A new album and tour, their umpteenth: is he taking the Mick, or what? John Hind on the world's most venerable pop star.
He has whipped stages with belts and ticked his daughter off for cavorting with young men like his old self. He has purchased a fielding-positions tea-towel while at Lord's. He has a financial advisor called Prince Rupert Loewenstein and a secretary called Jane Crotch. He has earned pounds 120 million. He has made Jerry Hall "cry inside out". He has feverishly beaten drums with the joujouka in Marrakech, and then complained about the price of local accommodation. He has had a woman walk up to him and say, "Should I put my diaphragm in now, or should we rap first?" and then gone out for an Indian with Lord Hesketh.

On 23 September in Chicago, the Rolling Stones begin yet another world tour, this one called "Bridges To Babylon", that is inevitably being described as "epic" and "operatic". Just as inevitably comes, six days later, a new Stones album, mooted to contain "swing and new jack beats", or maybe not.

Receiving a Recording Academy award, Jagger once noted that, "to all the people who took the piss, the joke's on you... I'd like to say thank you very much." To which his colleague Charlie Watts sniffed, "No, you wouldn't."

Ron Wood, the Stones' guitarist, once announced their singer thus: "Here they are - Mick Jaggers." But who are they, all these Jaggers? And, if he's not telling, who can let us know? Friends, perhaps?

Michael Palin humourist and traveller

"I remember a rather rude game of charades in Barbados - Mick's mime of the Sex Pistols sticks in the memory, particularly. He had to get across the word `Sex' and `Pistol' and obviously had no problem with that. I saw him at lots of Dionysian events in New York, but I've never seen him out of control and have never seen him staggering around. He always keeps an appraising eye on what is going on and tweaks up the snarl if things get a bit safe. It's immensely encouraging that someone is prepared to do something outrageously silly and sing `19th Nervous Breakdown' when approaching his sixties. Good for him."

John Richmond clothes designer

"He'll try anything. I once went to him and said `Mick - you should be wearing skirts', and then I made lots of samples and he put them on one day and said, `Yeah, you're right'. He'd worn dresses in the Sixties, but, I tell you, he looked great in skirts for the Nineties. He's gorgeous in skirts. He's almost exactly the same size as me - so I try everything on first. We're both 28 waist. I don't know his inside leg, I've never measured it - honestly."

Mrs Rolls-Willson neighbour in Richmond, Surrey

"Living near to Mick, it's no woe at all. His children are beautifully behaved and his birthday parties stop by midnight - the music outside, anyway. If all neighbours were as well behaved as Mick Jagger, there'd be fewer problems in this world. They had an awfully nice Christmas party last year for all the neighbours. We had a few drinks, had a few eats, then went home again.

"I understand he went into Village Video and they wouldn't let him join without proof of ID. He looks very young for his age. When you see Jagger playing with his kids in the garden, from the back, oh, he looks like a firm young man. Fit. Oh, incredibly fit, he is. I've no complaints at all."

Sir Bob Geldof musician and knight

"I was eight years old, it was 1964, and I had my head stuck through the fire exit of the Adelphi Theatre in Dublin. Mick and Keith were balancing on the edge of the stage, pushing each other like kids, while [their early manager] Andrew Loog Oldham was in a back seat with his feet up, telling them to get on with a sound check. And Mick turned around and shouted `f-uck off!' to him. It was thrilling. I took home a cup and saucer that Mick had drunk tea out of - and I've kept it to this day. When I socialise with him nowadays and we're having a cuppa, I love him still, but there's no fucking way I'd take his mug away with me.

"He's a tiny, tiny person with tiny hips. I mean, what the fuck happened to hips? And so much hair. I mean, what's going on? He's a man who's been famous 75 or 80 per cent of his life, so sometimes he just camps along. If you ask what he has been listening to, he says, `Oh, I'm into techno'. Bollocks! Is he fuck listening to that! The soul, the blues and the Motown stuff, he does listen to those all the time. And classical music - because you find yourself becoming your father, unfortunately."

Tom Keylock ex-Stones driver, guard, chef, and jack-of-all trades (which includes having to calm Hells Angels at Altamont and sing the `woo-woos' on the original `Sympathy For The Devil')

"I had plastic surgery on me nose and me face, like, when I was in the army. I copped a bit. Burnt at Arnhem. So I'd had this skin graft from the side of me leg and me backside onto me face. And when I told Mick this, he said, `So that's why you talk so much shit'. Very quick he was. I say there's only two front men in this world. One's Jagger and the other's The Pope."

Mark Fisher stage-designed Steel Wheels, Urban Jungle, Voodoo Lounge and now Bridges To Babylon

"One time, I was standing talking to him beside the stage, before he went on in some giant stadium, pouring with rain. He was talking about how grossly unfair life was, that he should have to go out and do this show. Meanwhile, the percussive opening of `Not Fade Away' was beginning and he became more and more distracted, then disappeared into a trance, spun around and marched on stage. It was like watching a witch doctor or shaman transporting himself from the everyday world and into this private ecstasy." Christopher Sandford biographer

"If you watch a Stones video with the volume right down, you can imagine Mick as a PE instructor. All that `clapalong, come-on-class, follow-me, here's-the-move-we're- going-to-be-doing now' aspect. He's come up with a rock 'n' roll variation on his father's career. Joe Jagger included his 15- year-old son Mike in an ATV programme he presented called Seeing Sport. And Joe wrote a rare bible called Basketball - Coaching & Playing, full of interesting phrases about motivation, glory, team spirit, good performances and getting the best out of the people. Mick had the work ethic instilled without a doubt. He defines himself through work."

Nick Kent music writer

"They broke up, or as close as they'll ever get, in1986.And I was the one who broke the story. I just thought,'Let's break the fucker'. I don't have much good to say now. When I hear a new Stones record, I think, `Oh, Jesus Christ - they've got back in the studio. Keith's got a couple of riffs and they've banged it out'. When Mick sings a song or writes a lyric now, it doesn't move me. I don't feel this guy is writing a song from being affected by something in life. There was that awful record with him singing `I was an old whore'. Well, that's what you are, man. Live with it. They're no longer in the same league as the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

Colin Ingleby-MacKenzie cricketer in the 1950s and hero of Jagger's youth

"He's a great friend of Paul Getty, whom I personally know very well, too, and he comes and watches cricket at Paul's with us. He often brings his parents. Or he's at Lord's in Paul's box. Mick is a fanatic, a real connoisseur, very keen."

Charles Shaar Murray writer

"Young people go and see the Stones in the same way one would go to see the pyramids, but I'm a great believer in shirts for the over-50s. With the possible exception of Iggy Pop and Goldie Hawn, I think people over 50 should don shirts in public and avoid running and pouting. I'd like to see him in a baggy suit, sitting down on a stool and just singing - like John Lee Hooker."

John Lee Hooker blues singer, just turned 80

"I heard Jimmy Reed, my old blues friend, was his hero when he was little. I really hadn't noticed any similarity. But I know he really sings the blues. He sang my favourite song all-time, `Little Red Rooster'. It might be that he ripped off things, but we all copy sometime."

Anthony Way Former St. Paul's chorister and hit record-maker

"I've sung to 140,000 in Hyde Park [at VE Day], more than Mick, but I was terrified and couldn't see anything or hear anything. I was backstage before a show at Wembley, and the Stones didn't act like they were about to go on stage before 70,000 people at all. All food and booze flying around. Anything and everything. Marianne Faithfull, his old girlfriend, was there, and I sat on her knee most of the time. I didn't see Jerry Hall anywhere. I'm not going to tell you a joke I was told because I passed it on and it went all round the Albert Hall and people got very upset. I even heard two people in Swansea saying it.

"He may not have the best singing voice, but he knows how to get round it. When my voice broke and there was a Japanese TV show scheduled, I went on and sang `Angie'. That's about another of his girlfriends, isn't it?"

John Ryle authorised Jagger biographer

"It's been suggested that it wasn't written - that Mick had complete memory loss and the book was abandoned. But, having done it, he felt better of publishing it.It's his property, and if it'll ever be published, who knows? It's probably in a vault in Manhattan somewhere."

Sabrina Guinness charity worker and ex-girlfriend

"Mick socialises with many people. There's Christopher Gibbs (the furniture designer) and Sir Mark Palmer (ex-page of honour to the queen), his old hippy friend. There's Jane Rainey, who was Jane Ormsby-Gore, who used to work for David Mlinaric, the interior designer, another friend. And Christopher Sykes, the photographer - they're great friends - Christopher does those books on great English houses. My sister, Miranda Payne, is his personal assistant.

"I'm just a huge fan of the Stones. I've loved the music and thought him great since I was 11. I think it's really exciting they're on tour again this year, and I'm l-o-n-ging to see them. I'm not saying more. I've been shafted too often and, anyway, I've just spent the morning with Harrison Ford."

Julien Temple the Stones's video director

"He spends a lot of time in between work educating himself. Not many people in music are very stimulating, but he'll show a serious knowledge of the history of Central America or very early German cinema, or the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Every interesting new book that comes out he seems to read. Wanting to mix with Lords is also part of him, but, bear in mind, the Lords are just as much interested in mixing with him as the other way round. Ditto the Rastas in Jamaica.

"I remember getting lost with him in Brazil, after doing a sequence for Running Out Of Luck - a film in which, incidentally, he was playing `himself' getting lost. We went for a walk together, from a hacienda where everyone was gathered, into the hills, into the middle of nowhere. And when we returned, the whole unit had gone. So we spent the night in this remote, rotting hacienda with cobwebs and no electricity. A lot of big stars would behave in an appalled way faced by that, but Mick just really dug it."

Patrick Woodroffe lighting specialist and friend

"At the moment I'm in an aircraft hangar in Toronto, watching the construction of $4 million-worth of stage about to go round the world and play 150 shows. If Mick, or anyone, really stopped to think about it, there'd be a heart-attack"

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