A million mornings ago I was dressing the window of the children’s clothing store on South Molton Street, London, where I used to work or, rather, I used to draw a paycheck from while waiting to move on to bigger and better things. Namely, a job in the music industry.It was 9 in the morning and the store was still closed, the pedestrian enclave still quiet and I was going about my business of displaying tiny clothes on tiny mannequins when I noticed someone stopping in front of the window. I looked up and stared into Mick Jagger’s familiar features. He smiled, probably amused at the frozen disbelief painted on my young face and then walked merrily on.
It turned out to be a good omen. After sending dozens of resumes to record and management companies, recording studios and sundries, resumes painstakingly written by hand in the stockroom of same store during my lunch hour and packing them with what I was hoping were credible lies, one of the majors hired me and I left South Molton Street for the even posher Berkeley Square.
In the 15 years of my record industry career, I never came face to face with MiCk Jagger or any of the Stones again, although, between my then flatmate at the time and still best friend, we were witnesses to so many rock stars’ peccadilloes, indiscretions and funny stories to fill a book we will never write. Sometimes, such anecdotes make good dinner parties’ conversation but, by and large, since leaving the biz I have taken an active disinterest in all things music. At the beginning, it was a desire to detox and leave it all behind, then it became a habit. I will have the radio on while driving and, at times, a voice, a melody, a sound that is not reminiscent of millions already heard before will catch my imagination and I will research it, buy it and play it (strictly on cd – I confess to living a life without iPod) for weeks on end and let it go. I rarely go to concerts after having being spoiled for years with the coveted “All Access Pass” – the need to feel the energy of the crowd left me a long time ago.
It feels like the beleaguered music industry has moved on without me. Lady Gaga would have to show me proof of identification in order for me to recognize her, that is how bad I have gotten. But last Sunday night I turned the tv on to watch a dvd (I also have to confess to not watching tv beyond Larry David and Top Chef..I know, I know…) and I spotted The 25th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Anniversary Concert on HBO. A vaguely familiar song caught my attention and when I focused my gaze, I spotted Bono and Mick Jagger on stage, doing an awkward rendition of “Gimme Shelter”. I will restrain myself from commenting on Mick Jagger’s age – let’s just say he is old. Despite the tight hugging pants on the still youthful looking hips and the jerky moves he has been practicing for 40 years, there is no hiding the old, listless hair (have you noticed how hair’s texture changes with age??) still coiffed in a 60’s do and the not so taut skin on the famous cheekbones. But let’s forget the ungrateful signs of the time that happen to everyone’s face and that should be worn as a badge of honor (and, to his credit, he doesn’t seem to have recurred to Botox or plastic surgery); what made the performance awkward and, yes, old, was Mick’s voice, a pale shadow of his original timber, against Bono’s still clear and jagged notes. It was positively unpleasant to listen to and “cringeworthy”.
Oh, so many have wondered why the Stones keep on touring and I always thought, why not? if millions of people are still eager to pay the outrageous ticket prices and if the band still has the stamina and the eagerness to put themselves out there. It just can’t be for the money. What I saw on my small screen made me think that being on stage must be akin to an addiction or, maybe, Mick Jagger is just like me – still a little boy trapped inside a body he doesn’t recognize or see. And no one around to tell him otherwise.
All in all, I am glad I happened upon this collection of old timers – no, it’s not the memories it brought back but it was the sight of Bruce Springsteen(God almighty, does he look good) and Tom Morello, playing together, on a number that left me breathless. It might be time to dig up that Rage Against the Machine cd again.