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Rocking on
Jagger and The Beatles: Who guessed who would last?

Date published: 7/22/2013

TWO INTERESTING and related dates are cause for rumination about the gap between image and reality.

Today, July 22, is the 50th anniversary of the planned release date for the Beatles' first American album, "Introducing The Beatles." (The album was delayed and finally released the next year for a variety of reasons.)

On July 26, Sir Mick Jagger turns 70. Who, in the 1960s, would have bet on Mick Jagger being "Sir Mick" and alive for his 70th birthday party? Who could have foreseen that Mr. Jagger, Keith Richards, and the Rolling Stones (every parent's nightmare), would be playing rock 'n' roll more than 40 years after the Beatles called it quits?

The Beatles were the nice boys, the ones parents saw, if nothing else, as the lesser of two British Invasion evils. The Stones were "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Under My Thumb," satanic, misogynistic promoters of too much everything, the at-least-temporarily living embodiments of The Who's iconic line: "Hope I die before I get old." Surely, if Mick Jagger woke up one day and discovered that, to his horror, he was 30, he would do the proper thing.

Well, beneath the sneer and the strut, Mick Jagger apparently was quite the pragmatist. Other stars did burn out early. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and a host of others, including Brian Jones, who founded and named the Stones, partied hearty and left the show before the first set was over.

Mr. Jagger, though, just kept getting better. Even now, his face is age-appropriate, but his body still can do a decent approximation of the Jumpin' Jack Flash he became.

We were sold the Beatles as a product, and we were sold the Stones as a product. The Beatles (at first, at least) were wholesomeness and boyish exuberance. When John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, an explanation and an apology placated the masses. The Beatles seemed built for the long haul.

The Rolling Stones were the Evil Ones, Jerry Lee Lewis to the Beatles' Elvis if you will. Of course Mr. Jagger embraced Lucifer, with no apologies.

In reality, Mr. Jagger, that "Street Fighting Man," was a middle-class kid, son of a teacher (and friends with Richards since grade school). Even as the Stones were becoming The Stones, he was taking business courses at the London School of Economics. The well-scrubbed Beatles, who barely made it out of the '60s before going their separate ways, were considerably more blue-collar.

A person of a certain age can watch the Rolling Stones now with conflicted feelings. On the one hand, there is the feeling of being duped, of buying something that wasn't quite as advertised. At the same time, one can wish that Mr. Jagger can somehow pull off his amazingly entertaining scam just a little while longer.