Sue Arnold: Mick Jagger's not too old - he's just too silly

'A new breed of boy band questions the whole concept of sexy celebrity on which the Rolling Stones depended'
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The Independent Online

Watching the documentary of Mick Jagger on the television on Thursday night, I had a sudden urge to give him a good smack and say "For heavens sake grow up." This is curious because, right now, everyone seems obsessed with Mick Jagger being too old to make another record and it's no wonder that it flopped.

Imagine what they'd be saying if. instead of selling a meagre 43 or whatever it was. his new solo album Goddess in the Doorway had sold a billion like Robbie Williams' Swing When Your Winning. We'd have had headlines such as "Still Rolling, Still Stoned" and "Maverick Mick King of the Antiques Roadshow" etc. Besides, at 58 he isn't old but he's middle-aged or worse, late middle-aged. He's still got two years to go before he gets his bus pass.

What prompted my irritable reaction to the Being Mick documentary was the relentless silliness of his behaviour – wild windmill arm gestures, bad German accents, exaggerated guffaws. It was like watching Basil Fawlty on speed except that he wasn't funny, just silly. Grace and gravitas is what you need when you're getting on. As for being too old to make a record, that's nonsense. Frank Sinatra made his last album when he was 76 but, to give old blue eyes his due, he never went in for that rampant rock star sex icon stuff that Jagger favoured. He was a crooner and you can croon on comfortably till the cows come home but orgasmic shrieks and pelvic thrusts have a definite sell-by date, which is a good few years short of late middle-age.

It isn't age that Jagger is up against, it's a new breed of boy band like Gorillaz, which questions the whole concept of the sexy, screaming, swollen-lipped celebrity on which the Rolling Stones depended. Gorillaz isn't a real band, they are a virtual animated band with music by megastars like Damon Albarn, late of Blur, but no personalities. They are hugely successful and have been the biggest selling English band in America for the last two years and their latest single Clint Eastwood was in the top 10 here for a solid two months.

I know all this only because one of Gorillaz movers and shakers is the young man we know as Matt Potatoes, whom my youngest daughter brought to our Christmas party last year. I don't think his real name is Potatoes but that's what he had written on a label stuck to his jersey. I'd never have guessed he was a rock star, he seemed more like a geography student to me, quiet, diffident and – unlike most celebrities – genuinely interested in what you were saying but that's the whole point. Celebrities are out which makes Jagger, whether old or young, a has-been.

Men, as far as I'm concerned, are at their best when they're over 70. I am a self confessed gerontophile. I like men to have memories rather than muscles and to tell me stories about Hollywood in the 30s and the Boxer Rising like my old friend E G Cousins. Have I ever told you about E G? The last time I saw him was at his birthday party when I pinned a big blue badge onto the lapel of his dinner jacket that said, "I am 100 today".

He first wrote to me when he was 85 to complain politely and wittily about my misuse of the word steatopygous. It could equally be applied to men as well as women, he corrected. It means fat-bottomed. After that, we wrote regularly to each other and, once a month, he took me to lunch at the Arts Club and regaled me with stories about his childhood in China. The family lived in Tensing and E G was six when he was caught up in the Boxer Rising of 1903, the last modern battle in which bows and arrows were used. E G actually witnessed a Japanese soldier pinned to the wall of the railway station by an arrow fired from the bow of an attacking Chinese warrior.

After China, he became a Hollywood gossip writer and after that – alas, there's no room to tell you the half of it. One thing I will say, though, he could sing like Sinatra and often did to me on the bus coming home. I bet if he'd made an album called Goddess in the Doorway (God help him) it would have sold more than Mick's.

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