Rock’n’roll’s ultimate lead singer takes his rightful place in the SydArthur Festival as the High Magician who dealt directly in duende. Duende: the arcane, elusive spirit-muse of evocation, that “mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain,” as Federico García Lorca would have it. The artist possesses it, but – perhaps even more so – he is possessed by it. Mick Jagger summoned it, battled with it, merged with it and, as a consequence, re-paganised the West. This strutting, sashaying, seductive, provocative, confrontational, vulgar and slightly diabolical femmie peacock stirred in a public just barely getting used to the be-suited and hand-holding Beatles something heathen, visceral and ecstatic. His wanton movements, his subversive subject matter, and the boundary-pushing way he dared to look – this was the deliberate self-creation of nothing less than a Sexual Revolutionary. What could have been more terrifying to the older generation than this big-lipped girlie-looking man demanding Satisfaction? We can in no way underestimate the effect of Jagger’s one-man revolution – for the fire that he started was downright Promethean.
Let’s put Mick Jagger in his mythological place. Like Odin’s requests for knowledge in the tomb of the Grandma, Jagger went directly to the Ur-source for his own sacred information: he demanded of Tina Turner that she teach him to dance like a black woman. Everyone laughed, but still he persisted until it was mastered. And this ritualistic dance would become his incantation – Jagger the incubus, the conjurer, casting his intimate spell over arena-sized audiences. He was the first white rock’n’roller to invoke the Devil as a muse: urged on by his Fates Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg, Mick Jagger became the whirling dervish aiming to incite a frenzy. This is duende in it its purest form.
Pay no mind to what a twat he is nowadays. Who in their right mind looks to rock’n’rollers for nice heroes? And who can expect to drink from the cup of life without spilling a drop? Mick Jagger is verily a figure worth reclaiming. This Sacred Kleptomaniac culled from black people, women and gays. He looked to the underdogs of society, demanded to legitimise them and made them worthy of admiration and imitation. He was righteous enough to see it, and canny and transgressive enough to do it.
Day 20 of this SydArthur Festival, let’s celebrate Mick Jagger’s birthday with the Rolling Stones greatest unreleased single of all time: ‘Cocksucker Blues’. Who knows what the crusty executives at Decca Records made of this offering. Sounding as though it was recorded on the same portable machine that captured Robert Johnson, provincial schoolboy Jagger walks us through the seamiest side of the London underworld offering all of his nether regions to anyone who will put a roof over his head for the night. Bellowing like a horny bull walrus and accompanied by the most diminutive Keef acoustic of all time, this is the Mick the world will remember.