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Why Mick Jagger was forced to dance for Sonny Rollins

Whenever one thinks of Mick Jagger, you’re normally met with a visual representation of the phrase “sex, drugs and rock and roll”. The flamboyant frontman of The Rolling Stones is one of the greatest enigmas of our time, and the question of how he has managed to dodge death on so many occasions is one that has been firmly placed on the top of our tongues for years. 

An incredible frontman steeped in the history of the blues, without him, The Rolling Stones wouldn’t have been the same. He embodied their ethos and is a walking talking advert of both the pluses and minuses of living life on the edge. Aside from the fact that Jagger is one of rock and roll’s original enfants terribles, he’s also a complex character with many facets; the humorous, the deep and the dark.  

Over the years, he’s recounted numerous wild tales that are begging to be made into a movie, as his life has always bordered on the mythical, a prerequisite for a musician of his stature. These stories range from the downright insane to the utterly bizarre, and our tale today concerns the latter category. 

This strange moment arrived during the recording of 1981’s ‘Waiting on a Friend’, and it saw Jagger cast off the bad boy image that we all know so well and bow down to one of jazz’s all-time greats, Sonny Rollins. However, at this point in life, Jagger had found himself calming down, and the song was not a discussion of women and vices but one of friendship and loyalty as The Stones had entered a new chapter. 

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Rollins is a jazz saxophonist of the highest order, and many of his compositions, such as ‘St. Thomas’ and ‘Oleo’ have now become jazz standards, reflecting the eminence with which he hailed. At the time, The Stones hired him to perform the solo on the song and on the tracks ‘Slave’ and ‘Neighbours’ that also feature on Tattoo You

It was Jagger himself who recounted the strange anecdote in 1985. He said: “I had a lot of trepidation about working with Sonny Rollins. This guy’s a giant of the saxophone. Charlie said, ‘He’s never going to want to play on a Rolling Stones record!’ I said, ‘Yes he is going to want to.’ And he did and he was wonderful.”

Jagger continued: “I said, ‘Would you like me to stay out there in the studio?’ He said, ‘Yeah, you tell me where you want me to play and DANCE the part out.’ So I did that. And that’s very important: communication in hand, dance, whatever. You don’t have to do a whole ballet, but sometimes that movement of the shoulder tells the guy to kick in on the beat.”

A hilarious anecdote, we can only imagine the sort of slippery dance moves that Jagger did in order to convey the beauty of the saxophone solo to Rollins. Whatever he danced, it did the job, as the saxophone solo is one of the dreamiest in The Stones’ back catalogue. A clear indicator that they had now matured, duly, it remains a classic.

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