Notre Temps: With this anniversary, the Stones are more than ever presented as the greatest group in the world. What do you think?
Mick Jagger: I don’t find it good. It’s very circus Barnum. In my opinion, it makes no sense.
NT: Let’s go back sixty years… How did it all start?
GM: When I was 19, I ran into Keith (Richards, editor’s note) on a station platform. As children, we were neighbors and together in primary school, from 7 to 11 years old to be precise. We weren’t the best of friends by far, but we got along well. Then Keith and his family moved. The day I saw him again, I had some rhythm and blues records under my arm. Albums that I particularly cherished, because they were impossible to find in England. While waiting for the train, Keith and I talked about music. We were inexhaustible. That’s how the Stones were born, on a station platform! Afterwards, I went to his house to listen to his albums. That’s where I learned that he had been playing guitar since he was 5 years old. He was then rather versed in country music than in rock.
NT: At the time, you were already performing…
GM: Since I was 15, I sang with small groups on Saturday evenings. I was doing my show rolling on the floor like Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent! My audience did not exceed twenty people… I was ridiculous! I even thought people were going to throw tomatoes at me. But no, so I persevered. To the great dismay of my father who, after my performance, demanded that I go home to do my homework.
NT: You say your father disapproved of your vocation?
GM: My parents couldn’t stand the idea of me doing music. Leaving school for music was therefore not easy. My father would still have preferred that I enlist in the army. I rather agreed with him on the little chance I had of living from it… It’s true that I was taking a big risk. On the other hand, I was not a brilliant student at Oxford, I was a dude with no future who was deadly bored in class!
NT: How did you divide the tasks in the group?
GM: At the beginning, I was much less involved than Keith and Brian (Jones, editor’s note). They were the ones who worked on the arrangements, the compositions, the writing. Me, I was still dragging my boots to the London School of Economics. They had nothing else to do! Keith was much luckier than me: his mother was tolerant. Just like the parents of Dick Taylor (the first bassist of the Stones, editor’s note), who had authorized us to turn up the volume in their house.
NT: How did the success happen?
GM: Very quickly. From our first review in Record Mirror magazine, we made the cover! Then we took part in a show that was broadcast across the UK. Since there were only two television channels then, I can assure you that almost everyone saw our performance. From one day to the next, we understood that we would never again be able to walk quietly in the street.
NT: When did you realize the effect you were having on stage?
GM: When the Rolling Stones started performing in London clubs, lots of girls would come up to us…and try to rip my shirt off! A first for me because, usually, they tended to reject me. That’s when I said to myself: “Wow, rocking, that’s really good!” Especially when you’re a very shy guy by nature. In short, from there, I had a lot of opportunities… which I won’t detail!
NT: Do you always like tight-fitting outfits?
Mr. J: I’ve always been a fan of cigarette pants! I don’t want my legs to get lost in pants that are too wide. I love clothes that give off something and I’m not shy: I like sequins, embroidery, frills. In short, to cover the tracks. For more than sixty years, I have liked to follow fashion trends, without conforming to them. I like shifting and re-adapting standards in my own way. I can very well put on satin suits with a pair of sneakers!
NT: Do you remember the first song you wrote?
GM: At 19, with Keith. From you to me, the result was very bad! We wanted to write above all to get people talking about us and to have our talent recognized. At that time, we mainly performed covers and it was vital that we have our own texts in our repertoire. But the songs we wrote with Keith were so bad that we gave them to other people. From time to time, we released a good one, like “As Tears Go By” performed by Marianne Faithfull. This song was a real hit, and even if it was not our style of music, it really encouraged us to continue in this way.
NT: The drug was everywhere, did it stimulate your inspiration?
GM: I don’t think drugs increase creativity. I’m even in a good position to tell you that she kills her! I have a lot of experience and hindsight in this field…
NT: It was said a lot that there was a rivalry between the bands in the 1970s. Was it real?
GM: With my late friend David Bowie, we often talked about it and it made us laugh. We were interested in everything and we went to concerts to try to understand other styles and inspirations. I very often went to see Bob Marley or Led Zeppelin. The press has had a blast pitting us against each other. VSI said, it’s true that between the Beatles and us, there was a form of competition, but it was amplified. NOTOur relations were friendly and we respected each other.
NT: Did you imagine that at almost 80 springs, you would still be in the circuit?
GM: When I was 30, I was already considered old! It was the age of the watershed: you necessarily had to follow the current that took you to the exit. You could continue to sing, but not in a rock band! I was therefore far from imagining that I would last so long and, above all, that I would still be able to perform on stage! I’ve always said I’ll throw in the towel when our fans get fed up, but that’s not the case yet. In addition, I feel the same pleasure in singing, so I don’t see why I would bow out.
NT: You will be 79 on July 26, do you mind talking about your age? Why would you want me to hide it?
GM: All the documentation in the world has my date of birth. I never concealed anything, you know! I think I’m going to have a party, but I don’t know how much yet. What is certain is that I will produce it.
NT: This energy, this thirst for life, where do you draw it from?
GM: Don’t look, it’s genetic!
Formed in January 1962 by original guitarist and frontman Brian Jones, pianist Ian Stewart, vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones have become rock legends around the world.
Sixty years later, they celebrate their anniversary with two events:
– “Live at the El Mocambo”, a new album composed of 26 unreleased tracks (released mid-May), recorded in 1977 at the El Mocambo club in Toronto (Canada). To cover their tracks, they then called themselves The Cockroaches (“cockroaches”).
– “Sixty”, a European tour with two concerts in France: in Lyon (Groupama Stadium), on July 19, and in Paris (Hippodrome de Longchamp), on July 23. On stage, they will be accompanied by Steve Jordan, replacing drummer Charlie Watts, who died in August 2021.
Mick Jagger landmarks
– July 26, 1943 Born in Dartford, Kent (England).
– January 1962 Creation of the Rolling Stones.
– 1964 First American tour and first album, “The Rolling Stones”.
– 1980 Mick Jagger buys the Château de Fourchette in Pocé-sur-Cisse (Touraine).
– 1985 First solo album, “She’s the boss”.
– 2003 Knighted by Prince Charles, he must now be called Sir Michael Jagger.
– 2014 Father of eight children, he became a great-grandfather.
– 2019 Heart operation.
Photo caption: Mick Jagger on stage with his sidekick Keith Richards, composer and virtuoso guitarist for the Rolling Stones since 1962.