Old red rooster stays out on the prowl

Tim Dowling reflects on the enduring bad behaviour of the midnight rambler
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The Independent Online
EVEN if you disapprove, you've got to hand it to him. He's four years older than the President of the United States. He's old enough to be William Hague's father. He looks like something out of The Hobbit. At a time when most men his age are looking back over their lives and thinking, "I wish I'd slept with more models," Jagger is still out there on the pull, still getting himself into all sorts of scrapes.

Last week he was reported to be seeing a model. Now an alleged dalliance with another model threatens his marriage to Jerry Hall, the model who 20 years ago broke up his marriage to Bianca Jagger, a model.

The Mail says he Can't Get No Satisfaction. The Mirror says It's All Over Now. The Sun says he's a Lying Cheating No-good Slimeball, which must be from that last album. I've only got Exile On Main St, so I say he's a Turd on the Run. It's nothing personal, I just can't find anything else.

Yes, he's a little bit pathetic. In his sixth decade he's still making a fool of himself on and offstage, albeit with an improbable degree of success. But it's not as if we look to Mick Jagger to set an example. Even if we did, "should I or should I not impregnate a Brazilian supermodel?" is not your average moral dilemma. Agony aunts aren't exactly deluged with letters that begin "I am an elderly rock icon and the 150th richest man in Britain. While performing in Rio last year..."

Unlike comparative whippersnapper Bill Clinton, you can't even call him a hypocrite. Mick Jagger doesn't get as far as hypocrisy. He's not emotionally ready for hypocrisy.

At his age, anything Mick Jagger does sets a kind of precedent. Real rock stars aren't even supposed to live to 55, and there's no code of practice for the ones who accidentally make it.

Mick Jagger has even made it with his looks intact - in that he still looks like a monkfish. In a sense, Mick is the only one who has survived to rock's upper age limit without losing his dignity. Even Keith Richard has taken to falling off his library steps.

So, at what point does standard pop star behaviour suddenly become disgusting? It probably depends on how squeamish you are. If Mick Jagger has gone too far, how was he supposed to know? After all, Affair Threatens Jagger Marriage is not a headline with which we are wholly unfamiliar. We saw it last year, and the year before, and the year before that. The only difference this time is that Jerry may finally decided that she'd rather just have the money. No one can claim to be surprised that Mick Jagger has turned out to be a bit of a jerk in his old age. He's always been like this.

If he has gone too far, and it certainly looks as if he has, then Mick will have to pay the price, which could be in the neighbourhood of pounds 50m. It could also put the knighthood back a few years. But for the most part Jagger is beyond the reach of opprobrium. At a time when the public apology is the excruciating price the public pays for the indiscretions of celebrities, we can at least relax in the knowledge that Jagger won't pester us with his remorse. The first Stone doesn't do shame.

Mick Jagger, bless him, is a living reminder that rock stars were once a lot worse than cheeky or naughty. They were bad. Even at his age, he's still a nasty piece of work.