BY ELIZABETH BARKER
Today is Mick Jagger's 75th birthday. Four years ago Jen May made that art up top for a little storybook I wrote called I Wanna Be Your Man. It was partly about Mick being royalty, about the impenetrable grace of Mick, and in the middle there's this paragraph:
One thing I admire about Mick Jagger is he probably never gets all red-faced and ugly in reaction to someone else's bad behavior. He's cool, calm, collected; he maintains his porcelain complexion and probably can barely be bothered to roll his eyes. If someone does him wrong, he just makes some witheringly funny comment and laughs his big, regal, evil, Mick Jagger-y laugh, and then dashes off a lyric that's bitchy as hell but also kind of lazy. Jonathan Richman writes "Put down the cigarette, and act like a true girl," and when he sings it he shouts it, and he's sort of kidding but sort of not. But Mick Jagger doesn't have time to tell you how to act. You either act right or you don't, and Mick is too busy buying islands or whatever to help those who can't help themselves. It's something to aspire to.
I still agree with 89 percent of that, but today I don't care as much about Mick and meanness: sweetness and Mick seems much more essential to me. One of my favorite qualities in a person is a pure and abiding generosity toward Mick - I love it when people just love him without making some big show of how they find Mick embarrassing, how they're personally offended and deeply put-upon by the ridiculousness of Mick Jagger. I mean - he is embarrassing, sometimes. But he also wrote "Moonlight Mile." And "Sweet Virginia," and "Jigsaw Puzzle" and "Get Off of My Cloud," and at least three dozen other songs that might have a magnanimous effect on your heart. He made Take it easy, babe the last line of "Under My Thumb," and wrote "You Can't Always Get What You Want" in such a way that the movie that plays in my head when I hear it has stayed the same since I was five-years-old, and I still feel too young to watch it. Everything always feels wild and tragic in the most dreamy and thrilling way, whenever "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is in the air. It just gives you this unending wonder.
And Mick wrote "Let It Bleed," which might be the song I always need most? The way it cracks you open and loosens your limbs, pours a warm light into you and makes you sigh the grandest of sighs - to me that means more about love than any other song that's ever been written. If you could sustain the "Let It Bleed" state of mind you'd always be your most generous and unguarded self, totally free of all self-imposed bullshit and rules. And it's the most beautiful balance of dirty and sweet, it's filthy but it's elegant, with that line about the jasmine tea. Sometimes I worry the world's getting less "Let It Bleed"-y by the second, way too clean but also so cold. I don't know what to do about that besides throw your phone in the ocean and start spending all your days lazing about on sumptuous carpets beneath crystal chandeliers, or drinking champagne from the bottle in a magnificent bathtub with the finest of bath oils made of Moroccan rose otto, your eyemakeup perfectly intact. But I can't do that, and I'm guessing you probably can't either. I have no idea what you're supposed to do instead except just listen to "Let It Bleed" whenever you need it, and hopefully it'll never stop working on you.
So in honor of feeling like "Let It Bleed" forever, here are my 75 favorite Mick pictures, with a little commentary here and there.
MICK & KEITH:
It's probably true that Mick loves Keith more than Keith loves Mick, right? Or maybe that's just some tragic romance I made up in my head. But I love this picture of Keith sleeping and Mick watching over him, knowing he's loved less and being all right with that. Another cool form of Mick generosity.
This is a still from one of my favorite Rolling Stones things to watch on the internet, a press conference they did in 1973. It might be my favorite version of Mick, such a perfect harmony of elegant and goofball. I'm especially passionate about the gesture he makes when saying the word "gesture," here.
MICK & CHARLIE:
MICK & RONNIE:
MICK & PAUL:
(I love the way they look at each other. This little photo series is a solid representation of the three key varieties of the Mick/Paul gaze. "Get a man who looks at you the way" blah blah blah blah blah blah)
MICK & DAVID BOWIE:
MICK & JADE:
MICK WITH SWEETS:
MICK IN NATURE:
This pic is especially important to me because it was taken near my hometown, during the three weeks or something in 1981 when the Rolling Stones lived on a farm in Massachusetts. For a while I was writing a story about some kids driving out to the farm to try to get a look at Mick and Keith, climbing up trees and then hiding in them all night long. At one point someone tells them something about seeing Mick out jogging, and the main dude of my story says, "Who the fuck goes jogging?" He's absolutely one of those generous-about-Mick types, but sometimes he fronts like he's hateful.
MICK BY THE SEA:
MICK & JERRY:
(I have this shirt! I wore it when I met Marc Maron and Marc Maron was soooooo excited.)
(I too find Marianne Faithfull boring! One of my favorite Eve Babitz disses is the part in Eve's Hollywood where she trash-talks Marianne Faithfull by saying "She's the kind of girl who is always carrying books about witchcraft, only they're new." BOOM.)
MICK IN GREEN:
MICK IN A MICK WIG:
AND ALL THE OTHER BEAUTIFUL AND/OR TERRIBLE MICKS IN THE WORLD:
And I love this one best cuz he just looks like some boy. His face is open and his hair is happening in a way where you feel like he's about it to push it from his eyes, clear his throat, tell you a little story that will make you love him more. He looks like one of the boys I make up stories about because of romantic notions that Mick Jagger's put in my head - like this story about a guy lighting a cigarette off a Christmas tree on fire in the middle of a field covered in the cruddiest snow, on some depressing Saturday in January when nothing good is happening at all. I really don't know where I'd be without all my Mick Jagger-y notions like that <3