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Mick Jagger: Jumpin' Jack Flash at 34

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You once said that you didn't want to be singing "Satisfaction" when you were forty-two.
No, I certainly won't.

You often convey a feeling that combines the fearlessness and rambunctiousness that young kids have, and it seems to be a feeling that charms and bothers people.
It bothers them because they can't be like that themselves. I consider myself very lucky, and one of the reasons for that is that when I'm singing or acting or playing or anything — even at home — I feel just like a baby—like I'm ten or eleven or twelve. Whether that's my fantasy, whether it's right or wrong — I know that it's something that other people can't do. I mean, I can act like a thirty-four-year-old, too — I've trained myself to act in this manner [laughing] — but when I'm playing I can go back in time. I think that's true for many musicians and actors and dancers, and people envy that.

Are you planning on going back to the basics when you tour? The last time I saw you perform in New York, in 1975, you and the group seemed to be involved in fancy stage spectacle, buffoonery and horseplay.
It may have looked like that, but I didn't feel like that. Which means I wasn't acting it properly.

Maybe young kids who had never seen you before thought differently from me.
Exactly, it's easy to say: "Ah well, they're not as good as they were before." It may be your eyes that are jaded, rather than us.

I saw you in 1965, and it was pretty basic then.
The only people who did things like that in the old days were us — a little bit — the Who and the MC5. Everyone else stood up there like a bunch of assholes — they were terrible . . . with their suits and ties. The Jam is sort of like an English rock group of 1965, but not as good. You can't really return to basics in big gigs.

So what do you plan to do?
It's going to look different. I'd like to play lots of guitar. And I'd like to play the newer songs, but you can't do that in big places because no one wants to know. I'd like to play some smaller halls, but we've got to play some big outdoor ones in order to pay the roadies. It will be a varied tour — with both large and small gigs.

I was thinking of the lines in "As Tears Go By": "It is the evening of the day,/I sit and watch the children play,/Doing things I used to do/They think are new." It must be amazing to you that there are all these kids who were three years old in 1964-65 and who are seeing you now for the first time.
Sure. When I was already in Los Angeles in my pink Cadillac, they were just three years old, and now I go out with them [laughing]. It feels all right.

Do you like older women?
No.

And not lying, cheating, vain, affected girls.
It's easy for me to write that kind of song because my talent seems to lie in that direction, and I can only occasionally come up with a really good love song — it's easier to come out with the other side of the coin. So I choose what I do best, that's all.

I remember your old song "Off the Hook": the girl's phone is always busy, you wonder what she's doing, and finally you just take your own phone off the hook. She's off the hook, but so are you.
We're all off the hook.

People seem fascinated with whether your phone is on or off the hook — in your personal life, in other words. Why do you think that is?
It's amazing to me that people want to know about my soap opera. Not just mine, of course, but mine's been a very long-running soap opera for a rock & roll singer. I mean, people aren't interested in Roger Daltrey's soap opera. I'm not trying to put people down, I wish I didn't have a soap opera. Bob Dylan they're interested in now only because he's getting a divorce. Before they weren't — they didn't seem to care; he was just married and had a lot of children, and they didn't write about when he went out or whatever. No one was really that interested in any of the Beatles' soap operas — not to the extent that I go through it. Of course John and Yoko did get attention in the late Sixties by making an exhibition of themselves — sitting in bed, etc. But I try to avoid publicity, I'm running.

I don't put out wild pictures of me and whomever I'm going out with. I try to avoid going to openings as much as I possibly can. Even before I was married, with girls I was seeing or living with — most of the stories were completely untrue, and it's hopeless trying to tell people that it's not true. They'll print anything you say, anything. And by the time it gets to Hong Kong, it's ridiculous. Before you know it, you've gone out with Mrs. Trudeau, which is rubbish. The only reason I'm known in Turkey is because I'm supposed to have "gone out with Mrs. Trudeau."

I really don't like being a soap opera. It must be some sort of sexual interest. People who've got some kind of sexual attraction — and I hope I'm not being immodest by saying this — but when I was a kid I had it, I didn't have a problem getting girls. I did have a problem, though, until I started singing — I don't mind saying that. I got nothing. Maybe I was just shy.

It's that androgynous image that seems to attract both girls and boys.
Yeah, I don't think it did in earlier years, but maybe there was always room for the androgynous type. Anyway, all guys have a feminine side. But most girls don't really fall in love with a completely gay guy, even though they like the feminine side showing. And vice versa with men. They like a woman who combines things, too. They don't want someone who's either butch or totally helpless.

But, as we said before, your songs don't always combine things — maybe that's what gives the power to the songs.
Well, there is one song that's a straight gay song — "When the Whip Comes Down" — but I have no idea why I wrote it. It's strange — the Rolling Stones have always attracted a lot of men [laughing]. That sounds funny, but they're not all gay. And, of course, I have a lot of gay friends, but I suppose everyone does in New York City, and what's that have to do with the price of eggs? . . . I sure hope the radio stations will play "When the Whip Comes Down."

You can't really make out the words. All you hear is the chantlike chorus. Did you intend it to be a kind of Anvil Chorus?
[Laughing] Well, yeah. I know what you're thinking about. I don't know why I wrote it. Maybe I came out of the closet [laughing]. It's about an imaginary person who comes from L.A. to New York and becomes a garbage collector . . . But whatever: I don't like this gossip interest in me today at all. It upsets a lot of people, and it creates a lot of diversions in my life. I can ignore it in America — it's not so bad here — but in Australia and England there are so many competing gossip columns. I don't trust journalists, generally, because they don't write the truth.

Some Girls seems to me the first Rolling Stones album in years that presents a dramatic quality — as if each song were an element in a play — and at the same time goes back to the rock & roll energy of Between the Buttons.
I think Some Girls is the best album we've done since Let It Bleed. I hate to say that because usually I say I love all the albums, or I hate them all, or none of them means anything to me, don't bother me with it, etc. But I do think it's a good album, and I'm not going to be too modest about it. I think it has a continuity in the characterizations — it doesn't have the holes, it's a bit better than the others. Most albums I buy have four out of ten good songs. And this one has, I think, more than that.

It's like in the Sixties when every song was expected to be good.
Yeah, every song should be good . . . and the reason perhaps why this album is good is that we did forty-two songs [laughing]. So we could cut the deadwood away, but there was a lot of good material.

Does it help you to produce your own albums?
No, it takes too long. I'd like someone else to produce them, but I can't find anybody . . . No one even calls us up and offers! Luckily, we've got Chris Kimsey, who's our engineer, and he made things easier. We didn't have to spend a lot of time in the control room. I knew he'd get a good drum sound, so I didn't have to run in all the time and worry. He was great.

Whatever you did, you certainly put it together right with this album.
Well, I just realized that we had to. People expect a lot more of us than they do everybody else.

This is a story from the June 29, 1978 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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