It’s hard to believe that Mick Jagger is 68 years old today. I can only see him as the pouting, prancing preacher of the greatest rock band of all time—and no, I don’t want to get into a debate about this. If you were there and if you were actually cool and not a mainstream Top 40 boy band aficionado, then the Stones were your huckleberries.
In time, the Beatles got real cool, but early on each new Stones record made us squirm in our pants while yhe Beatles made us sway and made the little girls cry. There’s this old British TV show called Ready Steady Go! that I have stashed somewhere. Bands like the Animals, the Dave Clark Five, and the amazingly terrible Lulu would strut their stuff on the show. The year was 1964 and I was a wee lad. The compilation of that year’s shows features the Beatles all done up in the same suits, with the same thin ties and shoes and hair-dos. They make the girls squeal with “Please, Please Me.”
A couple months later, the Rolling Stones offered their chart-topper “Little Red Rooster,” a seriously sexy blues track featuring Brian Jones on slide guitar and Mick Jagger before the wrinkles hid his dimples. Two years later, while the Beatles were charting home runs with “Nowhere Man,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Paperback Writer,” and “Yellow Submarine”—all respectable tracks—the Stones are destroying our sensibilities with “Paint It Black,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Lady Jane,” and “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadows.” For me, the Beatles were sugar-sweet pablum while the Stones were a bloody hamburger that I wanted to stick my face and other body parts into. In a 1966 episode of the soon to be canceled Ready Steady Go!, the Rolling Stones really did “Paint It Black.” Brian Jones sat on a pillow and played a sitar, while Jagger pranced like Pan in what can only be described as a Sergeant Pepper jacket. My jaw dropped, my eyes didn’t blink; I knew what in the world I was looking for, for the first time.
Of course, it was in 1964—less than 3 months after the Kennedy assassination stole America from us—the newly crowned kings of the universe, the Beatles, returned to New York and were whisked to Capitol Records for a press conference. A reporter asked them “How do you find America?” and Ringo deadpanned, “Turn left at Greenland.”
Their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show famously changed the world. The screaming, pre-pubescent girls cumming on national TV is still an iconic vision. The Beatles sang “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” My cousin Ron and my brother Paul and I watched on giant TV sets with small black and white screens from our winter homes in Queens. We couldn’t wait for Ed Sullivan to bring on the Stones. This was an age before Internet or fan rags. It was hard to find information on your favorite band but we were obsessed and we knew that Ed Sullivan would come through. Shoot ahead to the late ‘80s when I’m the director of one of the best clubs ever—the World on East 2nd Street—and Jagger keeps coming by to hook up with a special friend. I can’t believe it’s really him. I had seen him 20 times at arena concerts, read all the magazines, bought all the albums, and here he was as friendly as can be in the club’s office. I was speechless, and you all know how rare that is. A few weeks go by, he’s still coming in, and one night I find myself alone with him and one of our security guards and I actually get up the courage to talk to him. The conversation went something like this:
“Hey Mick, back in the ’60s when you guys were going to be on Ed Sullivan, my cousin Ron and my brother Paul and I were faced with a crisis,” I began, grabbing the rock god’s attention. “Go on,” he said. I had gotten my mojo going and the words started to come out easily.
“Well, back then we only had 2 channels on the tele (3 and 8) and Ed Sullivan and you guys were on one and Lawrence Welk and his Polka Festival were on the other. It was late October, just before we closed up the Connecticut house for the winter months and my grandfather and grandmother would normally watch their favorite shows from big easy chairs. We were determined to see the Stones play, so we plotted. Normally, every night before they went to bed, one of us kids was chored with bringing them a warm glass of milk to help them sleep. The three of us plotted that we would take turns bringing them so much warm milk that they would pass out and we would switch channels and see you guys.”
Jagger, with his famous smiling eyes and wide grin, inquired, “So, let me get this right, you basically drugged your grandparents to watch us?” “Yep,” I said proudly, “And they passed out and we switched and saw you guys doing ‘Time Is On My Side.’ Then they woke up and started to gently complain but eventually gave in and we saw you and it changed us forever.” Mick leaned forward and got serious “You know they knew, right?” I said something like “Wha?” He continued, “They knew all about it and let you get your way, they let you watch us.” I was stunned because it had never occurred to me. Then all the love for my departed grandparents swelled me up and they were with me again and I got all goosebumpy. Mick Jagger saw his friend coming and thanked me for the story. He said “You might be the only person to have drugged their grandparents to see me” and thanked me. I would speak to him briefly a few times after that at the World and once later at Bill Wyman’s birthday at Red Zone, but just a “hey” and a nod.
Meeting icons is part of the deal in clubland. Most fall short of expectations and many severely disappoint but Mick Jagger wowed me with his wit, charm, and good manners. He was a gentleman. I wish him the best on his 68th birthday. Tomorrow night, when I DJ at Paul Sevigny’s party at Le Bain, I will offer up “Paint It Black” in honor. It still goes over well. “Time is On My Side” is a little slow for these times and may not even be true anymore.