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Mick Jagger’s 80 Wildest, Coolest, Most Outrageous Moments

Happy 80th birthday to a man of wealth and taste

Mick Jagger


WHEN ASKED TO describe Mick Jagger, Keith Richards famously replied, “He’s a nice bunch of guys.” On this birthday, let’s celebrate all of them. There have been so many Mick Jaggers over the years, with their different highs and lows. Here’s a salute to the 80 Coolest Mick Jagger moments: a mere 80 of the countless moments when Mick reminded us all why he’s the ultimate rock star. He’s always been the most visible of rock stars — but also the most mysterious, the most slippery, the one you’ll never figure out no matter how hard you try. This is Mick at his most seductive. Mick at his most decadent. Mick at his most comical. But it’s all Mick defining the outer limits of rock & roll cool. Let it bleed, now and forever.


Mick redefines pants in ‘Rock and Roll Circus’

A fashion peak for Mick, which for him means it’s also a philosophical peak. He’s the ringmaster of the Stones’ lavish concert movie Rock and Roll Circus. Sadly, the film gets buried, because they get cold feet when they see how great the Who are that night. But Mick has never made a prettier peacock, rocking his purple trousers off as he sings “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” In his skintight red shirt and leather belt, he’s the queen of the underground.


Mick stars in ‘Cocksucker Blues,’ the Stones film they didn’t want you to see

He brings filmmaker Robert Frank along to chronicle the Stones’ 1972 American tour, named after the obscene song they recorded as a final insult to their record label. “It was my idea to make that movie,” Mick says. But when the Stones get a look at the documentary, with its sordid on-the-road sex and drugs, they decide it’s too unflattering to show people — not to mention too legally dangerous. Cocksucker Blues has been a bootleg rarity ever since.


Mick redefines doom in ‘Gimme Shelter’

“That’s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It’s apocalypse; the whole record’s like that,” Jagger tells Rolling Stone’s Jann S. Wenner. “It’s a very rough, very violent era. The Vietnam War. Violence on the screens. Pillage and burning.” But somehow, the song feels even more terrifying today.


Live Aid with Tina Turner

Mick plays the historic global-TV charity concert with Tina Turner, doing a steamy duet on “State of Shock” and “It’s Only Rock & Roll.” Mick shows that he’s deeply touched by this momentous occasion by removing her leather skirt.


Mick redefines class warfare in ‘Back Street Girl’

A scathing portrait of male vanity — always Mick’s  specialty, and always his favorite target for his mean streak. A gorgeous accordion waltz about a hypocritical upper-class snob and his secret working-class mistress, as he talks down to her: “Please take the favors I grant/Curtsy and act nonchalant.”


Mick vs. the Soviet Union

Mick is such a symbol of Western decadence, he creates an international crisis without even trying. In August 1983, at the peak of Cold War paranoia, a 16-year-old Russian kid — the son of a Soviet diplomat — tries to defect to the U.S. because he wants to be like the Stones. It doesn’t work, but as he’s boarding the plane back to Moscow, his parting words to reporters: “Say hi to Mick Jagger.”


‘Memo From Turner’

The climax of one of the darkest, scariest of all rock films: Performance. Mick stars as a demonic reclusive rock star named Turner, hiding out in his London mansion in a decadent menage a trois with Anita Pallenberg and Michele Breton. As he warns, “The only performance that makes it, that really makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness.” The tension explodes when Mick howls this blues curse, “Memo from Turner,” with blues guitar from Ry Cooder. The song ended up in an equally druggy movie years later — it’s part of Ray Liotta’s coke-sweat freakout at the end of Goodfellas.


Mick wears wizard hat on the cover of ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’

It was worth a try. The Stones tried to go psychedelic in this zany Sgt. Pepper’s omelette, which they quickly disavowed. But Satanic Majesties has always been one of their most underrated records, simply because it’s one of their most Mick records. He absolutely kills it in the dystopian sci-fi blues of “The Lantern,” “Citadel,” and “2000 Man,” a totally accurate prediction of our modern world’s doom-scrolling bait-clicking phone addiction.


Mick Jagger to John Mulaney: “Not funnnaaaaayy!”

In his comedy special Kid Gorgeous, Mulaney gives a hilarious description of his week of agony when Mick hosted SNL, shooting down his ideas for jokes. “Never to your face does a British billionaire in leather pants go ‘not funnaaaaay!’” When the two write a song together for a sketch, Mulaney has to ask, “Motherfucker, is this how you write songs? Just one word at a time, with verbal abuse?”


Mick achieves cinema realness in the ‘Faraway Eyes’ video

Yes, the Stones do a video for this absolutely insane country-gospel spoof, with Mick sitting at the piano and batting his eyes like the most wholesome preacher in Bakersfield. Everybody in the band looks like they’re dead asleep while standing up, except for that suspiciously perky Mick. Maybe, just maybe, drugs are involved.


Mick checks into the ‘Memory Motel’

This bittersweet Black and Blue soul jam has to be the best song ever written about a Rolling Stone photographer. It’s allegedly inspired by the great Annie Leibovitz, a friend of the band who took so many of their most iconic portraits. Ever the soul of discretion, all Mick would explain is that “the girl in ‘Memory Motel’ is a real independent American girl.”


Mick marries Bianca in the all-time most chaotic rock-star wedding

A tiny French village in St. Tropez gets invaded by a horde of jet-set rock & roll maniacs. Mick asks Keith to be his best man, showing a touchingly optimistic faith in human nature. Needless to say, Keith passes out and snores through the reception. Mick’s long-suffering dad tells the press, “I hope my other son doesn’t become a superstar.”


Mick plays Keith on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Mick has brought down the house at 30 Rock so many times: belting “Shattered” in 1978, seeing Jimmy Fallon in the mirror in 2001, karaokeing “Moves Like Jagger” in 2012. But his greatest SNL hit has to be this Weekend Update appearance, with Mike Myers playing Mick and Mick all pirated up to play a zonked-out Keith. It’s a Point/Counterpoint debate on controversial rap lyrics, Ice-T, and censorship. Mick-as-Keith just mumbles incomprehensibly, behind his shades, headband, and cigarette. His best punchline: “Mick, you ignorant slut.”


Cops raid the studio while the Stones are recording ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’

Halfway through this tune, you hear a breakdown full of clicking sticks. Why? Because the police just barged into the studio. While the Stones hastily hid their substances, producer Andrew Loog Oldham had to distract the law. “The cops had come in — they were actually in the fuckin’ studio,” he told Rolling Stone in 1987. “And I had to dash out and go, ‘Hey — you’re exactly what we want, man! Could you please get your truncheons out? And I had ‘em standin’ there, bangin’ their truncheons together, while somebody removed the stash from the control room.” Artistic inspiration can come from anywhere.


Mick redefines loneliness in ‘2000 Light Years From Home’

Everybody wanted to do shiny, happy drug songs in 1967, greeting the new mind-expanding dawn. But it took Mick to go all the way down, where a psychedelic trip is just another way to feel total cosmic isolation. Inner space, man.


Mick redefines pretty-pretty-pretty-pretty girls in ‘Beast of Burden’

A soulful guitar ballad about adult heartache. But the money moment is when Mick licks his lips and slips into his falsetto reverie about “pretty-pretty-pretty-pretty girrrrrls.” It’s like he can’t wait for the chance to transform himself into the prettiest girl of them all. (Pretty-pretty! Such a pretty!) It inspired one of the all-time best Stones covers, from the punk band Wild Flag, with the dueling guitars and falsettos of Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and Helium’s Mary Timony.


Mick grows a beard

Just trying out his short-lived “hip poetry professor just divorced and seeing what’s out there” look.


Mick shaves beard

He never tries that shit again.