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Symphony for the devil: Mick Jagger’s 80 greatest moments, on his 80th birthday | Mick Jagger

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1 The boy maketh the man. Eva Jagger said of her son: “I always had the feeling that Mike would be something. He was a very adventurous boy when he was younger, but then later he became interested in money. It always struck [me] as odd. Money doesn’t usually interest little boys, but it did Mike.”

2. Mick Jagger was always Mick Jagger. In 1959, he appeared on ATV’s Seeing Sport, in a sequence on climbing for young people, filmed in Tunbridge Wells, The presenter, John Disley, holds Jagger’s (“Michael’s”) foot up to show his footwear. The young Jagger looks up at him with complete disdain.

3. The Stones’ origin story is peerless. Keith Richards encountering his childhood friend Jagger at Dartford Station in 1961, the latter carrying copies of The Best of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry’s Rockin’ at the Hops, and the pair falling in together again instantly.

4. Jagger invented the idea of a frontman. Not a solo singer. Not a band member. A frontman. Everyone since has been imitating him, one way or another.

5. He – and the Stones – were British rock’s first authentic moral threat.

6. Look at clips of the Stones from 1964. Jagger had the greatest hair in the world.

1964’s greatest hair … The Rolling Stones, l-r: Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones. Photograph: Alamy/Koko/Reuters

7. Liam Gallagher isn’t fit to wear a parka in the presence of the amazing David Bailey shot of Jagger hugging his fur-lined hood to his face in 1964.

8. Look, too, at the clip of the Stones doing Little Red Rooster on Ready Steady Go! that year. See how Jagger stares the camera down, defying anyone to question him.

9. Alternatively, look at his twitching-leg dance to their version of Chuck Berry’s Around and Around. You wouldn’t believe a man jerking his leg could be so sexual.

10. “You do tend to present a yobbish image.” One interviewer suggested this to him as the Stones were breaking through. “Moronic, I think, is a better word,” he replied, deliciously.

11. For the sheer unbridled excitement and aggression of early Stones, listen to She Said Yeah: Jagger’s howling, yowling vocal backed by a band who sound like a rampaging army.

12. “When I’m watchin’ my TV / And a man comes on and tells me / How white my shirts can be / But, he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke / The same cigarettes as me.” Amazing writing, given (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was only the Stones’ second self-penned single.

13. Not to defend songs such as Stupid Girl or Under My Thumb, but perhaps by saying the quiet part about rock – its misogyny – out loud, Jagger at least provoked a way of critically examining lyrics that continues to this day.

14. “I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky.” Think the Stooges and the Velvets brought nihilism to music? Listen to Paint It, Black.

15. Great rock stars project vanity. And you don’t get more magnificently vain than Jagger singing “Tell me a story about how you adore me,” on Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?

16. His blank and affectless vocal – especially in the falsetto – on We Love You, which makes it sound as though he would gladly substitute the word “hate” instead, is a marvel.

17. The makeup and headwear combo – “Guys, it’s 1967, we’ve got to look FAR OUT!” – in a clip from 2000 Light Years from Home.

18. No other rock singer has ever been the subject of a leader column in the Times, decrying Jagger’s prison sentence for possession of drugs. The column – written by the paper’s editor, William Rees-Mogg (father of Jacob), in 1967 – was headlined: Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?

19. Having been asked to change the lyric of Let’s Spend the Night Together for the Stones’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, Jagger showed his disdain by comically rolling his eyes when he came to the chorus.

Jagger during a TV appearance.
Jagger during a TV appearance. Photograph: Ray Green/Hulton Getty

20. A week later, the band made their debut on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Jagger – even when threatened with being thrown off the show – insisted the Stones be the first act ever not to appear with the rest of the cast on a revolving podium at the finale.

21. Being the only man in recorded history to look great in a bandana in the Child of the Moon video from 1968 (it’s also a truly underrated Stones song).

22. “I was born in a crossfire hurricane / And I howled at the morning drivin’ rain.” Jagger doesn’t get enough credit for writing so many of the lyrics that define rock’s attitude.

23. Bands being meta about themselves is always a treat. The Stones were in on the trick early on Jigsaw Puzzle: “And the guitar players look damaged / They’ve been outcasts all their lives.”

24. Was Jagger the first rock star whose songs made fans want to read specific books? Sympathy for the Devil introduced a generation to one of the 20th century’s great novels, The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov.

25. Jagger is the only middle-class Englishman from Kent who could sing “I met a gin-soaked bar-room queen in Memphis / She tried to take me upstairs for a ride” without it sounding like cosplay.

26. There’s no better nickname than the one shared by Jagger and Richards: the Glimmer Twins, a name they adopted after the pair – with Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg – went on a cruise at the end of 1968, and an older couple kept demanding to know who they were. “Just give us a glimmer,” the wife said.

Performing live.
Performing live. Photograph: RB/Redferns

27. Jagger gets mocked as rock’s greediest man. In fact, he was the first man to insist musicians be paid what they were worth. Back in 1969, before the Hyde Park concert, he was outlining the realities of touring: “You play the ABC Wigan. It holds 2,000 people. Do two houses, 4,000 people. They pay an average of 10 shillings, which is £2,000. Of which £1,000 goes to the manager of the theatre or the promoter … £1,000 which is left goes to the publicity, the groups who are supporting the bill, you end up with three hundred and something pounds. It costs £150 to get there. Divide it by five, it leaves you with … I mean, really.”

28. Everything about You Can’t Always Get What You Want is perfect. The lyric, the music – and the moment Jagger comes in, wearily: “I saw her today at the reception …”

29. We all know Gimme Shelter is one of the greatest rock songs ever (imagine the daring of writing a chorus that opens “Rape! Murder!”), but you can hear Jagger’s enthusiasm in it, too – his “Woo!” in the background beneath Merry Clayton is a delight.

30. Even as he piled into American idioms, Jagger insisted on his Englishness. “I got nasty habits,” opened Live With Me. “I take tea at three.”

31. From a 1969 US press conference: “You sang you couldn’t get no satisfaction. Are you more satisfied than when you last came over here?” “Do you mean financially, sexually or philosophically?” “Financially and philosophically satisfied …” “Financially satisfied, sexually satisfied, philosophically trying.”

32. If you want to see Jagger’s vulnerability – not a trait he’s widely associated with – watch the documentary Gimme Shelter, and see his reaction as he realises the Stones’ show at Altamont is spiralling out of control.

Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly, 1970.
Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly, 1970. Photograph: Masheter Movie Archive/Alamy

33. You can’t fault Jagger’s honesty. After appearing in Tony Richardson’s film Ned Kelly, in the title role, he pronounced: “That was a load of shit. I only made it because I had nothing else to do.”

34. Turner, in Nicolas Roeg’s Performance, remains the best film role written for a rock star, and Jagger gives the best film performance ever by a rock star. By a mile.

35. “I think I bust a button on my trousers, hope they don’t fall down … You don’t want my trousers to fall down, do you?” As between-songs banter on live albums goes, this gem – from Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out – beats, “Hello London!” hands down.

36. Also: “Charlie’s good tonight, innee?”

37. He’s not a soul singer, a country singer or a blues singer, but Jagger managed all three in a heartrending performance on Wild Horses.

38. So much of what the Stones did between 1968 and 1972 is perfect, and one might just as well list all the tracks from that era (except Stray Cat Blues) and be done with it. But we have to pick and choose, so go and listen to Moonlight Mile, where his imperfection is perfect.

39. On France, while the Stones were recording Exile on Main Street: “France is all right. As long as you can get out. There’s fuck-all live music here, there’s Jacques Brel and electronic music. Even the accordion players are dead.”

40. “The sunshine bores the daylights out of me.” What a line, from Rocks Off.

41. Sticking with Exile on Main Street, two examples of Jagger’s singing. First, the wracked desperation of Let it Loose. The words don’t matter, the feeling does.

42. Second, the perfect phrasing of Tumbling Dice, which gives the band’s lazy swing its sense of momentum and propulsion.

Promoting the Sticky Fingers album in 1971.
Promoting the Sticky Fingers album in 1971. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives

43. The Stones’ 1972 tour of the US was legendarily decadent – they refused to release Robert Frank’s film documenting it, Cocksucker Blues – so much so that even the US TV host Dick Cavett was moved to ask Jagger what the plates of pills backstage were. “Vitamins A, B, C and salt,” he replied.

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44. Once you learn Jagger sings backing vocals on Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, you can’t unhear them. Because even doing backing vocals, low in the mix, he is unignorable.

45. Goat’s Head Soup is the most underrated Stones album. Jagger’s performances on the ballads – Angie and Winter – are unimpeachable. He has never lacked commitment.

46. It’s Charlie Watts getting swamped in bubbles we all remember, but look how much fun Jagger is having in the video for It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It).

Mick Jagger performing in 1973.
Mick Jagger performing in 1973. Photograph: Fin Costello/FC

47. Jagger’s 70s stage outfits are a law unto themselves. Borat’s mankini was surely inspired by some of the singlet-based items sported by Jagger.

48. Spending the last 45 years not being Keith Richards. People may view Keith as the spirit of the Stones, but for the vast majority of their career they simply would not have existed without Jagger’s drive and determination. Would you trust Richards to run a business?

49. If there had been a film about a spoof Rolling Stones, would John Lennon have appeared in it mocking himself? Jagger made a memorable appearance in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash: “We were the south’s answer to the Rutles at that time.”

50. Eighty seconds into Miss You, where Jagger – on a vocal performance that is essence of Jagger – gets a call from a friend who intends to come round at 12 with “some Puerto Rican girls that’s just dyyyyyyyyyyyyying to meetchu”.

51. Mick Jagger does not give a fuck what you think. When it was put to him that the 1978 album Some Girls was replete with both sexism and racism, he replied: “The next one’s gonna be more sexist and more racist and it’s gonna be a whole bunch better.”

52. And the other side – that same year Jagger put his money where his mouth was regarding his love of reggae, and signed Peter Tosh to Rolling Stone Records, duetting with him on (You Gotta Walk) Don’t Look Back.

53. One of the great things about the Stones’ versions of American music was the hint of sarcasm that Jagger’s voice brought to his own lyrics – try the almost parodically brilliant writing and delivery of Far Away Eyes: “I was driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield / Listening to gospel music on the coloured radio station / And the preacher said, ‘You know, you always have the Lord by your side’ / And I was so pleased to be informed of this / That I ran 20 red lights in his honour / Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord.”

54. Interviewer to Jagger, during the US tour in support of Some Girls: “Do you have any regrets?” “No, except when I was 13 I couldn’t get any girls. But that problem’s over now.”

55. It’s easy to think of Jagger as a gimlet-eyed money man, rather than a music lover. But there’s footage of the band rehearsing Respectable in 1978, where Jagger just appears full of joy at the very fact of being in the band.

Performing in 1983.
Performing in 1983. Photograph: Denis O’Regan/PA

56. His falsetto on Emotional Rescue.

57. The first 15 seconds of the video for Start Me Up, where Jagger appears only to realise he is in fact Mick Jagger as the guitar chords kick in, and comes to life like a battery-operated toy.

58. And, also from Tattoo You, the video for Waiting on a Friend – probably the last time Jagger and Richards bothered trying to convince the world they still liked each other. It’s remarkably touching.

59. Inventing the modern concept of stadium rock – a big production, a show rather than a concert – with the Still Life tour in 1981.

60. So the Clash sang fearlessly about political violence in Latin America, did they? Try Jagger’s twice-as-tough lyric on Undercover (of the Night), coincidentally the last genuinely great Stones single.

61. Also from the Undercover album, the magnificent video nasties rap on Too Much Blood: “I get scared there’s a bloke running around with a fuckin’ chain saw. Oh! Oh! Oh! No, he’s gonna cut off me … Don’t saw off me leg! Don’t saw off me arm!” Great video, too.

62. Getting punched in the face by Charlie Watts in Amsterdam in 1984, for referring to him as “my drummer” – a punch so well-timed that one account suggests Jagger landed on a smoked salmon platter and nearly slid out of the hotel window into a canal.

63. It’s 1985. The Smiths are the hottest young band in Britain and Meat Is Murder has just come out. What does Jagger think? “I’m not sure I wanna hear a whole album about meat.”

64. Mick Jagger can sell anything. Just watch the video for Dancing in the Street, in which his total commitment to Being Mick Jagger forces Bowie to try to look interested in an awful record.

65. It’s a terrible song, but the video for 1986’s One Hit (To the Body) allowed Jagger and Richards to publicly act out their mutual antipathy, a daring thing for a band who were still notionally a functional unit.

66. The best Jagger solo album is 1993’s Wandering Spirit. The single Sweet Thing was surprisingly dirty funk, with Jagger’s vocal going to places he rarely dared any longer with the Stones.

67. Keith Richards isn’t the world’s hardest impersonation, but it doesn’t stop it being funny seeing Jagger send up his bandmate’s incomprehensible drawl on Saturday Night Live in 1993.

68. There aren’t many repeat listeners to 1994’s Voodoo Lounge, which is perhaps why so few people noticed Jagger perhaps telling the truth about himself on Out of Tears: “And I just can’t pour my heart out to another living thing / I’m a whisper, I’m a shadow, and I’m standing up to sing.”

69. Rock music’s definitive word is “baby”. No one has ever wrung more out of those two syllables than Jagger, from the percussive, commanding “bay!bee!” of Let’s Spend the Night Together to the drawn-out slurred “byyyeebuuuuy” of Anybody Seen My Baby?

70. Jagger has never shied from drag, even as the years crept on. There’s an incredible 1996 photo of him and former partner Jerry Hall dressing in a gender reversal. No one this priapic has ever seemed so at home with femininity.

Performing at the Super Bowl in 2006.
Performing at the Super Bowl in 2006. Photograph: Shaun Best/Reuters

71. It was in the work, too – in 1997, Jagger played the transvestite Greta in the film adaptation of Martin Sherman’s play Bent. This was not a role you might expect a pillar of the establishment to take. He has never been an artistic coward.

72. Also in 1997, Jagger pioneered live-streaming of cricket, buying the rights to the Sharjah Trophy tournament, in part – so he said – so he could watch it himself on the internet.

73. Jagger could give anyone lessons in perseverance. Back in 2001, after his solo album Goddess in the Doorway chalked up first-day sales of 954 (it “trailed Des O’Connor in the charts”, noted the Independent), there were suggestions he should pack in the music: “It is hard to see how, at this late stage, he can ever sing or prance his way out of that one,” the Observer said. Who’s laughing now?

74. Is any other major star so completely unconcerned with what the rest of the celebritysphere thinks of them? In the Being Mick documentary, he mocks Kate Winslet, reading out a statement in a prissy voice: “Ay em very sorry not to be there to celebrate the premiere of Enigma.” Winslet was the star, and Jagger was the producer. Bridges to Babylon? More like burning Bridges to Babylon.

75. Jagger’s a singer and a musician, not just a performer, and it’s startling to see him playing without performing – a wonderful clip from a 2003 soundcheck sees him playing Worried About You to an empty stadium, not having to show off.

76. You couldn’t exactly say Jagger had aged gracefully, but he has aged knowingly. “Once upon a time I was your little rooster,” he sang on Rough Justice, the opening track from 2005’s A Bigger Bang. “Now am I just one of your cocks?”

77. No one with an ego has ever displayed greater forbearance than Jagger in the wake of Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, complete with digs at the singer’s “tiny todger”.

Performing live in Stockholm, 2022.
Performing live in Stockholm, 2022. Photograph: Ali Lorestani/TT/Rex/Shutterstock

78. If you think Jagger is a self-parody, he’s one step ahead of you. Watch his 2012 Saturday Night Live appearance, where he’s deciding what moves to make as guest host. (John Mulaney is very funny on the experience of writing for Jagger on SNL.)

79. Jagger calls the harmonica “my favourite instrument”. Listen to his fantastic playing of it across 2016’s Blue & Lonesome, especially I Gotta Go. An exciting harmonica solo!

80. Of course the single greatest moment in Jagger’s performing career came in June 2019 at Twickenham stadium, when he asked: “Anyone ’ere from Slough?” Reader, as a Sloughvian, I cheered.


1 The boy maketh the man. Eva Jagger said of her son: “I always had the feeling that Mike would be something. He was a very adventurous boy when he was younger, but then later he became interested in money. It always struck [me] as odd. Money doesn’t usually interest little boys, but it did Mike.”

2. Mick Jagger was always Mick Jagger. In 1959, he appeared on ATV’s Seeing Sport, in a sequence on climbing for young people, filmed in Tunbridge Wells, The presenter, John Disley, holds Jagger’s (“Michael’s”) foot up to show his footwear. The young Jagger looks up at him with complete disdain.

3. The Stones’ origin story is peerless. Keith Richards encountering his childhood friend Jagger at Dartford Station in 1961, the latter carrying copies of The Best of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry’s Rockin’ at the Hops, and the pair falling in together again instantly.

4. Jagger invented the idea of a frontman. Not a solo singer. Not a band member. A frontman. Everyone since has been imitating him, one way or another.

5. He – and the Stones – were British rock’s first authentic moral threat.

6. Look at clips of the Stones from 1964. Jagger had the greatest hair in the world.

1964’s greatest hair … The Rolling Stones, l-r: Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones.
1964’s greatest hair … The Rolling Stones, l-r: Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones. Photograph: Alamy/Koko/Reuters

7. Liam Gallagher isn’t fit to wear a parka in the presence of the amazing David Bailey shot of Jagger hugging his fur-lined hood to his face in 1964.

8. Look, too, at the clip of the Stones doing Little Red Rooster on Ready Steady Go! that year. See how Jagger stares the camera down, defying anyone to question him.

9. Alternatively, look at his twitching-leg dance to their version of Chuck Berry’s Around and Around. You wouldn’t believe a man jerking his leg could be so sexual.

10. “You do tend to present a yobbish image.” One interviewer suggested this to him as the Stones were breaking through. “Moronic, I think, is a better word,” he replied, deliciously.

11. For the sheer unbridled excitement and aggression of early Stones, listen to She Said Yeah: Jagger’s howling, yowling vocal backed by a band who sound like a rampaging army.

12. “When I’m watchin’ my TV / And a man comes on and tells me / How white my shirts can be / But, he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke / The same cigarettes as me.” Amazing writing, given (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was only the Stones’ second self-penned single.

13. Not to defend songs such as Stupid Girl or Under My Thumb, but perhaps by saying the quiet part about rock – its misogyny – out loud, Jagger at least provoked a way of critically examining lyrics that continues to this day.

14. “I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky.” Think the Stooges and the Velvets brought nihilism to music? Listen to Paint It, Black.

15. Great rock stars project vanity. And you don’t get more magnificently vain than Jagger singing “Tell me a story about how you adore me,” on Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?

16. His blank and affectless vocal – especially in the falsetto – on We Love You, which makes it sound as though he would gladly substitute the word “hate” instead, is a marvel.

17. The makeup and headwear combo – “Guys, it’s 1967, we’ve got to look FAR OUT!” – in a clip from 2000 Light Years from Home.

18. No other rock singer has ever been the subject of a leader column in the Times, decrying Jagger’s prison sentence for possession of drugs. The column – written by the paper’s editor, William Rees-Mogg (father of Jacob), in 1967 – was headlined: Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?

19. Having been asked to change the lyric of Let’s Spend the Night Together for the Stones’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, Jagger showed his disdain by comically rolling his eyes when he came to the chorus.

Jagger during a TV appearance.
Jagger during a TV appearance. Photograph: Ray Green/Hulton Getty

20. A week later, the band made their debut on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Jagger – even when threatened with being thrown off the show – insisted the Stones be the first act ever not to appear with the rest of the cast on a revolving podium at the finale.

21. Being the only man in recorded history to look great in a bandana in the Child of the Moon video from 1968 (it’s also a truly underrated Stones song).

22. “I was born in a crossfire hurricane / And I howled at the morning drivin’ rain.” Jagger doesn’t get enough credit for writing so many of the lyrics that define rock’s attitude.

23. Bands being meta about themselves is always a treat. The Stones were in on the trick early on Jigsaw Puzzle: “And the guitar players look damaged / They’ve been outcasts all their lives.”

24. Was Jagger the first rock star whose songs made fans want to read specific books? Sympathy for the Devil introduced a generation to one of the 20th century’s great novels, The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov.

25. Jagger is the only middle-class Englishman from Kent who could sing “I met a gin-soaked bar-room queen in Memphis / She tried to take me upstairs for a ride” without it sounding like cosplay.

26. There’s no better nickname than the one shared by Jagger and Richards: the Glimmer Twins, a name they adopted after the pair – with Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg – went on a cruise at the end of 1968, and an older couple kept demanding to know who they were. “Just give us a glimmer,” the wife said.

Performing live.
Performing live. Photograph: RB/Redferns

27. Jagger gets mocked as rock’s greediest man. In fact, he was the first man to insist musicians be paid what they were worth. Back in 1969, before the Hyde Park concert, he was outlining the realities of touring: “You play the ABC Wigan. It holds 2,000 people. Do two houses, 4,000 people. They pay an average of 10 shillings, which is £2,000. Of which £1,000 goes to the manager of the theatre or the promoter … £1,000 which is left goes to the publicity, the groups who are supporting the bill, you end up with three hundred and something pounds. It costs £150 to get there. Divide it by five, it leaves you with … I mean, really.”

28. Everything about You Can’t Always Get What You Want is perfect. The lyric, the music – and the moment Jagger comes in, wearily: “I saw her today at the reception …”

29. We all know Gimme Shelter is one of the greatest rock songs ever (imagine the daring of writing a chorus that opens “Rape! Murder!”), but you can hear Jagger’s enthusiasm in it, too – his “Woo!” in the background beneath Merry Clayton is a delight.

30. Even as he piled into American idioms, Jagger insisted on his Englishness. “I got nasty habits,” opened Live With Me. “I take tea at three.”

31. From a 1969 US press conference: “You sang you couldn’t get no satisfaction. Are you more satisfied than when you last came over here?” “Do you mean financially, sexually or philosophically?” “Financially and philosophically satisfied …” “Financially satisfied, sexually satisfied, philosophically trying.”

32. If you want to see Jagger’s vulnerability – not a trait he’s widely associated with – watch the documentary Gimme Shelter, and see his reaction as he realises the Stones’ show at Altamont is spiralling out of control.

Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly, 1970.
Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly, 1970. Photograph: Masheter Movie Archive/Alamy

33. You can’t fault Jagger’s honesty. After appearing in Tony Richardson’s film Ned Kelly, in the title role, he pronounced: “That was a load of shit. I only made it because I had nothing else to do.”

34. Turner, in Nicolas Roeg’s Performance, remains the best film role written for a rock star, and Jagger gives the best film performance ever by a rock star. By a mile.

35. “I think I bust a button on my trousers, hope they don’t fall down … You don’t want my trousers to fall down, do you?” As between-songs banter on live albums goes, this gem – from Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out – beats, “Hello London!” hands down.

36. Also: “Charlie’s good tonight, innee?”

37. He’s not a soul singer, a country singer or a blues singer, but Jagger managed all three in a heartrending performance on Wild Horses.

38. So much of what the Stones did between 1968 and 1972 is perfect, and one might just as well list all the tracks from that era (except Stray Cat Blues) and be done with it. But we have to pick and choose, so go and listen to Moonlight Mile, where his imperfection is perfect.

39. On France, while the Stones were recording Exile on Main Street: “France is all right. As long as you can get out. There’s fuck-all live music here, there’s Jacques Brel and electronic music. Even the accordion players are dead.”

40. “The sunshine bores the daylights out of me.” What a line, from Rocks Off.

41. Sticking with Exile on Main Street, two examples of Jagger’s singing. First, the wracked desperation of Let it Loose. The words don’t matter, the feeling does.

42. Second, the perfect phrasing of Tumbling Dice, which gives the band’s lazy swing its sense of momentum and propulsion.

Promoting the Sticky Fingers album in 1971.
Promoting the Sticky Fingers album in 1971. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives

43. The Stones’ 1972 tour of the US was legendarily decadent – they refused to release Robert Frank’s film documenting it, Cocksucker Blues – so much so that even the US TV host Dick Cavett was moved to ask Jagger what the plates of pills backstage were. “Vitamins A, B, C and salt,” he replied.

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44. Once you learn Jagger sings backing vocals on Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, you can’t unhear them. Because even doing backing vocals, low in the mix, he is unignorable.

45. Goat’s Head Soup is the most underrated Stones album. Jagger’s performances on the ballads – Angie and Winter – are unimpeachable. He has never lacked commitment.

46. It’s Charlie Watts getting swamped in bubbles we all remember, but look how much fun Jagger is having in the video for It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It).

Mick Jagger performing in 1973.
Mick Jagger performing in 1973. Photograph: Fin Costello/FC

47. Jagger’s 70s stage outfits are a law unto themselves. Borat’s mankini was surely inspired by some of the singlet-based items sported by Jagger.

48. Spending the last 45 years not being Keith Richards. People may view Keith as the spirit of the Stones, but for the vast majority of their career they simply would not have existed without Jagger’s drive and determination. Would you trust Richards to run a business?

49. If there had been a film about a spoof Rolling Stones, would John Lennon have appeared in it mocking himself? Jagger made a memorable appearance in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash: “We were the south’s answer to the Rutles at that time.”

50. Eighty seconds into Miss You, where Jagger – on a vocal performance that is essence of Jagger – gets a call from a friend who intends to come round at 12 with “some Puerto Rican girls that’s just dyyyyyyyyyyyyying to meetchu”.

51. Mick Jagger does not give a fuck what you think. When it was put to him that the 1978 album Some Girls was replete with both sexism and racism, he replied: “The next one’s gonna be more sexist and more racist and it’s gonna be a whole bunch better.”

52. And the other side – that same year Jagger put his money where his mouth was regarding his love of reggae, and signed Peter Tosh to Rolling Stone Records, duetting with him on (You Gotta Walk) Don’t Look Back.

53. One of the great things about the Stones’ versions of American music was the hint of sarcasm that Jagger’s voice brought to his own lyrics – try the almost parodically brilliant writing and delivery of Far Away Eyes: “I was driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield / Listening to gospel music on the coloured radio station / And the preacher said, ‘You know, you always have the Lord by your side’ / And I was so pleased to be informed of this / That I ran 20 red lights in his honour / Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord.”

54. Interviewer to Jagger, during the US tour in support of Some Girls: “Do you have any regrets?” “No, except when I was 13 I couldn’t get any girls. But that problem’s over now.”

55. It’s easy to think of Jagger as a gimlet-eyed money man, rather than a music lover. But there’s footage of the band rehearsing Respectable in 1978, where Jagger just appears full of joy at the very fact of being in the band.

Performing in 1983.
Performing in 1983. Photograph: Denis O’Regan/PA

56. His falsetto on Emotional Rescue.

57. The first 15 seconds of the video for Start Me Up, where Jagger appears only to realise he is in fact Mick Jagger as the guitar chords kick in, and comes to life like a battery-operated toy.

58. And, also from Tattoo You, the video for Waiting on a Friend – probably the last time Jagger and Richards bothered trying to convince the world they still liked each other. It’s remarkably touching.

59. Inventing the modern concept of stadium rock – a big production, a show rather than a concert – with the Still Life tour in 1981.

60. So the Clash sang fearlessly about political violence in Latin America, did they? Try Jagger’s twice-as-tough lyric on Undercover (of the Night), coincidentally the last genuinely great Stones single.

61. Also from the Undercover album, the magnificent video nasties rap on Too Much Blood: “I get scared there’s a bloke running around with a fuckin’ chain saw. Oh! Oh! Oh! No, he’s gonna cut off me … Don’t saw off me leg! Don’t saw off me arm!” Great video, too.

62. Getting punched in the face by Charlie Watts in Amsterdam in 1984, for referring to him as “my drummer” – a punch so well-timed that one account suggests Jagger landed on a smoked salmon platter and nearly slid out of the hotel window into a canal.

63. It’s 1985. The Smiths are the hottest young band in Britain and Meat Is Murder has just come out. What does Jagger think? “I’m not sure I wanna hear a whole album about meat.”

64. Mick Jagger can sell anything. Just watch the video for Dancing in the Street, in which his total commitment to Being Mick Jagger forces Bowie to try to look interested in an awful record.

65. It’s a terrible song, but the video for 1986’s One Hit (To the Body) allowed Jagger and Richards to publicly act out their mutual antipathy, a daring thing for a band who were still notionally a functional unit.

66. The best Jagger solo album is 1993’s Wandering Spirit. The single Sweet Thing was surprisingly dirty funk, with Jagger’s vocal going to places he rarely dared any longer with the Stones.

67. Keith Richards isn’t the world’s hardest impersonation, but it doesn’t stop it being funny seeing Jagger send up his bandmate’s incomprehensible drawl on Saturday Night Live in 1993.

68. There aren’t many repeat listeners to 1994’s Voodoo Lounge, which is perhaps why so few people noticed Jagger perhaps telling the truth about himself on Out of Tears: “And I just can’t pour my heart out to another living thing / I’m a whisper, I’m a shadow, and I’m standing up to sing.”

69. Rock music’s definitive word is “baby”. No one has ever wrung more out of those two syllables than Jagger, from the percussive, commanding “bay!bee!” of Let’s Spend the Night Together to the drawn-out slurred “byyyeebuuuuy” of Anybody Seen My Baby?

70. Jagger has never shied from drag, even as the years crept on. There’s an incredible 1996 photo of him and former partner Jerry Hall dressing in a gender reversal. No one this priapic has ever seemed so at home with femininity.

Performing at the Super Bowl in 2006.
Performing at the Super Bowl in 2006. Photograph: Shaun Best/Reuters

71. It was in the work, too – in 1997, Jagger played the transvestite Greta in the film adaptation of Martin Sherman’s play Bent. This was not a role you might expect a pillar of the establishment to take. He has never been an artistic coward.

72. Also in 1997, Jagger pioneered live-streaming of cricket, buying the rights to the Sharjah Trophy tournament, in part – so he said – so he could watch it himself on the internet.

73. Jagger could give anyone lessons in perseverance. Back in 2001, after his solo album Goddess in the Doorway chalked up first-day sales of 954 (it “trailed Des O’Connor in the charts”, noted the Independent), there were suggestions he should pack in the music: “It is hard to see how, at this late stage, he can ever sing or prance his way out of that one,” the Observer said. Who’s laughing now?

74. Is any other major star so completely unconcerned with what the rest of the celebritysphere thinks of them? In the Being Mick documentary, he mocks Kate Winslet, reading out a statement in a prissy voice: “Ay em very sorry not to be there to celebrate the premiere of Enigma.” Winslet was the star, and Jagger was the producer. Bridges to Babylon? More like burning Bridges to Babylon.

75. Jagger’s a singer and a musician, not just a performer, and it’s startling to see him playing without performing – a wonderful clip from a 2003 soundcheck sees him playing Worried About You to an empty stadium, not having to show off.

76. You couldn’t exactly say Jagger had aged gracefully, but he has aged knowingly. “Once upon a time I was your little rooster,” he sang on Rough Justice, the opening track from 2005’s A Bigger Bang. “Now am I just one of your cocks?”

77. No one with an ego has ever displayed greater forbearance than Jagger in the wake of Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, complete with digs at the singer’s “tiny todger”.

Performing live in Stockholm, 2022.
Performing live in Stockholm, 2022. Photograph: Ali Lorestani/TT/Rex/Shutterstock

78. If you think Jagger is a self-parody, he’s one step ahead of you. Watch his 2012 Saturday Night Live appearance, where he’s deciding what moves to make as guest host. (John Mulaney is very funny on the experience of writing for Jagger on SNL.)

79. Jagger calls the harmonica “my favourite instrument”. Listen to his fantastic playing of it across 2016’s Blue & Lonesome, especially I Gotta Go. An exciting harmonica solo!

80. Of course the single greatest moment in Jagger’s performing career came in June 2019 at Twickenham stadium, when he asked: “Anyone ’ere from Slough?” Reader, as a Sloughvian, I cheered.

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