Mick Jagger at 80? It doesn’t seem possible – at least for a generation whose teenage years were dominated by ‘the Stones’.
First off, I have to confess: I was a Beatles fan. Yeah, I know. But who better than to hymn the praises of one of the greatest rock bands in the world? Did I say ‘one of’? OK – happy to concede the title to the Rolling Stones.
They’re still there … the Zimmer Twins, the ‘strolling bones’ as snarky critics called them. Who’s laughing now? Feeling your age are you dears? I bet you are. We all are.
Take Keef: a miracle of human evolution. A man so soaked in drugs in his early years, the police (he claims in his 2010 autobiography Life) were permanently camped outside his London flat.
And Mick … well, he definitely had his share of substances over the years, but at the same time looked after his health. Not for nothing was he once nicknamed ‘Mick jogger’. Well, you have to keep fit, you know, if your shtick is bounding about onstage. Can you imagine Jagger taking a seat, say during a performance of Jumping Jack Flash?
Some are gone – and are sadly missed. The Stones’ founder, tragic Brian Jones, died young. But Charlie Watts was behind the drums for a 2019 gig in Miami. It was his last performance with them: Charlie passed away two years later on 24 August 2021, aged 80.
He was key to the Stones’ sound, along with Bill Wyman, his longtime rhythm section partner, who quit the band in 1993. But, at a nimble 86, Bill is reportedly rejoining them for at least one of a series of ‘farewell’ gigs. True to form, the Stones are keeping us guessing as to when and where.
Ronnie Wood, 76, is the baby of the group – but very much a Stone, even though some of us remember when he was poached from The Faces, whose singer Rod Stewart, now 78, is another remarkable survivor. Like Elton, he and Ronnie are still standing. Although Ronnie has emerged in recent years as a talented painter. Every picture tells a story …. ha ha, I could go on, but won’t.
They found the blues… and never looked back
Yes, I was mainly a Beatles fan. So, what was it about the Stones that still held my attention, gripped my imagination?
I admired their consistency. The Beatles’ restless search for new ways to express their music was exciting, innovative, but it meant there was no ‘Beatles sound’ – just a series of musicians doing their own (magnificent) thing.
The Stones steeped themselves in old blues songs, rocked them up … and never looked back. There is still a discernible Stones sound in whatever they do. It is infectious, danceable. Which was why, at 1970s house parties you always heard Brown Sugar, never anything from Sergeant Pepper, or earlier Beatles songs. Mixed cassette tapes, lovingly put together for the occasion, would always contain at least one Stones hit.
Then there was the look. Faces staring out from the covers of their LPs – I am particularly thinking of High Tide And Green Grass – mocking, deadpan: young and yet seasoned with experience. Rebellious and a million miles away from the pretty boy looks of many other Sixties popstars. When Ronnie joined the band, with his ravaged phizog, he fitted right in.
What next for the Stones? They have defied rock death, their preference now being large outdoor stadiums. But British fans had the chance to see them at two Hyde Park shows last year. They still reel out their greatest hits, the ones we all adore. And at the same time provide, when filmed, a fascinating record for posterity of how they performed those hits over the years.
In their day they packed out the, er, Southend Odeon and Bournemouth Gaumont – but with big names: in 1963 they toured with, among others, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and the Everly Brothers.
The Stones have number of connections to Sussex. Keith Richards still has a home in the county and Charlie lived here in the Sixties. On August Bank Holiday 1964 they performed at the Ballroom on Hastings Pier and had to be escorted off by police for their own safety.
Earlier that year they did two shows in Brighton at the then famous Hippodrome. The Beatles also performed there. And this week, as Mick turns 80, a little bit of that Sixties magic returns. The Grade II listed building opened to the public after years of neglect.
The 2,000 capacity venue, and its elaborate Victorian stucco ceiling, has been undergoing three years of repair and reconstruction after closing in 2006 following a long afterlife – from 1967 – as a bingo hall.
Fat Boy Slim and Caroline Lucas were among the celebrities invited in to take a look. But it would be fitting, wouldn’t it, if Mick and the boys were to take a sneak peek?
A trip down memory lane certainly and, after the Hippodrome’s 127 years, a fitting symbol of longevity in a week such as this.
Happy Birthday Mick. And here’s to many more.