The list of the band’s conquests is long and filled with controversy and betrayal. Can we ever see these lotharios in the same light after #MeToo?
Rock’s riotous escapades of yore are largely lost on the high seas. Many secrets went down with the ship. Its purveyors, who still look the part from the cheap seats but who are reduced to gnarled warlocks point-blank, have had quite a voyage. It’s not yet all over for the satisfied septuagenarians, but it is getting there. Did they get away with it? Much of it. Few ever got away with more than the Rolling Stones.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were a match made in heaven with agendas that would always collide. While ‘Keef’ was content to ride bareback the deadly nags named drugs and rock’n’roll that almost extinguished him with fearful regularity, it was Jagger who was possessed by the demon lust. His hitlist runs into high four figures, and that is a conservative count. I had to reduce it to celebrity names only in my new book, The Stone Age.
For 60 years he has led a rootless lifestyle long admired as the macho ideal. Few, given half the chance, would have declined what he was having. Thus is Jagger, despite his great age (almost 79), the flabby mouth, the scrawny, dislocated-looking frame and howling yowl, rendered the most unlikely Adonis, the ultimate specimen adored by millions worldwide. Still, for me, he will never be as fascinating as the females who fell for him, as well as those who became involved with the rest of the band.
The stories of Stones women are significant because of what they reveal about the men. Hearing that Mick took ladies (and sometimes gents) wherever he fancied, chewing them up, spitting them out and slithering along to the next conquest, we can recognise a pattern of behaviour from which he would never veer. He treated outgoing partners heartlessly and was serially unfaithful. Take, masticate and expectorate he surely did, on a grotesque scale, ever confident of the queue outside the next dressing room in the next town in the next country on the continent beyond.
The ‘official’ relationships are well-documented: his first love Chrissie, an early Stones groupie and sister of celebrated model Jean Shrimpton; his on-off romance with posh convent girl turned songstress Marianne Faithfull; his covert dalliance with Philadelphia-born actress and singer Marsha Hunt, mother of his firstborn, Karis; his doomed marriage to Nicaraguan beauty Bianca, mother of his daughter, Jade; his long relationship with Texan model Jerry Hall that turned out, despite a lush Balinese ceremony and the births of Lizzy, James, Georgia May and Gabriel, their four offspring, to be not a legally binding second marriage after all; his affair with Brazilian Luciana Gimenez Morad that concluded with the birth of his third son and seventh child, Lucas; his entanglement with former model turned fashionista L’Wren Scott, cut dead by her 2014 suicide after he had already met American ballerina Melanie Hamrick, 44 years his junior and mother of his eighth-born, Deveraux.
All these, for Jagger, were never the point. They served only as the backdrop to his lothario lifestyle. His womanising broke the women who loved him. A victim of his own rapaciousness, he was driven to pursue what he couldn’t have — a monarch’s sibling, a head of state, the spouse of a pal, a fellow musician’s daughter, his best friend’s girl — until he got her. Once desire was satiated, he craved no longer, and resumed sniffing elsewhere.
What was in it for the women? Little more than good old-fashioned reflected glory. All were bewitched by his wealth, fame and power. It worked not only on the groupies and the party girls. Not only on the models, the actresses, the television personalities and the porn stars he favoured. Not only on the Americans and South Americans for whom he evidently has a soft spot. Mick pulled birds of every nationality, profession and walk of life. He seduced socialites, aristocrats, political wives. He bedded publishers, editors, photographers and journalists, as if to pay the media back.
What about the workers, nannies, cooks and housekeepers who found their way with ease under his duvet? Did they all delude themselves that they would earn the Jagger heart? Or were they simply curious to know what it would be like to go to bed with the world’s most exaggerated, most mythological sex symbol? Would it be something to tell the grandkids?
That looming 60th anniversary of the Stones’ first gig, at the Marquee Jazz Club on London’s Oxford Street on July 12, 1962, was my prompt to revisit the band’s history. I wanted to re-examine their legacy in light of #MeToo and Time’s Up. These global movements, conceived by wronged women of Hollywood, have since inevitably spilled into the music industry.
Groupies have begun to question whether their teenage selves had any say in their sex lives, or whether they were abused. Pamela Des Barres, who bed-hopped with Jagger, Jimmy Page, Jim Morrison and more, and singer Dana Gillespie, seduced by Bowie in her early teens, insist that they were empowered by their rockers, not taken advantage of. But baby-groupie Lori Mattix, who said she was deflowered by Bowie at 14 and had toxic affairs with Page and Jagger, now rues those days. She would not, she laments, “want this for anybody’s daughter”. We have come a long way since rock’s rapturous, carefree days, when females were disposable and good only for one thing. Haven’t we?
As a biographer, I have studied rock stars more minutely and at greater length than most. While each of them is unique, there have some common characteristics. Superior, entitled, over-confident and all too willing to exploit others for personal gain, the primary problem for many is an overactive libido. Functioning in an arena in which carnality is currency, they consume whom they want and dispose of them like burger boxes. At least, they used to. The 1960s, 70s, even the 80s and 90s to a diluted extent, relied on a code of “what happens on the road stays on the road”, and on the routine turning of blind eyes. Fierce spotlights glare into every nook and cranny nowadays. Social media is ubiquitous and inescapable. There can be no more getting away with anything.
Where does that leave the so-called “greatest rock’n’roll band in the world”? Back on the beat, against the clock, on a European tour of gargantuan proportions that some insiders are claiming will be the last time. It follows their recent rearranged US dates, undertaken without Charlie Watts on the kit. The sad death at 80 of their lifelong drummer in August last year drew the curtain on one of rock’s most enduring marriages. Charlie had been with Shirley Ann since 1964. She and their only child, daughter Seraphina, were more than enough for him. When the faithful thumper, the cleanest-living and least pop-idol of the Stones, fell off the rails for a few years in 1983 and became a heroin addict, it was the heart-stopping fear of losing his wife that got him clean.
Charlie was not the first of the original Stones to die. That dubious honour went to founding father Brian Jones, the baby-faced blues purist, priapic prodigy and most musical Stone, who fathered at least five children by different girlfriends; who had a fling with Mick’s Marianne; and who was the first in the band to fall in love with Anita Pallenberg.
Not only did the sophisticated Italian-born German/Swiss/Swedish actress have a profound influence on the Stones, styling, beguiling and transforming those raw, raucous tykes into rock stars; she also became emotionally and sexually involved with the three key members. The first was Brian, who took her to bed (or did she take him?) after a Stones gig in Munich in 1965. He lost her to Keith on a jaunt to Morocco two years later. Anita and Keith remained an item for the next dozen years. Brian never recovered from the betrayal. He lost himself to drug addiction and drowned in his Sussex swimming pool, aged 27, in July 1969.
Anita, now the mother of Keith’s son Marlon, soon grew bored of idle life as a rocker’s muse. She fell in with a dubious crowd, immersed herself in witchcraft, cast spells on perceived undesirables and sought to reignite her movie career. She started using heroin while filming the notorious flick Performance with Jagger, devastating Keith. She probably did have sex with Mick during the shoot, an allegation she always denied. Keith, seething with jealousy, took to sitting in his car outside the London film location, tormenting himself with what he guessed was happening within.
Keith and Anita remained together through the death-defying Exile on Main St years in the south of France, their heroin addiction, the touch-and-go birth of their daughter Angela, and the death of their newborn son Tara while the Stones were on the road.
Things exploded after the family relocated to South Salem, New York State. In 1979, while Keith was off partying with Swiss model Lil Wergilis, Anita sat suffocating on Marlon’s school runs and homework timetables. She staved off boredom by taking a teenage lover, groundsman Scott Cantrell. He shot himself dead with Keith’s gun in her bed. Keith might have bailed her out, but it concluded their love affair. Four years later, on his 40th birthday, he married American model Patti Hansen, future mother of his two daughters.
It couldn’t get worse, but it did. In February 1984, the band’s bassist Bill Wyman, a divorced father-of-one son fresh out of a long relationship with Swedish model Astrid Lundström — “I had more girls than all of them put together; three in a night, some nights” — met 13-year-old schoolgirl Mandy Smith at a London pop awards ceremony. I was there, and I watched the drama unfold. I was subsequently drawn, unwittingly, into a mixed-age circle gathered by Bill to conceal their forbidden relationship. Why didn’t we tell? We genuinely had no idea how young she was.
The 52-year-old Bill married 18-year-old Mandy in London in June 1989. They separated two years later and were divorced in 1993. Mandy co-wrote a book about their outrageous relationship. She also revealed that they first slept together when she was just 14. Neither she nor any of her family filed a formal complaint.
The scandal cast a long shadow. In 1991, Bill withdrew without fanfare from the line-up. The Stones reluctantly announced his departure only two years later — the year he married Suzanne Accosta, the Californian former model who would give him three daughters.
As for Ronnie Wood, the happy-go-lucky former Faces and Jeff Beck Group guitarist who replaced Brian Jones’s replacement Mick Taylor in 1975, he fell spectacularly off the wagon in the early 2000s. He dumped his long-serving second wife Jo, mother of two of his kids, for twentysomething Kazakh waitress Ekaterina Ivanova. She kissed and told. Soon afterwards, he went with theatre producer Sally Humphreys, 31 years his junior. Their twin daughters, his fifth and sixth children, were born in 2016, shortly before his 69th birthday.
The female casualties of the Stone Age are their own Greek chorus. Though many of their names have been eroded by time, their legend lives. There can be no cancellation of them. No negation of the negligence they suffered. No resurrection for the abused, the abandoned, the addicted, the miscarried, the tragically deceased. They are proof, living and dead, of who the band really were. These women are as much a part of the Rolling Stones story as they are.
‘The Stone Age: Sixty Years of the Rolling Stones’ by Lesley-Ann Jones will be published by John Blake/Bonnier Books on June 9