In this exclusive excerpt from “Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue,” author Marc Spitz tells the story behind Mick Jagger’s “we piss anywhere” philosophy that helped establish the Rolling Stones’ rebel-hero image as a contrast to the Beatles. The new biography is available now.
It can be argued that Mick Jagger’s greatest philosophical statement of that crucial year of 1965 is not “I can’t get no satisfaction,” but rather “We piss anywhere, man,” uttered on a cold night in front of a petrol station that refused them use of a toilet. This is in no way meant to minimize the seismic “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which is now so overplayed that it’s underplayed; have a listen today and you will be reminded of what a truly thrilling single it is. People write this about “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” of course. It routinely tops lists of Greatest Ever This or Best That of All Time to the point that we feel we perhaps don’t need to listen to it anymore, but it’s appearance in a Summer 2010 episode of Mad Men (taking us back to the summer of ’65 and perfectly articulating chain-smoking Don Draper’s own frustration with useless information) was like ice water to a booze-flushed cheek. “Oh yeah! That song.” And still “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” alpha song that it is, work of art that it is, is still just a song. “We piss anywhere” is an ideology.
The whole incident lasted only about two minutes, the length of a great vintage pop song, but in its own way, it was more powerful, and far more political, than many of the Stones hits that came afterward. “We piss anywhere” was “released” on March 18, 1965, and took only a day or two to climb the “charts” and stir up the kind of attention that would help the Stones’ crossover, like Dylan’s, from pop concern to political football. They were now “spokesmen,” for the “do what I like set,” as Altham would write in N.M.E. the following year.
In the John Fordian sense, the legend has already been printed and the actual details are less important, but here’s how it probably went down. The Stones, a new UK Number One to their credit after “Little Red Rooster,” their sultry Willie Dixon – penned sex bomb, topped the charts shortly before the winter holidays, were returning from another sold-out and riotous gig in a movie theater in Romford. It was just after midnight and bitter cold. All five were piled into their black Daimler touring car. Feeling nature’s call, the group stopped at a Francis Petrol station in Stratford outside of London. At first, they were polite. Bill Wyman asked the attendant, a clean- cut gent named Charles Keeley, if he could please be directed to the bathroom as the others got out and stretched. Keeley, like much of his generation, knew who the Stones were but had yet to come around to them. He’d been working all night in the cold, and at this hour, he didn’t care for the looks of them. He ordered the group to get back in and keep driving. When they complained, Mick Jagger took command of the situation, nudged Keeley back, and announced, “We’ll piss anywhere, man.”
In his testimony, Keeley described being surrounded in the dark by “shaggy haired monsters” who all began chanting in unison: “We’ll piss anywhere! We’ll piss anywhere!” “One danced to the phrase,” Keeley recalled. As if to prove this, Wyman proceeded to unzip his fly and urinate on the garage wall. The Stones then piled back into the Daimler and they sped off, giving the reverse victory salute through the window.
Reprinted from “Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue” by Marc Spitz by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2011.