Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Own Private Mick Jagger





The first time I saw Mike playing his guitar and singing on stage in a little dive bar off Hollywood Boulevard, I knew I’d found my very own rock star. That he was a dead ringer for Mick Jagger, a mere coincidence, I told myself.
I felt like the giddy teenagers I had seen in old footage of the Rolling Stones’ performances decades earlier. The music is barely perceptible behind the shrieks of screaming fans in the audience, and it’s only a matter of minutes before they leap on the stage to tackle and pull at Mick or Keith or Brian’s clothing and hair. Whether the Stones were on stage or being chased down the street, everyone wanted a piece of England’s newest export. Teenaged boys were driven to riot; young women went into hysterics. In the documentary Crossfire Hurricane, Bill Wyman recounts “rivers of urine” running down the aisles as the girls in the audience wetted themselves.
 I've been a Stones devotee for a long time and am happy to report I’ve kept my bladder under control at most of their concerts. I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t come clean about one thing. As a diehard fan, I’ve made more decisions based on my love for the Stones than might seem normal to the casual listener.
Take my novel for instance. I first got the idea for Satisfaction when I was buying tickets for a Stones concert in Las Vegas. While on the Ticketmaster website, I wondered, what if I clicked the “Purchase” button for every single city and went on the road with the Rolling Stones? The idea sat for a while until I finally completed a draft a few years later. In Ginny Martin's story, I found my answer to just who might act on the impulse to follow the Stones on tour, and writing Satisfaction allowed me to explore all the unexpected consequences of such an action.
Of course my love for the Stones began much earlier. When I was twelve years old, I fell in love with Mick Jagger. I celebrated my new boyfriend, hung posters of the Stones on my walls and bragged that my rock star was hotter than everybody else’s. It would follow then that in my early twenties. I fell for a guy who looked exactly like Mick Jagger and who also happened to be the lead singer in his own band.
It was a fluke that I met Mike on that particular night because I hadn’t even wanted to go out in the first place. My friend and her new boyfriend were going to see a band play in Hollywood, and they invited me to tag along. I didn’t want to be the third wheel. Luckily I agreed to go because when Mike stepped on stage, his brown hair feathering like Jagger’s, his full lips pressed to the microphone, I knew I had discovered my destiny.
In a matter of weeks, Mike and I started dating. We were an unlikely pair – a college girl from the valley and a long-haired Hollywood transplant from Michigan. My parents, knowing my love for the Stones and Mick Jagger, hoped it was a phase I’d outgrow when I graduated. Mike and his band played several nights a week. I became their number one fan, memorizing the lyrics to all their songs, rushing through my homework so I could spend my nights hitting the clubs in Hollywood.
I was initially attracted to Mike because he played guitar and sang and looked like Mick. I fell in love with him for the artistic dreamer I found out he was. Moving from his little town in Michigan, Mike packed his rundown orange pickup truck with a few guitars and amplifiers and crossed the country with dreams of making it big in Hollywood. He had no job, no place to live and almost no money, but he was willing to see if he could land a record contract with his new band. He wasn't like anybody I’d ever known. Most of the guys I dated still lived with their parents.
Like many wannabes before him, Mike found a job in the mailroom at a big-label record company. He was working there when we met, and we eventually moved in together. From Hollywood, I made the longer commute to college while Mike walked to work. A minor sacrifice on my part for a budding rock star.
Mike’s musical taste was eclectic, but he knew nothing about the Stones. It was only a matter of time before I introduced him to their extensive catalog. I’d like to believe he grew a genuine appreciation for them. When I offered Mike my Rolling Stones songbook, I had no intention of further projecting my fantasies on to him. But when he played one of my favorites, "No Expectations," plucking the song note for note, precise in his execution, I couldn’t help but swoon.
Mostly Mike wrote and recorded original songs. Always beautiful and sensual, he was a gifted guitar player and songwriter. We only spent a few years together, but on every holiday, I asked him for one gift: a song for me. It never came.
I taught Mike about the Rolling Stones, and he showed me what a real artist looked like. After what had to be a dream-killing day of delivering packages to music executives, Mike would come home, barely registering my presence before heading straight for his guitar. I'd never seen somebody communicate with an inanimate object before. I'd catch him smiling and even laughing to himself as he hit just the right note. The two were engaged in their own private dialogue. Often, I was just a bystander, witnessing a love affair I'd never be a part of. When our relationship started to dissolve, I didn't know how to tell Mike I was unhappy, and I think Mike didn't know how to talk to anyone but his guitar.
After I graduated from college, Mike wanted to move back home. Hollywood had been a disillusioning experience for him. It had become common for the clubs to require the bands to sell tickets to their own gigs. The band’s drummer got hooked on meth, and eventually they broke up. Mike asked me to go with him. We’d marry and start a family in Michigan. For a brief moment, I pictured myself there, the wife of a poor, struggling musician. But I had my own dreams to pursue. I wasn’t sure what they were yet, but they didn’t include leaving the only place I’d ever called home to sacrifice my career for the slight chance that Mike would become a famous musician – or at least one who could make a living playing music.
 I didn't know how to say no, so I said I’d follow him to the ends of the earth. The plan was for him to move to Michigan first, and then I’d come after. Instead, I moved back home with my parents and looked for a job in California, avoiding Mike’s calls until one day, he stopped calling altogether.
Years later Mike and his new band in Michigan cut a record. He asked if he could send me the CD. I suspected the track titled “California,” could have something to do with our time together. By then, we had both married other people. He had two sons, and I met and fell in love with a man who looked nothing like Mick Jagger.
The song “California” starts with the narrator, Mike I assume, closing our green apartment door in Hollywood one last time and hitting the road for Michigan. He is excited and hopeful about the future. When his woman arrives to be by his side, he knows everything will be all right. He waits for her, but she doesn’t come. The song’s about promises made and not kept. It’s about a young woman afraid to admit the truth – that she’d outgrown her Mick Jagger fantasies. I will always be a diehard fan, but my affection for the Stones had transcended from a girl living in a rock-and-roll illusion to a woman finding inspiration in the simple purity of their music.
I had finally gotten my song. Little did I know I'd have to break his heart to get one.