You can’t always be seventy Mick Jagger turns 80 today, as does Keith Richards this year. What does that mean? The Rolling Stones were never young – and they made old age meaningless for all generations to come.
When they met at Dartford railway station in 1961, Mick Jagger was 18 and Keith Richards was 17. 80-year-olds didn’t matter in life. Sometimes one of them still haunted the BBC as a veteran of the First World War. The time already belonged to the war children of the Second. Back then, Jagger drove to London every day to attend the School of Economics. Richards went to London’s Sidcup Art College, he writes in his memoirs: “Did Mick and I get along? When I get into a train car with a guy who’s got ‘Rockin’ at the Hops’ by Chuck Berry on Chess Records and also ‘The Best of Muddy Waters’ under his arm, we just have to get along. I mean, he had Henry Morgan’s pirate treasure.”
Mick Jagger is now celebrating his 80th birthday, and Keith Richards will also be 80 this year. The fact that the whole world is outraged and texts like this appear everywhere is because this world with its baby boomers has aged as well as they have , the boomers, and equally struggling with age. Wasn’t the rock music of the Rolling Stones always something for young people? And what does that mean when the young people get older? Such open questions were also inscribed in the hymns at the time: “Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll! Deliver me from the days of old” (Chuck Berry), “Hope I die before I get old” (The Who), “Forever Young” (Bob Dylan), “Time Is On My Side” (The Rolling Stones).
However, it has also been the case for some time that the world is working on the age of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. In 1973, when they turned 30, it started. “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was a saying in the 1960s. Jagger and Richards are 50 years old and forever young at the same time. Actually, they were already there in 1961 at Dartford station, at the age of 17 and 18. Jagger was already talking about a band, Little Boy Blue & The Blue Boys. Their treasure, the blues records, had an age stamped on them, and the singers on them couldn’t be old enough. In 1962, the Rolling Stones, supervised by 34-year-old blues rocker Alexis Korner, performed together as a band for the first time in the Marquee, played blues, and Jagger sang as if he had spent his entire life lamenting his sorrows in the swamps in the southern states of America.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards could have aged comfortably with the classics by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson if their manager Andrew Loog Oldham hadn’t locked them up in the shared kitchen in 1964 to write songs. After some effort they came out with “The Last Time”. Time has always been an issue and a big word for The Rolling Stones, even if, as in “Time Is On My Side,” it was more about love and attracting young women. “Out of Time”, “Time Waits For No One” and the poor boy who had to play in a rock ‘n’ roll band in “Street Fighting Man”.
It was a paradox of the time, the 1960s, that the Rolling Stones were considered the band of rebellious youth, while the Beatles from Liverpool’s working-class milieu made more modern music and, after the early hysteria, were also liked by older people. Paul McCartney was already thinking about age at the age of 25 in “When I’m Sixty-Four”. After that he could grow older in peace and later, at 64, enjoy the triumph that his hair was still there and his music sounded as fresh as when he was young. Nobody would have shown him as a 64-year-old in a film like “Shine A Light” the aged Glimmertwins, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in his mid-sixties: Martin Scorsese drove his cameras through every crease and edited out youthful shots in which a girlish Jagger marveled in 1965 that the Rolling Stones were still there after three years: “I never thought that we would last even two years.”
In 1968, critic Nik Cohn wrote the legendary phrase: “As things stand, the Rolling Stones won’t last long. You must not grow old. They only exist for that one big bang, for this here and now – and then they will be gone.” As wrong as some say, who have quoted Nik Cohn for 55 years to show that he should have known better can, he wasn’t lying. As things stood at the time, Brian Jones, as the band’s star, was already their problem child, who celebrated his crash with general sympathy and finally, in the summer of 1969, lay dead in his pool. He was 27 like so many victims of their musical talents, early fame and unhealthy lifestyles.
Mick Jagger’s 80th birthday / It’s Only Rock’n’Roll
The “27 Club” isn’t just a myth: aging researchers have looked into it and found that, statistically, stars either die at 27 from their occupational diseases or work on themselves and break habits that are too harmful. Mick Jagger is the best example of this as a teetotaler for decades, a raw foodist and an early athlete. With his resilient constitution, which he claims is genetically inherited, Keith Richards represents the exception to the rule in Club 27 research.
In general, the last two survivors of the original Stones make an interesting couple. “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll” is the name of a “Simpsons” episode, the 293rd. Jagger and Richards appear as instructors at a summer camp for older, rock-socialized men. The dubbing voices are her own. Jagger: “Rock ‘n’ roll without a trial and STDs!” Richards: “We’re here to rock!” Jagger: “I’ve got tons of paperwork to do!” Richards: “You have to be in good physical shape! Jagger: We need to buy cheaper oatmeal!
Richards’ memoir “Life” 13 years ago was a single reckoning with Jagger, his grocer’s soul, his dance lessons, his salads, his water bottles and his insatiable need for admiration – and for being young even in old age: “I think it has what to do with being Mick Jagger, the way he had to deal with being Mick Jagger. He just can’t help but be Mick Jagger all the time.” But Keith Richards also knew that without the hard-working, ambitious, dancing-singing accountant, he couldn’t be the pirate with the guitar, the keeper of their treasure trove of ancient blues records.
As I said: It’s been about the Rolling Stones and their age for 50 years. While Richards was free to “age gracefully,” whatever that meant, because he’d just keep playing his blues when he was alone, tying a kerchief around his gray head and saying odd things, Jagger searched for the spirit of the Time, strutted through New York’s Studio 54 in the seventies and wanted to be like Michael Jackson in the eighties. In 1993 the “Spiegel” wrote about the first self-confessed senior rock band One Foot in the Grave, which was a small sensation at the time: “Even rock veteran Mick Jagger, 50, looks really fresh compared to drummer Gino Costas, 77, guitarist Bill Haislip, 68, or the white-bearded bassist Gavan Wiesner, 51. Only the face of front woman and singer Jo Dina has significantly fewer wrinkles than that of good old Mick, but Dina is also 53 years old and a proven grandmother.”
In 2003, when Jagger and Richards turned 60, the joke of the year was the start of the Stones’ tour in Munich’s Olympic Stadium, while the Olympic Hall next door presented Gunther von Hagen’s “Body Worlds”, artfully prepared corpses, presented like the living dead. In 2013, paleontologists in Egypt unearthed fossils of an extinct snout-snouted swamp pig, which they described as a skinny vegetarian with polygamous tendencies and named Jaggermeryx naida, a water nymph named Jagger. Two fossil arthropods, Aegrotocatellus jaggeri and Perirehaedulus richardsi, had already been described. Richards himself wrote his second book on the influence of his grandfather Augustus, Gus and I: “I thought it was time the grandfathers’ reputation and their possible usefulness became clear to improve. Grandfathers can be responsible for the beautiful things in life and do stupid things.”
Well, in 2023, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards will be 80 years old as grandfathers and rock greats. This is how times have changed over the decades. It’s not a Methuselah plot — as much as it amuses baby boomers when their teenage heroes are older than they are, or as much as it offends them because when they were younger they were promised something other than one born of rebellion conservative spirit. Older people were never as young as they are today. Only their faces look like 80.