Mick Jagger, of
lips and Nijinsky leaps, is 37. Charlie Watts, the lugubrious drummer, is nearly 40. His hair is greying, he wears unfashionable clothes, and raises Welsh collies on his country es- tate. He has been mar- ried to the same woman, Shirley, for 16 years, and likes doing nothing better than playing Woody Herman albums. Rock and roll, he thinks, is a load of rubbish. Mr Middle-Aged Suburbia.
How much longer can The Rolling Stones carry off their charade of youth? Despite - or per- haps because of - the trendy clothes, the younger, more nubile women they like to keep around them, there is something incongruous
about these almost middle-aged men still cast as outrageous young rebels of 22.
Are they condemned by a time machine to play out the same parts day after day, while their hair thins, their faces wrinkle and their eyes dull? Once they were described as the "stormiest, ugliest, most attractive, most un- kempt pop group in the
world." Now their suc- cessors, the angry young punk musicians, taunt them as the "Strolling Bones."
Is it true? Should they retire? Exhibitionism has lost much of its spice for them. Bass guitarist Bill Wyman, he who once de- lighted in shocking the public, now prefers to photograph the flowers in his garden.
The demonic years of
Rock and roll patriarchs
Above: Bianca, the
Nicaraguan beauty who
wooed and won Mick
Jagger, now rates very low on Jagger's scale of
favourite people. Their
drawn out divorce left
Mick very disillusioned. Top left: On her way to
the divorce court. Left:
The Stones - doing what they always do best.
wild parties, drinking and drugs have taken their toll. Cadaver-faced Keith Richards was found guilty by a Canadian court in 1978 of possess- ing heroin for trafficking, and is said to have spent months receiving treat- ment in hospital.
In 1969, Rolling Stone Brian Jones was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool, due, the inquest said, to an over- dose of heroin and co- caine. Gossip had it that he was finding it impos- sible to keep up during
Casualties among their friends and hangers on were high, too. There was that little Chrissy Shrimpton, model Jean's younger sister, the first to get her fingers burnt on Mick Jagger. Then sad
and beautiful Marianne
Faithfull, who nearly died from a drug overdose in Australia when she and Mick were filming Ned Kelly. (Jagger says he
never saw the movie but heard it was awful, "and no one had heard of Ned Kelly anyway, except for a few Australians.")
When Anita Pallen- berg, Keith Richards' long-time lady and mother of his three chil- dren, was involved in the seedy death of a young man last year, newspaper photographs revealed her as a physical wreck.
But today the Stones are now distancing them- selves from scandal and the drug scene. Recently Jagger launched a bitter attack on drugs in the US magazine High Times. Cocaine he described as the most boring drug ever invented, and heroin as
disgusting. "I don't think you should encourage young people to take drugs," he said. "That's awful." He admitted, though, that he still smoked marijuana.
Mick Jagger seems to have best survived the ravages of time and high living. His round, mes- senger boy face has creased a little, rather at- tractively about the eyes. He seems as limber as ever, but even he admits that he has to diet to pre- vent flab, and stay off booze for long periods. There was a time, a few years back, when his drinking was rumoured to be growing excessive.
Jagger has admitted that he is bored by rock. "Rock and roll music is for adolescents. It's a dead end." Almost in desperation he asserted: "My whole life isn't rock and roll. It's an absurd idea that it should be."
Their latest album Emotional Rescue - and the two-year hiatus be- tween it and Some Girls has been the longest gap ever between Stones' products - has been well, even most ecstatically, re- ceived. One pop music critic described it as an almost perfect album. But there always has been some vital spark, some transcending ge- nius, that has seen them through successive waves of glitter rock, protest rock, heavy metal, punk rock and disco, that has enabled them to borrow something from each and yet retain their magic.
Jagger is still the ulti- mate showman. The Stones' 1976 concert at Earls Court, when the stage unfurled like a flower to reveal Mick as a
kind of animated stamen, is already legend. As the years go on it has been he who has come to embody the Stones' image, their arrogance and glamour.
His privacy has been dogged by headlines - such as his wedding to Bianca, his look-alike Nicaraguan beauty. The Earl of Lichfield, who gave the bride away, is an old friend. Princess Margaret dropped in on their parties. Margaret
Trudeau trailed them.
Even his divorce
was a spectacular. Bianca engaged hotshot US lawyer Marvin Mitchelson to
trap Jagger into a Calif- ornian divorce court and net her half his fortune (said to be US $15 million last year ).
There are signs that he is seeking a new dimen- sion to his rock career. The film world is one al- ternative and he is re- ported recently to have bought rights to a script about a criminal psycho- path who kills a cripple. Sometimes he talks wist- fully of going back to uni- versity. He did, after all, study law and economics at the London School of Economics before he found himself a rock star.
And even more than that, for those of his gen- eration, the young girls who defied their parents and screamed for him when he sang "I Can't Get No Satisfaction", are now mothers in their 30s with mortgages to pay and school uniforms to wash and iron. As long as Mick Jagger can sing and The Rolling Stones make music, their youth is still
with those women.
- ANNE WOODHAM