Mick Jagger and David Bowie were extremely close friends, but their relationship once hit a roadblock when The Rolling Stones singer learned a harsh lesson about the music business from his old confidante.
While the incident unduly upset Jagger, it didn’t diminish their friendship. In the long run, the situation would prove to be a beneficial one, as he realised not everybody was to be trusted when it came to this grimy industry. Even those who you consider a close associate would betray you if it allowed them to get a step up the greasy ladder.
The late Belgian artist Guy Paelllert is the person that would come between the pair, causing them to briefly fall out when Bowie sneakily took advantage of something which he was told in confidence by the singer.
Jagger had managed to convince Paellert to create the album cover for The Stones’ 1974 album, It’s Only Rock’ n Roll, and he was so elated that the artist had agreed. Boasting his success, Jagger told everybody who would listen about the grand plans that were being conjured up. One of those souls he’d told about the artwork was David Bowie, who was so mightily impressed with what he’d seen from Paellert that he contacted him and persuaded the Belgian to produce the cover for Diamond Dogs.
Rubbing further salt into Jagger’s wounds, Bowie’s album was released months earlier than his, and it looked like The Stones had got the idea to work with Paellaert from him rather than vice versa.
Speaking to Playboy in 1976, Bowie explained that he doesn’t understand why musicians get annoyed by plagiarism and how he sees it as a form of flattery. He said: “The more I get ripped off, the more flattered I get. But I’ve caused a lot of discontent, because I’ve expressed my admiration for other artists by saying, ‘yes, I’ll use that’, or ‘yes, I took this from him and this from her.’ Mick Jagger, for example, is scared to walk into the same room as me even thinking of any new idea. He knows I’ll snatch it.”
Directly addressing the Paellaert incident, Bowie added: “Mick was silly. I mean, he should never have shown me anything new. I went over to his house and he had all these Guy Peellaert pictures around and said, ‘What do you think of this guy?’ I told him I thought he was incredible.”
He continued: “So I immediately phoned him up. Mick’s learned now, as I’ve said. He will never do that again. You’ve got to be a b*stard in this business.”
The two artists would soon patch things up, and throughout the 1980s, Jagger and Bowie were inseparable for a period while they were both living in Manhattan, which led to the collaboration on ‘Dancing In The Street’, which is an emblem of their joyous friendship.
After Bowie’s death, Jagger unsurprisingly remembered the track as his “favourite memory” of their time together rather than the time he stole his idea for Diamond Dogs.