In a musical sense, punk isn’t the first word that springs to mind when one casts their mind to Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones. However, dig a little deeper underneath the surface into their ethos, and few bands have embodied the spirit of punk more.
If it were up to Jagger, The Rolling Stones would have a whole selection of punk tracks in their arsenal. However, the band functions as a democracy, and the frontman has always struggled to get these ideas through his colleagues, especially Keith Richards, whose preferences sit on the other side of the spectrum.
For The Stones’ latest album, Hackney Diamonds, the group recruited Paul McCartney to play bass on the track ‘Bite My Head Off’. Jagger explained of the song: “I was kind of surprised Paul wanted to play on that track, actually. I wrote so many punk songs for the Stones, and I could never get away with them, but Paul is a very open-minded person – musically speaking.”
Richards later confirmed Jagger has always brought in punk ideas to the rest of the band and will likely never stop doing so. He told The Sun: “Mick’s a punk! The punk side of Jagger has always been there, and we’ll never get rid of it.”
When the punk phenomena took off in the late 1970s, Jagger was intrigued by the prospect, even if The Rolling Stones weren’t involved in the scene. While the group have never made a fully-throttle punk record, they did introduce elements of the genre into their sound on the 1978 album Some Girls.
Jagger told Rolling Stone that the album’s main inspiration was New York City, which injected the LP with “an extra spur and hardness”. However, the punk scene in the Big Apple was another influence, with the singer revealing: “And then, of course, there was the punk thing that had started in 1976. Punk and disco were going on at the same time, so it was quite an interesting period.”
The frontman then singled out the track ‘Respectable’ as an example of The Rolling Stones expressing their punk sensibilities. He said of the song: “Yeah, this is the kind of edgy punk ethos. Yeah, the groove of it — and on all of those songs, the whole thing was to play it all fast, fast, fast. I had a lot of problems with Keith [Richards] about it, but that was the deal at the time.”
However, despite Some Girls taking influence from New York, Jagger preferred the British version of punk to the American incarnation. He claimed: “The sort of punk scene in New York, you know, you had the Ramones and you had the New York Dolls, but they didn’t really play that kind of music … it was more of a glam look.”
While there isn’t a prolific number of punk songs produced by The Rolling Stones over the years, Jagger’s credentials as a punk-rocker are clear for all to see, as he demonstrated on ‘Respectable’.