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 Mick Jagger - In His Own Words

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One of the world's most recognizable faces and leader of the baddest group in rock history, Mick has been analyzed and dissected by the world's press for over 35 years. In this mid-Eighties interview conducted in London, he discusses the darkest side of stardom as rumors of a possible Stones breakup were surfacing.

Mick Jagger remember other bands saying, "Oh, we can play Howlin' Wolf, but we can't play Bo Diddley." Or, "We can play Muddy Waters, but we can't play Jimmy Reed."

We said, "Well, we like rock 'n' roll as much as we like rhythm and blues, so even though we call ourselves a rhythm and blues band and rehearsals, we'll do anything form Elvis Presley to Buddy Holly to Richie Valens."

Keith and I were more into rock 'n' roll than, say, Brian [Jones], who particularly liked Elmore James. Brian learned to play in that style. I'm not saying that we didn't like that style, but I don't think we would have played it if it hadn't been for Brian.

The Rolling Stones' Seventies
Billboard Top 40 Singles

"Brown Sugar"  5/71  #1
"Wild Horses"  7/71  #28
"Tumbling Dice"  5/72  #7
"Happy"  7/72  #22
"Angie"  9/73  #1
"Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)"  2/74  #15
"It's Only Rock 'N Roll (But I Like It)"  8/74  #16
"Ain't Too Proud To Beg"  11/74  #17
"Fool To Cry"  5/76  #10
"Miss You"  6/78  #1
"Beast Of Burden"  9/78  #8
"Shattered"  1/79  #31

In the very beginning, before we made a record, before we signed a deal, before we had any contracts with management, I didn't have any idea of image at all. It didn't cross my mind. It may well have crossed Brian's mind, but no one ever brought it up. The first time I remember talking about anything that could be remotely connected with image was when I was wearing some kind of layered look, at one of these clubs, and either Brian or Keith said it was too effeminate. I didn't understand why I couldn't be effeminate, or be whatever I wanted, but I hadn't really thought about it. But I think Keith and Brian had thought about it. It just was something we didn't talk about.

Look what happened to Brian. The pressure obviously got to him. He didn't like it, couldn't live with it, and it just became very sad. I think eventually Keith suffered that way, too.

Of course, I was not able to distance myself from it either. I suppose it has to do with what success does to you. We started out simply to be a good R & B band. A few years later, things got a little twisted. The road to success is a very slippery one.

Every band did outrageous stuff on the road, but we were always singled out. We did stupid things, but we also did do-goody things, like going to hospitals and visiting sick children. That's not what I set out to do. But there you are. England has such a small show business community that if you don't become part of it and join the Variety Club and do charity work, then you're looked upon as some kind of weirdo. I don't think I'm a part of it now, and I tried not to be a part of it then.

Eventually, of course, I do think the image stuff contributed to Brian's cracking up completely, and to a certain extent, with Keith becoming a junkie.

Mick Jagger

"Maybe some people liked Goat's Head Soup, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, and Black and Blue, but basically, those albums did not represent the best of the Rolling Stones."

To use a cliché, the Sixties never really ended until later on in the Seventies. I sort of remember the album Exile on Main Street being done in France and also in the United States, and after that going on tour and becoming complacent, and thinking, "It's '72. Fuck it. We've done it."

We still tried after that, but I don't think the results were ever that wonderful. Maybe some people liked Goat's Head Soup, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, and Black and Blue, but basically, those albums did not represent the best of the Rolling Stones. But on the nice side, we did decide at that time that we were definitely going to stick together. After all, we'd signed this big contract with Atlantic Records, and we were quite happy with being a band. But we were complacent, which is what critics were saying, and while I didn't believe that at the time, looking back, I can accept the fact that we were coasting.

It's hard to make it every night. I mean, lot's of people don't move around much onstage. Even with young bands, it's amazing how little work they do. The only guy that I've seen lately that works very hard is Paul Young. I mean, I went to see this band, INXS, from Australia. They were an OK band, very much like a version of the Rolling Stones, but not as good. The singer is good and he looks great, but he doesn't really move. He can't be expending much energy. He can't really be tired when he comes offstage. And he's, like, twenty-three. He must be able to sit there and be recovered in three minutes. But who cares, really?

The Rolling Stones' Seventies
Billboard Top 10 Albums

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out  10/70  #7
Sticky Fingers  5/71  #1
Hot Rocks 1964-1971  2/72  #4
Exile On Main Street  6/72  #1
Goat's Head Soup  10/73  #2
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll  11/74  #2
Metamorphosis  7/75  #9
Made In The Shade  7/75  #7
Black And Blue  5/76  #2
Love You Live  10/77  #7
Some Girls  7/78  #2

Lots of rock 'n' roll people are boring. There are lots of musicians that are dull as hell. Duller than a hound, some of them. I enjoy socializing and meeting people. If I don't enjoy it, I leave. I'd rather be out and about on my own than in the middle of some entourage creating attention.

Rolling Stones Lyrics
Rolling Stones Videos

Although I have never met him, I would imagine that Frank Sinatra enjoys being the center of attention. Maybe he likes walking into a room with bodyguards and friends and women and people who work for him, but I don't.

I don't have bodyguards, and I don't particularly enjoy being the center of attention. I'd rather slide into a room and observe the room, and then if I want to make some point, make it. But I don't like people in show business to do that whole number. I don't particularly want to be noticed above anyone else, and I don't want to be less noticed than anyone else. I mean, I don't want to be ignored and stuck in a corner and not given a drink. It's just that I'd rather not do things in a show-bizzy way.

In London, you can't ever be rude. People don't like it if you have an attitude. You've got to be one of them. It's the same in New York. People say hello, they don't stop you or gape. Same in London, and that's how I like it. You always have to be a little like a local politician. You can't just say, "Fuck off." Do that and people will pull you right back down to earth.

How does Frank Sinatra go out and buy a newspaper? How does Barbra Streisand do it? Do they wear fur coats? Do they always go in a limo? I'd rather just walk down to the store myself. I can send someone out to buy my favorite magazines, but if I do, maybe I won't see that cover of a magazine I didn't think I wanted but now I do. Maybe I've forgotten to tell someone about The New Yorker, and that one will be on the stand. I can send someone out for clothes, but how will they know that I really like that green shirt? I like it when I'm on the same level with other people. I'm not saying that I spend my whole life doing this stuff, but it's nice to be able to do the same things everyone else does. 

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