The Grandfather Of Sex
Mick Jagger has been at it again. Two years shy of his sixtieth birthday and Jagger’s still breaking up high profile relationships. Three decades ago he stole a young impressionable Jerry Hall from sex god rival Bryan Ferry, this time it’s young British actress Minnie Driver who he’s charmed from actor James Brolin… apparently. “That was unbelievable, the Minnie Driver story,” Jagger says with a tired laugh. “I mean, I’d never met her before and we had dinner with like eight people and I met her and she seemed very nice and that was it really, an hour and a half dinner. And the next minute I knew I was having an affair with her the next day. I’m used to it really.” Welcome to the world of rock’s Peter Pan. For nearly 40 years he’s been prodded and poked like some kind of musical praying mantis. Sometimes, what with all the Brazilian supermodels, Sophie Dahl’s and paternity suits, we almost forget the music… almost. But Jagger just keeps on putting it out there.
“I’m still enjoying myself, I wouldn’t still do it if I didn’t think I could cut it and if I didn’t love it,” he says. “I don’t want to get lazy and redundant, I like to think my music is still relevant. And I liked working with other artists who are friends of mine.” Jagger’s third solo release, Goddess In The Doorway, is a virtual who’s who of the music world. Pick any song and you might find Lenny Kravitz’s guitar, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20’s vocals and someone else you’ve probably heard from before – an Irish chap by the name of Bono. Oh, and let’s not forget The Who’s Pete Townsend. “Pete Townsend is like my neighbour in London and he came to me and said “oh, I really want to play on it (the album)” so I didn’t have to go asking,” Jagger says. “I worked with Lenny on my last solo record but we never managed to write a song because we were all going out partying too much, this time we got around to actually writing the song. Bono and I have known each other for a long time and we’d sung together at odd occasion at parties and things, I think when you do a solo record you need people to have some other voices in there to give it a bit of variety.”
You wouldn’t imagine an icon like Jagger would have any more to prove. He is, after all, Mick Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest rock’n’roll bands of all time. But Jagger doesn’t take a thing for granted. “I’ll always get a seat in a restaurant,” he says. “But that’s not what I’m about. Each time I do something I want it to be good and I want people to like it and I have to work hard at it. I don’t want to be lackadaiscal and I don’t want to be indulgent because too many stars get that way. Each time I go on stage I have to prove to myself and my audience I still have what it takes.”
And if the critics pull out the knives, what can we expect from Jagger? “I try to rise above that,” he says. What, has he mellowed out completely, surely he still loves to create a little controversy? “What, you mean like punch out the occasional photographer?” he laughs. “Is that what you mean? I do get occasionally a bit carried away, I get people that park their cars in front of my house and get their cameras out and I get really annoyed with them. This guy in a sports car the other day I chucked all his cameras out of his sports car. Yeah, I still get pretty carried away, I’m still hot headed, I always will be.” Even in 2003 when he turns 60? “Turning 60’s not going to change me, it’s just a good excuse for a party,” Jagger says. “I had a massive party for my 50th, I imagine I’ll have a huge party for my 60th.”
That would’ve got on the front page of the London rags?
I managed to stop him take any pictures at all (laughs) so there wasn’t any. But he threatened me with all sorts of lawsuits. But I try not to let it affect me because it really doesn’t do you any good in the end.
Have you given up on a private life?
No, I still have a private part of my life which I keep away from other people and it’s a bit of a struggle sometimes but I find it worthwhile.“It’s been 40 years but the world remains fascinated by music’s Peter Pan. While characters like Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison have come and gone since the Rolling Stones’ first became a household name, Jagger has gone from strength to strength. If anyone knows how to live in the public eye it’s Mick Jagger. For nearly 40 years he’s been prodded and examined like some sort of musical praying mantis. “I’m used to it, it’s part of the deal I guess, I try to keep some sort of private life to myself,” he says. “But
I never thought I’d be speaking to Mick Jagger in my lifetime…
Well, there you go (laughs). Where are you?
I’m in Sydney, beautiful Sydney, it’s a lovely day here… It’s a beautiful day here, I’m in Los Angeles, I’m having a nice time, I’m doing lots of promotions.
Don’t you get sick of talking to us journalists after so many years?
Well, you know (laughs), some days, some days (laughs) are good, some days are not so good.
So is today a good day or a bad day?
Well, you’re my first one today so I’m fresh today. I’ll try not to wreck it for you then (laughs).
It’s been eight years since your last solo album – why so long?
I’ve been busy, I did a lot of Rolling Stones work, I did a long, long stint on the Bridges to Babylon, that was a long tour, then after that I took some time out and then I thought “well, what I’d really like to do now is do a solo record before we go back on the road with the Rolling Stones. I just felt that it was the right time to do it.
How do you keep a band like the Rolling Stones together for almost 40 years – I mean, you’re not choir boys, you’re pretty volatile?
It’s not that easy, to be honest. But when we tour we just try to enjoy it a lot, we don’t have problems on the road, we get the occasional flare up, but I’ve seen a lot worse in other bands (laughs). I mean all bands have problems, you hear of these horrendous stories, but I think in the past few years we’ve gotten ourselves pretty mellow relationships on the road.
Do you still like to stir things up and shock people or have you mellowed right out?
Do you ever wish you were just some bloke with a normal job – maybe Michael Jagger, a tax accountant from Kent?
No, no (laughs), I honestly don’t. It’s funny how you don’t imagine your life is going to be like that and I just never thought I was going to be like that and it wasn’t for me and I don’t regret it. I don’t look back and think “I wish I’d taken another turning and gone off into another direction”. There’s always those moments in life when you’re a teenager and you could’ve gone off another fork and you think “wait a minute, this is the moment of decision”. You’re either going to stay on at college or you’re going to do the rock band thing and I could’ve taken the safer route. I think all people have those thoughts.
I guess you’re probably a bit richer now than your average tax accountant?
(laughs) Yeah, it was never my ambition, it was never my ambition (laughs). I really couldn’t imagine Mick Jagger sitting in an office going through tax returns… I did one holiday job in an office, you know for about four weeks and I found it really stifling, I didn’t enjoy it at all. It’s more fun going on stage (laughs).
The songs on your new album are meant to be some of your most personal ever – what about songs like Angie?
No, I think that all songwriters stuff is personal, I mean that’s the whole point of it. I think what’s more different about these songs is they’re much more direct than a lot of my other ones and I try to make them strike a chord with the listener, you know, between the writer and the listener.
When you write a song like Angie didn’t you worry what the affect might be when it’s out there in the marketplace and it’s about your love for another man’s wife, and David Bowie’s at that?
Well, that really wasn’t a song about someone else’s wife, but if it was you mean, I think you don’t, there’s a Woody Allen film where he plays the part of the author that’s just made some tiny changes to his personal life and written a novel about it and his current wife gets absolute furious, he reveals all his affairs. No, I think you’ve got to leave a little bit of mystery about which song is about who. You know I never like to say which songs about who, people want to know, but I think you let the listener work out what they want out of it. The point is about songs is you want the listener to understand about a feeling that they’ve experienced, something they can relate to.
Is there any truth to the rumour you have a house in Sydney’s northern beaches and you’re spending the summer with us?
No, no (laughs) I wish I did.
I heard you were coming to Palm Beach and you’re going to hang out on the beach all summer?
I heard this as well (laughs). You’re the second or third person that’s told me about this.
Maybe it’s true and you just don’t realise it yet?
It’s a really nice idea (laughs).
Maybe you can learn to surf? Which beach was it?
I remember Palm Beach years ago. I haven’t been to Australia since our last tour and I went up to Port Douglas and went driving up the Top End but it’s about time I came back really. Maybe you can wrestle a few crocodiles with Steve Irwin, he’d be happy to invite you along. That’s the real Aussie experience, that’s we do down here… I don’t imagine you doing that very often Craig, I just don’t see you doing that. I held a crocodile last week, it was only small though and someone held its mouth together… I went to Florida recently and we ended up looking for alligators in the swamps there, but I didn’t actually get to wrestle any (laughs).
Speaking of rumours, do you get sick of seeing your name linked to just about every high profile break-up, right now it’s Minnie Driver… That was unbelievable, the Minnie Driver story. I mean, I’d never met her before and we had dinner with like eight people and I met her and she seemed very nice and that was it really, an hour and a half dinner. And the next minute I knew I was having an affair with her next day. The odd thing is no-one ever phones you to ask you how long have you been having an affair with Minnie Driver (laughs). And the answer is I’m not but they just want to print it anyway.
Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story… No, please don’t. It was all right in that case but if it had been another person who had a boyfriend it’s not very much fun, people get really annoyed and people get quite jealous and possessive and it can be upsetting for different people.
Could Mick Jagger ever date an older woman?
How old would you like? 60? 70?
A nice sensible 65 year-old grandmother, that’d be nice wouldn’t it?
Who knows, you know, there’s some very attractive older women around.
Are women in their 50s as sexy as the younger models?
They are, well, they can be, there are a lot of sexy women that are older, you don’t have to be 20 to be sexy. I think I’m not adverse to that, so maybe I just haven’t met the right one.
I know lots of my mum’s friends would love to take you on… (laughs) Well, there you go (laughs).
There’s a subject in an English university that offers studies in Mick Jagger – is that flattering or frightening?
There’s been quite a few courses in American universities on Rolling Stones and songs and us… We had a question about a Rolling Stones song in our HSC… I helped someone with a Sympathy For The Devil thesis. They wrote to me and they said they were stuffed (laughs) so I felt sorry for them. So what’s your email address to give any of my readers who might be studying how to become the next Mick Jagger… (laughs) I can’t help everyone you know (laughs). But they have been for a long while these kinds of courses, you know pop culture.
Are you still waiting by the phone for a call from Queen Lizzie for your knighthood?
You never do it, never. What Confuscus said, all honours are false. Maybe you pissed off the royals a little too much with Her Majesty’s Satanic …. I figure I might as well stand by Confuscus. It’s not something that you really worry about much.
There’s Sir Paul, you don’t think there’ll be Sir Mick?
I think I’m quite happy without it, I don’t wake up in the morning feeling bad that I don’t have that (laughs). I still get a table in the restaurant without it. As long as Minnie Driver’s not sitting at it…
(laughs) Yeah, exactly.
Are you looking forward to turning 60?
I don’t know, do you look forward to your birthdays? It might be a good party, you know, I had a huge party for my 50th, it was a massive party. I quite like giving very large parties, I dare say I’ll give a very enormous one for my 60th.
Do you think he’ll live to 100 to get his letter from King William?
I certainly hope so (laughs) I’ll sprawl my scratchy happy birthday on that occasion (laughs). You never know do you?