Ever since The Rolling Stones released their classic track ‘Angie’ in 1973, the song has been a constant speculation source. The most common rumour is about whether or not Mick Jagger wrote the song with David Bowie’s wife-at-the-time in mind, but is there any truth to this tittle-tattle, or is it just hearsay? Let’s try to delve into the true meaning of the song.
Bowie, who married Angela Barnett in 1970 at Bromley Registry Office, and spent 10-years in a relationship before parting ways on unamicable terms. Bowie and Barnett had an open marriage, Angela later describing their coupling as a marriage of convenience rather than a love story for the ages. “We got married so that I could [get a permit to] work. I didn’t think it would last and David said, before we got married, ‘I’m not really in love with you’, and I thought that’s probably a good thing.”
Two years into their marriage in 1972, The Starman proudly declared himself as gay in an interview with Melody Maker. During his open marriage with Angie, Bowie made it his modus operandi to explore his sexuality. Bowie then spoke about his sexuality once more in a September 1976 interview with Playboy, in which he declared: “It’s true—I am a bisexual. But I can’t deny that I’ve used that fact very well. I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
In their divorce agreement, Angie Barnett agreed not to disclose details about their marriage in public for several years. After that was over, she soon released a tell-all memoir titled Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie. If you’re to believe Angie’s comments made once the gagging order ended, Bowie once shared a bed with The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, an alleged incident which has made many speculate whether she was the muse behind the song, ‘Angie’.
The story was detailed first in the unofficial book Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger, written by Christopher Andersen. In it, the author suggests that the two juggernaut performers were not scared of treading into new uncharted territories and getting intimate with one another, which was later seemingly supported by Angie. However, in much more quaint terms than Anderson uses.
Andersen writes: “Angie had been out of town for a few days when she returned home one morning and went straight to the kitchen to make some tea. The Bowies’ maid, who had arrived about an hour earlier, approached the lady of the house with a peculiar look on her face. ‘Someone,’ she told Angie, ‘is in your bed’.”
According to Angie, she “went upstairs to her bedroom, slowly pushed the door open, and there they were: Mick Jagger and David Bowie, naked in bed together, sleeping. Both men woke up with a start. ‘Oh, hello,’ said Bowie, clearly taken by surprise. ‘How are you?’ Angie’ felt absolutely dead certain that they’d been screwing. It was so obvious, in fact, that I never even considered the possibility that they hadn’t been screwing.'”
Angela later confirmed the story in the NME, “I said: ‘Did you guys have a good night?’ They were so hungover they could hardly speak. I took pity on them. I don’t think it was a big love affair (with Mick), it was probably more drunken pawing.”
Fans began to speculate whether Jagger had penned the track in a bid to keep Angie happy and to stop her from telling everybody what she saw. However, the truth to the song isn’t quite as salacious, according to Jagger, who once noted: “People began to say that song was written about David Bowie’s wife but the truth is that Keith wrote the title. He said, ‘Angie,’ and I think it was to do with his daughter. She’s called Angela. And then I just wrote the rest of it.”
Although Jagger said it was an ode to Richards’ daughter, hos story doesn’t seem to be factually correct considering that she was yet to be born. The Stones guitarist said in his autobiography Life that he just liked the name and it fit perfectly into the song, adding: “In those days you didn’t know what sex the thing was going to be until it popped out.”
‘Angie’ was a song written from Richards’ heart during a tough time in his life, a period when he was faced with impending fatherhood whilst holed up in a rehab facility trying to clean up his act before the birth of his child. Although the real story is less salacious than the story written about Angie Bowie after she asked Jagger to write a song about her to keep her sweet — the truth is somewhat more wholesome.