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Mick Jagger: The Face Interview

By Fiona Russell Powell

December 1983

1pm, the Savoy Hotel. In the centre of suite 312 sits a 40-year old man once described by the writer Nik Cohn with these words: “…an updated Elvis Presley, skinny legs and all, and he moved like him, so fast and flash he flickered. When he came on out, he went bang…he was all sex. And he was outrageous: he spun himself blind, he smashed himself and he’d turn his back on the audience, jack-knife from the waist so that his arse stuck straight up0 in the air, and then he’d shake himself, he’d vibrate like a motor and he’d reach the hand mike through his legs at you,. He’d push it right in your face…”


Nik Cohn’s Mick Jagger was 23 years old. The Mick Jagger in Suite 312 is an altogether different proposition. Dressed in middle aged grey, even his mouth seems smaller and paler, the legend diminished. But it has to be said that "rock's" longest surviving sex symbol is ageing with a certain dignity, and no slackening of bankability. 1983 has been yet another lucrative year for the mega-rich Rolling Stone: a 24 million dollar deal with CBS saw to that.
In London to promote a new album, he leas registered at the Savoy under the name of Vincent (location of one of his holiday homes), weathering a storm of press gossip around rumours of marriage to Jerry Hall and her possible pregnancy. Interviews are being given sparingly. Your correspondent's audience with The Mouth was followed by a session With the man from the Mirror. A writer from another Fleet Street daily, peeved at being refused an interview, was caught the following day rifling through the wardrobes in Jagger's room.
Jagger didn't appear bothered that I obviously know little about the Rolling Stones. He seemed to find the fact refreshing. We avoided dull music questions, pausing only briefly to talk about "Undercover", the new Stones album recorded in Paris and generally, I tried to use opportunity to discover facts which won't have been chronicled in the 20 or so Mick Jagger/Rolling Stones biographies, soon to be reridered obsolete by his own autobiography. It was an enjoyable encounter. Ever-charming, Jagger chatted and chortled away in a Semi, London accent exaggerated from years of living in America. while Chalkie Davies snapped the famous but rather tired features and Jerry popped out to do some shopping.

When was the last time you were in a pub and what do you drink?

I had a pint of Guinness in a pub in Highgate last Saturday.

What sort of music does your daughter Jade listen to?

She likes a different thing every week. The big thing with her this summer was the Euryth-mics and Boy George. I think she likes some of my stuff, she's only just started discovering it.

What do you think about Boy George?

He's got a sweet voice and I quite like his dresses. I don't think he's much of a dancer but I do like his dresses and his make-up.

Where are you living at the moment?

All over the place. I've got three houses, one in France which is like a small chateau on the outskirts of Paris, a house in St Vincent in the West Indies. and another in New York.

It's said that you own a magnificent art collection. What sort of stuff do you collect?

That's a load of bullshit. I've got a few prints and things but I'm not really a great art collector. I wish I had been in the Sixties. The things I could have bought . . . like Hockney and Warhol ... I'd have a great collection by now.

When you're at home, who does the cooking?

I do. I started out doing simple English things and then I went continental and then I learnt Japanese in a wok an' all that. I've given up the roasts!

Mick, during your career as a popstar, how many women do you think you've slept with, to the nearest hundred?

I dunno really. You can work it out on a weekly basis, let's see, from 19 to 40 ... it must be quite a lot. I don't have a calculator on me at the moment but it's a lot, I'm not bragging though, it's not as much as some people I know.

What qualities do you look for in a woman?

A good beehive! No - seriously - gentleness, loving and understanding.

And what annoys you most about women?

Ones that are stuck up and ones that think too much of themselves and ones that don't do any work and sponge off men.

How well do you get on with your possible future mother-in-law?

I don't have one ... you mean Jerry's mother? She's alright but I don't see much of her. She lives in Texas and I don't go there much.

Is Jerry Hall taller than you?

She's about the same height as me, five foot ten, maybe a little bit shorter.

Do you let her wear heels when you go out together?

Yeah, of course, if she wants to. She doesn't like them actually, they're really uncomfortable.

She's got really big feet, hasn't she?

Cor yeah! Really big, but not as big as mine ... we don't swap shoes though.

I've been told not to ask you this question because it annoys you, but I'm going to anyway. Is it true that you have refused to marry Jerry Hall unless she signs a contract agreeing to a divorce settlement over the amount of money she would claim?

No, it's all bullshit. It's really nasty. This bloke, this black journalist who writes for the Sun in New York, he started all that bullshit. He's a right twat. I suppose I could sue him but what's the point?

So, are you and Jerry going to get married?

Well, I haven't any plans at the moment.

And Is Jerry definitely pregnant?

Let's say we'd like to have a baby (laughs). Look, I'm not being cagey, I'm being down-right devious!

Are you completely heterosexual these days?

No, definitely not, but I've slept with more women than men.

What do you think of Marianne Faithfull's latest singing attempts?

I think it's pretty good, I liked the last album. I missed her at The Ritz in New York last Saturday.

Did you like Devo's version of "Satisfaction"?

Yeah, I thought it was the best version since Otis Redding.

When was the last time you took acid?

(Laughs)About 1968 - do you want some? I had some mushrooms the other day. They were fun.

If Keith Richards died or decided to leave the Stones, would you carry on?

If Keith died? (smirks). Well, I dunno, I'll meet that problem when I come to it, although I doubt we would carry on.

There was a rumour going round that you sometimes buy songs. Is this true?

Nah, that went out with Hank Williams. The last person to offer me a song was Dr John for 50 bucks. It wasn't very long ago, about a couple of years ago, and he gave me this tape and said "If you want any of the songs, they're 50 bucks each". He was obviously a bit short. But I don't like the idea of putting my name on someone else's song. That's what Hank Williams used to do, he's a famous country singer. But I don't have to, I can write my own songs.

I did have one particular song in mind: "She's So Cold" on your "Emotional Rescue" album. There was a song called "She's So Cold" on an album Willy Nile brought out in 1978. He wrote It and it sounds exactly the same.

I know Willy Nile, he's a right little stirrer. He's a sort of Latin kind of singer - no it's not true, he'd be suing me if it was.

Have you read that dreadful book, The Man Who Shot Mick Jagger?

Yeah, I thought it was really funny.

Do you have Mark Chapman paranoia and surround yourself with bodyguards?

I get frightened when I'm on stage, it's much more open than on the street. If I go to a gig where I think there's going to be a bit of a barney like at Hammersmith Palais, or say somewhere in New York or Brooklyn, then I'll take a bodyguard with me. But normally I don't have one. I went to Bowie's concert at the Hammersmith Odeon and I even sat in the audience. No-one recognised me.

Did you enjoy the Bowie gig?

Well, let's put it like this ... he kept on apologising about how it wasn't really a gig because it was a theatre and about how he didn't have all the effects and all that ...then I went to see the proper show at Madison Square Gardens with all the lights an' that. I suppose it was OK.

Is that Hell's Angels contract to kill you still out?

No, some Hell's Angels came to a bar in New York about three months ago to see me. They bought me a drink and said there never was a contract on me and they apologised.

A lot of people's features are their trademarks, like Mari Wilson's beehive and Betty Grable's legs, and insured for a lot of money. Have you insured your lips?

No, they're not but me tits are ... oh that's all rubbish isn't it, it's just a publicity stunt.

Have you still got the diamond in your tooth?

It's still there, it's very subtle though.

Why did you have it put in and how much did it cost?

To be egocentric I suppose. It's flashy ... 'ere, 'ave a feel. (Fiona leans forward to stroke his tooth.) It's very flat innit? it cost me about £500 I think.

Have you got a metal plate in your nose?

In me where? (incredulous laughter). No, why, should I have?

Oh come on, don't be coy. All that coke-sniffing you rock stars get up to, rotting away your noses ...

Do we? (extreme mock surprise). Well, I don't, it's very bad for your voice. I mean, no singer should take coke, it's daft.
Not if they're working anyway. I think that's a guitar player's disease.

During the period late-1976 to 1979, you and Rod Stewart and Elton John were seen as the figureheads of all that was old and boring. Did it upset you to be called a boring old fart?

No, I thought it was about time somebody came up with something that was a bit upsetting and worrying. I mean, the music biz was so boring in the Seventies ... our record sales weren't affected anyway, in 1978 we had one of our biggest selling records ever.

Did you hear the story Johnny Rotten once told about you in an interview? He said that when he was working in Sex one day you were hanging around outside for ages, and when you eventually plucked up the courage to go in he slammed the door in your face! Is that true?

Nah, it sounds like one of Malcolm McLaren's publicity stories to me. It's a good one though, pity it isn't true.

Have you become bored with the rock'n'roll lifestyle now? You know, limos and drugs and Andy Warhol type parties?

Ha ha - don't mention that name! I must admit I do still go around in limos occasionally but I did all that for ages, I ponced around for a while, but it gets boring. I do it one day a week now - I suppose that's when everybody sees you.

What are your opinions on the present con-servative backlash In Britain?

People are always going full circle. I mean, my parents never forced me to go to church because their parents forced them, so I suppose that kids that were brought up in the permissive Sixties way whose parents weren't married want to get married now.

Do you find yourself getting more right-wing as you get older?

I never was particularly left-wing, but I'm not very right-wing politically. I'm not a Reagan supporter. I can't vote as I'm a non-UK resident, but I must admit that when I was living here I never voted anyway.

Did you want to be a train driver when you were a little boy?

No, I wanted to be an astronaut but I didn't live in the right country. Before I die I really would like to go into space or at least go on the space shuttle.

Do you still read your fan mail, or do you even get to see it now?

Oh yes, I still read it. I'll tell you the last one I replied to, this bloke wrote me from Glasgow and he said: "I've liked you and all that for a number of years blah blah blah" . . . then on page two he says "but I don't see any future in my life unless you send me a cheque for a hundred thousand quid which would allow me to do some of the things I've always wanted to do, like take long holidays, go round the world etc . . ." So I wrote back and sent him a fiver and told him to go out and have a good time. There's a lot of cranks that hang around me, mainly girls. There's a lot of really cranky girls! They come in and spray things all over my house, they write things like "Get out of the house Jerry" ... stuff like that, such nice girls! I get good presents though, like gloves in the winter. The Japanese send the best presents, the most unusual ones, like beautiful knives and beautiful kimonos.

You must have had some unusual presents in your time. I read recently about a girl who grew and grew her big toenail until she'had someone special to give it to. Eventually she sent It to Limahl.

A big toenail - yeah, well, I suppose it's unusual but it's not particularly nice. When that song on the album "Too Much Blood" came out, a bloke sent me a hand in a box in the post, with all the fingers cut off and a note saying "Hope this goes with your song and the album's successful".

Have you ever considered cosmetic surgery or had any face lifts?

What, like Warren Beatty? He keeps on having little bits put in here and there. I wouldn't have it done now but I never rule anything out.

I heard a few tracks off the new LP. Can you, tell me what the song "Too Much Blood" is about?

There's two raps in it. The first one is,about this murder that happened in Paris when this bloke took his girlfriend out and got her back to his flat and chopped her head off and put her in the refrigerator and ate her bit by bit. I don't know if he ate all of her head, probably bits of it . . . and when he'd eaten as much as he could, he went and buried the bones in the park, the Bois de Boulogne, and someone noticed him burying the bones and he got nicked. Now he's in a loony bin. The rest of it is just about anti-violence on the screen - that's really what the song is about, there's too much blood everywhere. I read somewhere that you'd like to play the lead in a film of Gore Vidal's book Kalki.

Is it likely to happen?

I'd really like to do it but nobody wants to make it, it's too expensive. It would be a good film, but apparently end-of-the-world films cost too much money. It's going to cost about 15 million dollars.

What was it like working with Nic Roeg when you made Performance? Did you know that Bowie thinks he's a warlock?

I don't think he's a warlock but he has got a very strange personality . . He was nice but he's an obsessive film-maker.
Chalkie: When I did some work with him, he was drinking neat gin all the time .. . Yeah, Nic likes to get drunk but never on the set.

Have you any plans to make a film in the near future?

I hope to do one next year. It's a thriller but I 1 don't want to elaborate on that because it would spoil the story. It's about a kidnapping, and I play a sort of ... well, at the moment,' he's a movie director but I might change him a'. bit.

What happened to your part In Fitzcarraldo?

I went down there and I was in the jungle in South America for about three months and we had Jason Robards as the star at that point and I was playing his brother or something, although the part I played wasn't in the final version. Then Robards got sick and I finished my contract and by the time they started shooting again in the autumn. I was on the road so I couldn't do it.
Why do you think so many pop stars try to get into acting? Is it to massage their giant egos?
I think a lot of singers really wanted to be actors. A lot drift into one or the other. Some of them have got giant egos but I like acting just for the fun of it. It's also got a completely different discipline to rock music. I was recently offered a part in a Broadway thing and I just had to say no. I couldn't face doing six months of . the same play, twice a day, although I would have done about. two months. It was a good play though and really successful.

Do you feel embarrassed when you watch Ned Kelly these days?

I try not to watch it to avoid getting embarrassed (laughs). Actually, someone said the other day that it wasn't as bad as all that, but I'm not so sure.

Did you see ET?

Yes, I was a bit disappointed 'cos there was so much blah blah about it at first, I hate it when things get hyped. The last film I saw that I really liked was the English one set in the 18th century, The Draughtman's Contract.

Chalkie: Did you see Diva?
I saw it on a plane, I dunno what all the fuss was about. Just looked like an oldd Sixties film to me.

How many cars do you have?

A lot actually (sheepish grin) but I' never drive them, they just stay in the garage. I did buy a Ferrari when I was in Italy last year. That's kinda nice ... but basically I'm' not a very materialistic person.

Would you ever consider coming back to England permanently?

Yeah, if I could afford to. I mean, I would earn a lot less money so you can take that to mean that I'm greedy or that I'm sensible.

It must be hard to trust people when you're constantly surrounded by flunkies

... But I'm not. I'm anti all that. There aren't many people who work for the Rolling Stones, I'd say about eight in all. A lot of my friends are surrounded by people like that. They wouldn't come in here without having five of them serving drinks and running around after them. I hate all that, I've never liked it, and I laugh at all my friends that put up with it because all those people are is spongers. You've got to watch out for why people want to be friends with you, especially girls, 'cos if a bloke steams in, well, he's got nothing to offer really. But with girls it's different, you've got to watch them.

Do you still go jogging every day?

Yes, I'm mad about it, I went out at seven this morning.
Actually I torture myself just to keep in shape. I don't want to be fat, I'd rather be thin and sinewy, girls like that better ... I started weight-training about a month ago but I find it hard to keep up what with the travelling and all that.

Do you expect to be the lead singer of the Rolling Stones in ten years time?

Not exactly, but I'll probably be doing some-thing equally stupid ... But there's got to be a pretty face in pop music, know what I mean?