TOM UTLEY: My life may have been far duller than Mick Jagger’s, but at least I can relive mine with pleasure
By my standards, though I don’t know about yours, Sir Mick Jagger has led a pretty interesting life.
He has sold some quarter of a billion records, and counting, amassing a fortune reckoned in the hundreds of millions of pounds.
He has appeared in numerous films, has been painted by Andy Warhol and has even had his bare bottom photographed by Cecil Beaton.
He has met just about everyone in the world who is or was anyone.
They include the Queen and most of the Royal Family, Barack Obama, Margaret Thatcher and, of course, more or less every rock star who has ever made a hit record, from Chuck Berry to The Beatles.
As for his experience of foreign lands, it would probably be quicker to list the countries he hasn’t visited than to write down all those he has.
Oh, and I almost forgot to add, in the course of his 77 years on this earth, including six decades in show business, he appears to have enjoyed a certain amount of success with the ladies.
According to one of his biographers, he has bedded some 4,000 of the fairer sex, including such celebrated stunners as Marianne Faithfull, Jerry Hall, Sophie Dahl and Carla Bruni, who went on to become the first lady of France after marrying President Nicolas Sarkozy.
He is even rumoured to have had, ahem, a ‘close relationship’ with Princess Margaret.
Mick Jagger appears in the 1970 film Performance, directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg
As his bandmate Charlie Watts observed, after Jagger’s appearance in the Queen’s 2002 Birthday Honours List: ‘Anybody else would be lynched: 18 wives and 20 children and he’s knighted. Fantastic!’
(In the interest of strict historical accuracy, I must point out that Jagger has in fact been married only once — to Bianca — and acknowledges paternity of just eight children by a mere five different beauties.)
Then there are those millions of women who’ve never met him, yet who still go weak at the knees at the thought of him.
I regret to report that these include my own dear wife, who told me before our wedding in 1980: ‘I’ll never leave you for any other man — apart from Mick Jagger, of course.’
Fortunately for me, I’ve managed to keep the pair of them apart these past 41 years. Indeed, the nearest Mrs U has come to meeting her idol was back in 1990, when she dragged me to a Rolling Stones concert at Wembley Stadium, where several thousand fans stood between her and my love rival.
But I’m straying from my point, which is that if you or I had lived such a life as Sir Mick’s, we might look back on it with some satisfaction. Not all of it, perhaps, since he has had his ups and downs like the rest of us (no sniggering at the back, there; you know what I mean).
I’m thinking of his periodic fallings-out with his fellow Rolling Stones and his criminal conviction in 1967, after one of the most famous drugs trials of 20th century — though he ended up spending only one night in Brixton Prison before his three-month sentence was commuted to a conditional discharge.
But you could be forgiven for thinking that, in Sir Mick’s case, the downs were so much outweighed by the ups — the worldwide success and all its trappings, the adoring fans, the beautiful houses, the swooning supermodels etc — and that most of his memories would give him pleasure.
Not so, it seems. This week, the man of my wife’s dreams confided to Radio 6 Music listeners that he found looking back on his life ‘inordinately dull and upsetting’ — and that although he had been trying to write his memoirs during the lockdown, fans wouldn’t be seeing them ‘any time soon’.
It was way back in the early 1980s, apparently, when the publisher Lord Weidenfeld ‘seduced’ him with the offer of a £1 million advance to write the story of his life.
‘The money was the seductive part of it,’ said Sir Mick. ‘But if you want to write an autobiography it is not a process you can do in a week. It takes a lot of you, it takes a lot out of you.
Unlike the rock superstar, at least I can say that I’m able to relive my memories with almost unalloyed pleasure, writes TOM UTLEY
‘It takes a lot of reliving, emotions reliving, friendships reliving, ups and downs and all this, and I must say it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience, to be honest — reliving my life to the detriment of living in the now.
‘It was inordinately dull and upsetting and there weren’t that many highs out of it. So I just said ‘I can’t be bothered with this’ and gave the money back to the publishers.’
At the time, he told them he couldn’t remember anything about his life — a problem familiar to many an ageing rock star with a history of drug abuse. They do say, after all, that if you remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there.
‘But it wasn’t really that,’ said Sir Mick. ‘It was just that I didn’t enjoy the process.’
All of which leads me to the question: if Mick Jagger finds looking back on his packed and richly rewarded life inordinately dull, then where does that leave the rest of us?
And yet… and yet…
I can imagine, can’t you, that after taking one’s first 100 or so sexual partners to bed, one might begin to take a slightly jaded view of the act of love? Indeed, I rather pity conquest numbers 101 to 4,000.
Where is the thrill of the chase, after all, for a man to whom women have surrendered themselves at the mere flash of that famous smile? Where is the blissful agony of wondering ‘will she/won’t she?’, when Sir Mick has always known from the very outset that she almost certainly will?
Even the adulation of all those fans, screaming themselves hoarse at his concerts, must lose something of its morale-boosting novelty after the first couple of decades.
(That said, I must grudgingly admit that when I saw him at Wembley, 30 years after his early successes, he seemed as electrifyingly fresh and energetic as any teenager. Doncha hate him, chaps?)
As for the money, yes, I’m sure it’s all very nice for Sir Mick to be rich enough to afford almost anything that takes his fancy.
But where is that special delight in, say, dining at a fancy restaurant for a man who can afford to go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, without noticing a dent in his bank account?
It’s the same with foreign travel. True, I’ve always regretted having seen little of the world beyond Europe (though if I’d been more energetic and determined, I could certainly have managed a few more trips further afield).
But if globe-trotting had become as routine as it is for Jagger, wouldn’t it be as much a chore as a treat?
Isn’t there a danger that every crowd in every stadium in every country in the world would begin to merge into one?
All right, I’m prepared to admit that my own life story — conventional middle-class education, steady job, one wife, four sons, one dog and a penchant for vegging out in front of the TV — would probably make a duller read than Mick Jagger’s.
But unlike the rock superstar, at least I can say that I’m able to relive my memories with almost unalloyed pleasure.
I only hope that Mrs U, who has shared in so many of them, will come to believe that in opting for her Mr Pooter, on balance she made the better choice.
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