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The troubling moment Mick Jagger pulled off Tina Turner’s skirt on stage during Live Aid


When David Bowie was redressing the liberating boom of the 1960s with his anthem ‘Drive-In Saturday’ the two sex symbols of the era he drew upon were Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and the model Twiggy. In his song, the pouting gyrator who shakes his hips like he’s standing on the handles of a jackhammer helps to save the world from an apocalypse of the youth simply forgetting how to have sex.

However, Bowie also hastened to add: “I think Mick Jagger would be astounded and amazed if he realized that to many people, he is not a sex symbol, but a mother image.” This comment no doubt cut Jagger who realised early on that he might have to up the ante when it came to his onstage liberation

This realization dawned when The Rolling Stones appeared alongside a legendary artist who near-enough wiped the floor with everybody else on the bill one fateful night on the TAMI Show. “Then we travelled to the USA and caught James Brown at the Apollo Theatre in New York and that was a huge influence,” Jagger explains. “It wasn’t just the moves he made – it was the energy he put into it, that was amazing.”

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Thus, the frontman sought the help of a dance instructor, and he, fortunately, found Tina Turner on hand. As she told The Daily Mail: “Mick wanted to dance – and I was a dancer – but he never gave me the credit! He said his mother taught him how to dance. But we worked with him in the dressing room, me and the girls, and we taught him how to Pony.”

After that, his rollicking stylings were in place, and he helped the shake the world free from the shackles of the stilted view of sexless music or coy hand-holding songs. Jagger certainly pushed things to decadent heights, but sometimes his carefree thinking was done with a dangerous lack of consideration, and it became troublesome. That was certainly the case when he invited Tina Turner to join him and The Rolling Stones on stage during their Live Aid performance in Philadelphia on July 13th, 1985.

Recalling the incident in her memoir and how the plan was thrust upon her backstage, Turner wrote: “Mick and I could never just stand there and sing—that wasn’t us. We had to do something. He looked me over. I was wearing a tight-fitting black leather top and skirt and I could see a naughty idea forming. ‘Does that skirt come off?’ he asked slyly. ‘What?’ was my startled reply.” 

Then rather troublingly Jagger announced his plan as a matter of fact. “’I’m going to take your skirt off’. I asked him why, but it was too late to talk it through, Mick had already made his mind up to do it,” she adds. Now, as a general rule of thumb, it is never great to be laying down uninvited plans on someone’s skirt, but it is even worse when there isn’t due time to discuss it before going out onto a stage that may well be witnessed by hundreds of millions. 

“Understandably, I was a little nervous,” Turner continues. “Luckily, I was prepared […] If my skirt came off there was nothing to see but a costume under a costume. I was covered, I reassured myself.” Once more it is worth reiterating that this isn’t a reassurance someone should have to make on the spur of the moment. The rock ‘n’ roll hijinks may have been magnificent during the duo’s scintillating performance and the audience lapped it up, but there was a troubling undertone to shock the de-skirting of a woman, played out like it was without consent, in Jagger’s words, “Just to create something”. 

Turner might have concluded: “It wasn’t as if some random guy pulled off my skirt. I was like a boy I knew did it. A very old boy.” Regardless of familiarity, and whether it’s for rock ‘n’ roll purposes or otherwise, as a rule of thumb it’s best to give those wearing the skirt autonomy over what they plan to do with it. 

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