I'm not gonna get married," he says. "Not right now! I may get married. But I'm not getting married right now."
Gotcha. He waffled just as much about acknowledging the impending tot – a piece of news unleashed upon the world by garrulous guitarist Ron Wood, much to Jagger's chagrin.
"She could have a miscarriage, that's why I don't like talking about it," Mick explains. "It's never good to crow about these things until they're a little bit further gone. It's actually happened to me before. I wanted to tell people the girl was having a baby, and it was really kind of a bring-down when the news came out a month later in Rolling Stone and she had had a miscarriage." (At press time, all was well, and Mick and Jerry had broken the news in person to his parents in England.)
Fatherhood apparently appeals to him. At least he seems to dote on his daughters, both hitting their teens now (and, as their dad is at pains to point out to potential swains, "both too young!"). He gets to talk to their friends. They keep him up on the trends, like synth pop. "Old hat to us, mate," he says with a grin. "I'm still waiting for something I haven't already heard. But, I mean, there's no stopping a record like Eurythmics' – it's just straight pop. Real good for what it is. Better than a lot of the bands earning money in arenas, I think, just for records.
"Image is becoming very important. So is the performing artist. A record may sell, but if a guy comes over as a good performer, or he makes good videos, it helps him. So you've gotta be capable in all those areas."
Jagger should know, playing the shill, as he does, for MTV commercials. He, too, it turns out, has noticed the rarely tainted whiteness of the MTV airwaves. "It is kind of odd," he says. "I don't know why, but they'll probably bring out some excuse. I think MTV has done something great – although quite by accident, I'd imagine. It's shaken up all the radio people and made 'em realize that there's more to life than all those bands that they were playing over and over and over. Like the Rolling Stones."
He stays on the scene, hits the clubs. When the rumor spread earlier this year that the Hell's Angels, still miffed by Mick's unsupportive attitude after the Angel-plagued Altamont concert in 1969, had put a murder contract out on him, a meeting was set up at the Ritz, a New York rock club, to work things out. He caught David Bowie twice on his latest tour ("His singing was much improved," Mick cackles), and he's also gotten down at the Roxy, a Manhattan funk mecca. "I went a couple of times on scratch-dance night, and I got a lot of letters from girls afterward saying, 'You danced with me.' Of course, nobody really dances with anyone; it's just twitching around and scratching and getting on the floor. I tried spinning on my head and got a terrible hangover the next day."
Although, in the wake of John Lennon's death three years ago, Jagger made it known that he sometimes carried a gun, he now tries not to be paranoid about his partying. "Sometimes I go out with bodyguards," he says, "but sometimes I go on my own. There's places I go that nobody gives a shit. But there's other places you go where you really have to organize. It's so boring, but you have to do it. Otherwise, you can't see the show for all the bits of paper."
As for the dreaded drug question, Mick says, "You've got to know your own limits. Obviously, I'm no paragon of virtue. I've often been carried home in the last thirty years. But if you see that happening, you've just got to stand off. If you take too much of anything, whether it's coke or alcohol, you start to get paranoid, to get funny ideas about other people. The decisions you make are not right." His friend John Phillips, erstwhile leader of the Mamas and the Papas, was a heroin addict for several years, and Mick remembers the torments he endured.
"He was pretty insane at one point," Jagger says. "Heroin is a very dangerous drug. People think they can take it for a day or two on the weekends and then just quit. But they can't. It's very hard."
No, he says, "I don't want to get caught up in that."
These days, jagger observes the world with a relatively clear eye from a house in France, a town house in Manhattan or his official residence (for the usual tax purposes) on the Caribbean island of Mustique. He observes, and he does not particularly like what he sees.
"Professional politicians are the bane of the earth," he says. "They are people who've done nothing else all their lives. When you read history, and you see how some of them screw up so incredibly, it's hard to believe that they're well-educated people. I mean, you can be in politics without being a professional politician. Certain people have certain qualities. Mrs. Thatcher, for instance, has guts and all that, and she's pretty intelligent. Mr. Gromyko is a great survivor. I think it's a bit wrong, Reagan running for a second term. I think he's too old for America."
Does he see himself as a socialist? A Tory? An aging anarchist? "Well, I'm left of Reagan, I can tell you that. But one sort of questions Sixties American liberalism now, in retrospect. I think liberals made a lot of mistakes in foreign policy, and some of the right-wing people have scored major successes. The British Labour governments never had a foreign policy. Reagan never had one either, I don't think. That dictator we (sic) supported in Nicaragua was definitely...I mean, anyone could tell that guy had to go. So if the Americans had wanted to be in control of that – which they were paying these people to be – they should have said, okay, your time is up, we're gonna put somebody else in. A centrist government, a left-wing coalition, whatever. Same thing with the shah of Iran. We were supposed to be in control of events in those countries – and we just never really, in actual fact, were."
Jagger is amused, and perhaps a bit dismayed, by the new breed of pop political sloganeers – bands like the Clash, calling for unity with their working-class audience and then embarking on a big-bucks tour of stateside stadiums – "playing Philadelphia's JFK Stadium in Clash T-shirts," as he says. "Yeah, you have to be very careful. You dig pits that you fall into. You may have to eat your words more than once in your life."
The Rolling Stones have eaten very few words in the course of their career, and they admit to few regrets. They never hoped to die before they got old in the first place. Age will eventually take its toll on their stage show, but nobody cares how many jump splits Mick Jagger can do in the recording studio, and that is where the Stones' multifarious gifts – for songwriting, playing and performing – flower most fully. Undercover is all new material, not studio scraps, and it's so vibrantly crafted that some of the songs might pass as outtakes from Between the Buttons or some similar primordial classic. Twenty years on, the Stones are still at the top of their class (admittedly, it's a class of one), and there's no reason their records shouldn't continue to keep them there.
As for Jagger, the gossip years will probably never end for him, but he seems to be attempting to put the gossip decade behind him. He genuinely dislikes the sort of overheated press coverage that greeted him and the pregnant Jerry when they arrived in England recently, en route to a video shoot in Paris for the "Undercover of the Night" single. Maybe he's had enough. Maybe Mick I is ready for that long rest he deserves. That would certainly take some of the load off of Mick III. And then Mick II, the musician, can get back to doing what, it seems to me, he does best: fronting the longest-running, inspirational-quality rock act in history. The future, at this point in the Stones' career, can be only vaguely perceived; but whatever it holds, Mick Jagger, after more than twenty years on the case, sweating it out in miserable little pubs and the most spectacular stadiums, is ready for it.
"I talked to Prince on the phone once after he got two cans thrown at him in L.A.," Mick says. "He said he didn't want to do any more shows." Jagger bursts out in a blaze of big teeth and stuttery chuckles. "God, I got thousands of bottles and cans thrown at me! Every kind of debris. I told him, if you get to be a really big headliner, you have to be prepared for people to throw bottles at you in the night."
He leans back and screams: "Prepared to die!"
This story is from the November 24, 1983 issue of Rolling Stone.
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