In 1993, the Observer Magazine wrote that the unthinkable was about to happen: Mick Jagger was approaching 50. How was a man in his position meant to behave? Should he call it a day and settle down to enjoy his fortune? This concern now seems rather absurd given that he’s fast approaching 80 and still touring, recording and much else besides.
Gordon Burn met him in London and got him a bit riled when he brought up an old Tatler piece saying how he’d become part of the establishment, part of the English gentry. ‘I’m not particularly enjoying the idea that my life revolves around gardens,’ protested Jagger. ‘I must say I’m pretty hopeless at gardening and wish I knew more and could tell one tree from another.’
Then Burn tried another line of attack. ‘It seemed far more likely that he would have been out to buy a Booker-shortlisted novel, for example, than the latest from the Butthole Surfers.’ To which Jagger responded rather coolly: ‘You can do both apparently.’
‘An added burden,’ wrote Burn, considering his image, ‘is that Jagger’s role as straight-man is constantly being thrown into high relief by his parallel self in the Stones: Keith Richards, super-lush and dope fiend, the template for several generations of would-be Mr Bad-Ass Rock ’n’ Rollers.’
Cecil Beaton’s description of Jagger was on the money – he was ‘beautiful and ugly, feminine and masculine: a rare phenomenon’, to which Burn added the latest striking Jagger duality: he was now young and old.
There was further goading on the subject of his age and looks, that though he still had the body of a 12-year-old he was a grandfather. But Jagger had cut through all this stuff before as he approached 40.
‘People have this obsession,’ he said. ‘They want you to be like you were in 1969, because otherwise their youth goes with you. It’s very selfish, but it’s understandable.’