Mick Jagger was because he lives up the road from me in Richmond Hill, and I'd seen pictures of him. He was there with his daughter, I think, and two little boys. He left 10 minutes before the end, to avoid the crowds, but we got his autograph, and my friend Daniel took his Coke can and the popcorn that he'd left. He took them home and he treasures them.

(Photograph omitted)

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