Mick, quite happy being Mick. Wouldn't you be?

With another Rolling Stones tour about to begin, Andrew Martin reflects on the Jagger charisma and wonders how nothing bad ever seems to stick to him

Share

If Mick Jagger's life can be considered a sort of cake consisting of adulation and money – which I think it can – then he helped himself to another slice last week. The Rolling Stones are to play a gig in Hyde Park in July; they will also tour America – all this (together with their Glastonbury booking), as part of their 50 & Counting celebrations.

The events were apparently decided on by Jagger, and were announced by him: "50 & Counting has been pretty amazing so far. We did a few shows in London and New York and had such a good time, we thought let's do some more." And so there's our hero in a nutshell. He was enjoying himself; he found that he enjoyed enjoying himself, so he decided to enjoy himself some more.

It is increasingly obvious that this is all about Mick. Whereas Keith Richards seems to have reached his cultural peak with his bestselling memoir of a couple of years ago, Life, he peaked physically quite some time before that, like in about 1989. Time has had the temerity to assert itself with Keith, and recent photographs show a nascent beer belly. As for that bandana of his, the implication is that he has such an unruly thicket of hair that he must forcibly restrain it, but I think it's fair to say that if Keith had any hair left to speak of, then he'd be letting us see it.

I speak as a lifelong observer, and admirer, of the Stones. I too am "50 and counting". I was born in July 1962, when the Stones played their first gig, but it seems that I am counting faster than Mick Jagger. It is becoming apparent that his hair and slender figure will outlast my own and I am fairly certain that I will end up apparently a good few years older than him. After long reflection, I think that what slows Mick's life down is the fact that whereas most of us live through a series of years, Mick lives through a series of eras, usually ones he has defined, such as Sixties R&B, hippydom, disco, stadium rock.

Or the eras might be defined by the Jagger women: Marianne Faithfull, Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall and L'Wren... whatsername. (Her extraordinary Christian name tends to eclipse whatever follows in its wake.) Of course, those four are only the icing on the cake, so to speak. It is estimated that Mick Jagger has slept with more than 4,000 women, but it is not Mick who has done the estimating. That would not be his style, just as it is not his style to go on chat shows (very often) or boast about his life or art in spite of many opportunities to do so. He is entitled to be big-headed, as is Keith. But only Keith has taken advantage of the fact. The above-mentioned Life is rather like a William story by Richmal Crompton, in which our lovable urchin gets involved in some dreadful scrapes, but always comes out clutching a shiny half-crown and a bag of gobstoppers. In the book, he was rude about Mick (which was uncool), for which he subsequently apologised (which is also uncool).

Keith is, as Marianne Faithfull recently observed, "easier to read" than Mick, whose mystique is defined by a series of paradoxes. The world is not so much his oyster as his nightclub, yet he is neither an alcoholic nor a junkie. Nor is he fat, in spite of living in permanent proximity to the world's finest canapés. He is a terrific songwriter, yet his work is not pontificated over by ivory tower musicologists, as are the frequently very dreary litanies of Bob Dylan.

I suppose it's true that when Mick does finally go to the great gig in the sky, millions of men aged from 30 to 80 will stop holding in their stomachs with a collective sigh of relief, but really he is beyond schadenfreude. You can't compete with luck on that scale. As far as I know, Mick is the only one of the Stones not to have had a serious health scare. Apparently, he once noticed a lump on his hip, but it turned out, like everything else in his life, to be benign. If any man presumes to criticise Jagger, then he ought to be made to sign an affidavit to the effect that if Angelina Jolie, Carla Bruni, Sophie Dahl etc had offered themselves to him in the general context of soft lights and vintage champagne, then he would have made his excuses and left on the night bus.

Jagger might be more open to criticism from women for his Don Juan-ism, but not many women do seem to have criticised him. Christopher Andersen suggests that Carla Bruni – who, post-Mick, had to make do with the President of France – refers to him simply as "God". Andersen also suggests that a song from one of Mick's solo albums, "Don't Call Me Up" is about Bruni, which admittedly does make our man seem like Peter Cook performing the song "Bedazzled" in which nymphettes cavort around him cooing things like "You knock me out" and "You drive me wild", to which he replies in a monotone "Don't get excited" or "You fill me with inertia".

The charge against Jagger in Life is that he was become afflicted by a sort of gilded glassiness, and part two of Philip Norman's beautifully written biography of him is entitled "The tyranny of cool". Never having met the man, I can't pronounce on this. I did once stand within 10 feet of him backstage at a Stones gig in Belgium. He was walking towards the stage in a silk dressing gown, with a bouncing walk, like a bantamweight boxer, surrounded by an entourage of excitable men with walkie-talkies saying things like, "Mick's on his way" and "Mick will be with you imminently" I was there in a journalistic capacity, and my colleague on the assignment was a particularly handsome photographer in his twenties. Mick would have been in his mid-fifties then, and he regarded the photographer with a look of... well, Get Off of My Cloud about sums it up.

A narcissist, then? Well, wouldn't you be? I forgive him, for all the pleasure he has given me. He has been involved in some of the most delicious scenarios I have ever contemplated. In the mid-Seventies, he was interviewed in Paris, on the Left Bank, breakfasting at midday in a cafe. The meal consisted of two poached eggs and half a bottle of Beaujolais. I am in a position to compare this with breakfast as eaten by his colleague, Ron Wood, whom I once interviewed. Ron's habitual breakfast – also taken at midday – involved a bacon sandwich involving a doorstop of bread and most of an avocado, washed down with an entire bottle of red wine. Note the more subtle quality of Jagger's epicureanism.

And then there is the music, upon which I find I have hardly touched, so mesmerising is the man himself. The great Stones albums of the late Sixties and early Seventies foretold a life of crepuscular mystery and elegant decadence, which I still think may be somewhere around the corner. Meanwhile, Mick gets on with it, an example to us all.

Andrew Martin's latest novel is 'The Baghdad Railway Club' (Faber)

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A woman runs down the street  

Should wolf-whistling be reported to the Police? If you're Poppy Smart, then yes

Jane Merrick
 

Voices in Danger: How can we prevent journalists from being sexually assaulted in conflict zones?

Heather Blake
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?