In July, Mick Jagger celebrated his 80th birthday with a party at Chelsea nightclub. His musical partner Keith Richards, who turns 80 on December 18, did not attend, but sent Mick a message on Instagram: “Good luck again! “Call me – let me know how it goes. “

Now, as a long-time Rolling Stones watcher, I doubt that call ever happened.It seems to me that turning 80 is not a topic Mick likes to discuss, and the two have not been close for decades, except for physical contact for professional purposes – like last week, when they held a press conference to announce the upcoming release of Hackney Diamondtheir first album of new material in nearly 20 years.

In his autobiography, LifeKeith said that although they were no longer friends due to “too much wear and tear” (a very Stoney phrase, by the way), the two remained “the closest of brothers.” But Mick wasn’t so sure about that. “I actually have a brother. . . . It’s not like being with Keith at all.”

Two men drinking beer
Mick and Keith share a beer at the Let It Bleed event in Los Angeles in 1969 ©Robert Altman/Michael Oakes Archives/Getty Images

I observed this freezing feeling backstage at an open-air show the Stones played in Belgium in the mid-1990s. The Rolling Stones filed out of their marquee dressing room and headed to Portakabin for a “meet and greet” with some of the local dignitaries. On the way out and back the Stones chatted in every way possible, except Mick who didn’t talk to Keith.

When I shared this insight with an entourage member of the group, he was surprisingly candid: “Andrew,” he said, “you were probably very good friends in school with people you no longer see in person. Together. You just kind of drifted apart. Mick and Keith were like that, except of course they were both in the Rolling Stones.”

I became a connoisseur of photos of bands waving lazily, maybe arm in arm, but always with Ron, Charlie, or Bill interposed between the two main characters, and I began to think that their differences were so fundamental, To the point where everyone – or at least, every baby boomer male – seems to me to be either Mick or Keith.

Mick on “The Show” with Anita Pallenberg (left) © Keystone/Getty Images
Keith with Pallenberg, their sons Marlon and Mick at Heathrow Airport, 1970 © Helton Archives/Getty Images

The rivalry is said to have its roots in the production of the film Performance In 1968, when Mick’s sex scene with Keith’s lover Anita Pallenberg might have disappeared Exceed performances, and Mick’s time as a solo artist in the 1980s. Keith puts a brave face on the impressive sales of Mick’s debut solo album, she is the boss: “It’s just like my fight. Everyone has a copy, but no one listens to it. ”

Mick, he argued, “believed that the Stones were becoming obsolete”—and that was the fault line between the two: Although they were both on the arrowhead of modernity in the 1960s, only Mick was trying to stay there. He embodied the languid decadence of the 1970s (“That’s jet set shit,” Keith concluded), but in the hyperactive 1980s, he dressed like an aerobics instructor on stage, Keith, who looked like a corpse behind him, kept smoking.

Mick continued to exercise and keep up with music fashion. He hip-hopped the Rolling Stones into disco, while the work of his one-off supergroup SuperHeavy also contained elements of hip-hop. (Ron Wood, right this erasaid he had to convince Keith to let Mick put a dance track on the Stones’ new album: “I would say to Keith, ‘Come on, you’ve got to make him dance.'”)

Keith and Mick at a Rolling Stones show at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1981 © Clayton Carr/Redferns

Keith didn’t like hip-hop: “The beats were boring—it was all done on the computer.” He didn’t like computers, either. As he explained to the Durango Herald, “I’m not addicted to any high-tech internet at all.” He prefers to read in his library, which, judging from the photos, looks a lot like 221B Baker Street: velvet curtains , sofa, scattered papers, a glass bottle with a mysterious color liquid in the stopper, and an old Telecaster instead of a violin. In 1998, he fell from a library ladder and punctured his lung—an old-fashioned accident—but in 2006, he suffered the most serious accident a human can have: falling from a tree. After falling off, he needed brain surgery. .

In 2011, Ron Wood revealed that Keith still communicated via fax. “That’s why I rarely hear from him,” Ron continued, “because I don’t have a fax machine.” The preface to Keith’s Twitter (now X) account is “Keith doesn’t tweet, dig?” So he doesn’t even want us to do this think He is doing his own social media.In contrast, Mick Interviewed by The Washington Post They call it “Instagram obsession.” He posts in an effortlessly modern way, imagining himself in international scenic spots, using exclamation points to express happiness (“Relaxing in Italy after writing for a while!”), and generally acting like an exaggerated version of that Facebook friend , he seems to be doing better than you.

A man lies lazily on a chair in his library
Keith in his library, circa 1995 © Helton Archives/Getty Images

Keith published his autobiography and Mick never looked back. It’s like he thought time would stop if he did this, and time was always on Mick’s side. He revealed in a 2021 interview with NME that he was reluctant to even recall a time when he gave up trying to recall the past in order to write a book. “I think I started in the ’80s.” He returned the advance and did not enjoy “reliving my life to the detriment of my current life.”

The two represent the stark choice every senior faces in our technologically accelerating, morally uneasy age: to keep up, or not to keep up.My late father-in-law, theater producer Bill Friedman, asked me to see Straight Outta Compton When he was about 86, so he was a Mick. Donal Trump? Another Mick. (I was about to write Trump Immortal, but the tone of some smart ingénue who had never heard of him and was only exposed to his social media might suggest the author was about 15 years old.)

Singer and guitarist both sing into microphone
Mick and Keith rehearsing in Malmö, Sweden, 1970 ©Jan Persson/Redferns

David Bowie was Mick. Through his ruthless reincarnation, he made himself the kind of moving target Mick might have wished he had been had he not been tethered to Keith. In a sense, Madonna is constantly shifting images and styles, like a female Bowie, and we might think of her as a Mick, when reading the Financial Times’ take on Joyce Carol Oates During the interview, it suddenly dawned on me that she was a Mick, the 85-year-old who was “active on Twitter,” tweeting about hot topics like artificial intelligence and trigger warnings.

Lucian Freud, regardless of aesthetic fashion, is obviously Keith. Martin Amis? He’s been called “the Mick Jagger of literature,” but I think he’s more like Keith, so maybe he’s fascinated by that obscure name as a novelist. Like Keith, Amis flew Arrows for a while but didn’t come to despise rearview mirrors. “I’d rather watch a movie I’ve seen four or five times than watch something new,” he told me. vanity fair. Like Keith, he persevered until an inadvisable late stage and succumbed to the march of time. He describes the feeling that comes at age 60 as “it’s not going to turn out well,” echoing Keith’s growling response when asked how he knows when to stop performing: “I’ll find out.” The hard way. way.

Andrew Martin’s latest book is “metropolis:Ode to the Paris Metro

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