We've been living in Keith times for a while. It’s odd to consider just how unfashionable it has become to appreciate Mick Jagger over the past couple decades, though it’s not hard to see why. The rising consciousness of just how fucked so much of the Stones’s racial and sexual posturing was, and the untrammelled ageism of the culture and its commentators (plus the whole thing of lead singers in general)—has initiated a hostile environment for the man who once told People Magazine, “I’d rather be dead than sing Satisfaction when I’m 45.” He was 32 when he said that. Today, he turns 73, and he's still singing it. To celebrate this achievement, I’ve embedded a very small sample of the case for remembering that Mick, despite his many absurdities (and because of at least a few of them), is unimpeachably and unstoppably great.
“I Got the Blues” (live at Marquee Club, 1971): The most underrated song on their best album also offers a rare glimpse/performance of vulnerability in a Jagger vocal.
“Loving Cup” (live rehearsal take 1972): This song really belongs to Nicky Hopkins and Charlie Watts (enough that you can easily pretend you didn’t hear the scrawniest of scrawny white Brit rock gods sing “I’m the ploughman in the valley with a face full of mud”). Hard to feature. But when Mick bursts out on that chorus, it could not possibly matter less. When aliens are sifting through the rubble of our civilization and ask the robots what rock’n’roll was, I hope this is on the playlist.
“Miss You”: whasamattawitchyouBOY? Funny to think this 1978 diamond was once considered late Stones. You can basically smell the coke sweat under Mick’s collar as the song’s creepy seduction reveals the shape of his soul.
“Cocksucker Blues”: The greatest contractual obligation fuck you of all time, AND a beautiful reminder of Jagger’s eagerness to take his trespass all the way up his own ass. With a policeman's truncheon.
“Ruby Tuesday”: The Stones are maybe the least feelings of any truly great band, but this song makes some people cry every time I—OR RATHER THEY—hear it.
“Gimme Shelter”: Impossibly sinister, impossibly powerful, obviously thanks to Merry Clayton’s heart-stopping backing vocal. Backing vocal has never been a less apt term—without her the song is unfinished. But despite the undeniable force of her talent, Jagger’s reaching, grasping, desperate, yelling, howl of a lead vocal (never more apt) is every bit as necessary, every bit as dazzling, every bit as unique.
“Monkey Man”: Ultimate Mick. End of. The best scream, best lyrics .
"19th Nervous Breakdown" (Live on Australian TV, 1966: Um, like, duh. "Nothing I do don't seem to work."
“Some Girls”: A properly sordid groove, a totally vile lyric, and yet, “American girls want everything in the world you can POSSIBLY IMAGINE” is funny in a way very little post-Exile/pre-corporate Stones was. Plus, in burlesquing the Beach Boys and bragging all the way to the divorce court, this one almost sounds honest, too.
“Street Fighting Man”: Of many contenders, this one best explains why he started dancing like that. (And makes you understand why anyone would want to sing for a rockroll band until they were 73. And beyond.)
Performance: Though there are MANY reasons to love Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s psycho-psychedelic intersection of British gangster films, acid rock, and fake-ass mysticism (and FFM three-ways) the main one for our purposes is that it preserves Mick Jagger at the height of his Satanic majesty.
Bedroom troika. Anita Pallenberg waking him up by licking his backlit lips: 2:15-5:09
Bathtub troika: 5:55-7:08
“It’s not for rent”: 4:45-9:17
“Me and The Devil Blues”: Of Mick Jagger’s MANY blues affectations, this supremely spare rendition of Robert Johnson is one of the more affectionate.