Mick's bride Bianca woke to find Keith Moon abseiling through her window – naked except for novelty glasses and knickers on his head
23:08 GMT, 29 April 2012
The Rolling Stones concert in Toronto promised to be a dazzling affair, the stage filled with fog machines, flame-throwers and a 100ft scaffold from which Mick Jagger would belt out the opening lines of Sympathy For The Devil.
There was just one problem. Some of the roadies who had set up this rock 'n' roll spectacular had finished off all the shepherd's pie in the backstage canteen.
Hardly a matter of life and death, you might think, but this was Keith Richards' favourite pre-show treat and he flatly refused to go on until a replacement was cooked and brought to the venue.
Mick Jagger and Bianca on their wedding day in 1971
The audience of 53,000 people were forced to wait as this was delivered amid scenes reminiscent of an organ transplant mercy dash, with a full-scale police escort, and security guards barking into walkie-talkies that 'the pie is in the building'. Only once he had eaten it did Richards agree to perform.
This incident, in September 1989, was typical of the whimsical self-indulgence that was the result of being endlessly humoured for more than 25 years. What rock superstars wanted, rock superstars generally got.
But there was little that their underlings could do when those egos turned on each other, as has so often happened with Richards and Jagger.
They were once approached by an elderly American lady who could not work out why she recognised them. 'You're someone, aren't you' she asked. 'Give me a glimmer.' They have called themselves the 'Glimmer Twins' ever since and, as with real siblings, there has often been great rivalry between them.
In 1982, for example, Jagger indulged his love of props with a mechanical platform that cranked him high in the air over the front of the stalls. He used it to great crowd-pleasing effect — until their tour that year reached France and Richards decided that he, too, wanted some of this aerial limelight.
Before Jagger could protest, he'd hijacked the crane and embarked on a lengthy airborne solo while its intended occupant seethed below.
The Glimmer Twins: Relations between Mick Jagger, left, and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones are said to be 'arctic'
'Get him down,' Jagger kept yelling, but his moment of glory had been snatched from him, exactly as Richards had intended.
This was a light-hearted expression of deeper tensions between the two, which dated back to the beginning of the Seventies.
That was when the Stones had found themselves in financial trouble, with huge unpaid tax bills.
This prompted them to address their debts in the way that only rock stars can, by retreating into a very well-heeled tax exile in the South of France. Jagger installed himself in the presidential suite of the Hotel /04/29/article-2137132-005B246300000258-750_634x519.jpg” width=”634″ height=”519″ alt=”The 1964 line-up of The Rolling Stones, with (left to right) Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, drummer Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and the late Brian Jones” class=”blkBorder” />
The 1964 line-up of The Rolling Stones, with (left to right) Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, drummer Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and the late Brian Jones
Bianca, who was pregnant with their daughter Jade, left the reception early and went back to their room — only to wake hours later and find Keith Moon abseiling through her sixth-floor window, naked except for a pair of novelty glasses whose eyeballs bounced around in front of him on springs, and a pair of women's underpants on his head.
She later said that her marriage had ended on her wedding day, which began with Jagger demanding she sign a 28-page prenuptial contract.
This hinted at a mercenary side to Jagger, who was a student at the London School of Economics before the Stones found fame.
Jagger insisted that unless they were willing to give up the sort of Babylonian lifestyle to which they had become accustomed, then the band had to keep churning out records and tours.
He set about transforming them from a rock group into a showbusiness brand — complete with their own rather suggestive trademark.
Party animal: Mick Jagger performing on stage in the 70s
This was the famous red-and-white tongue logo, as well-known today as the Nike tick, and the inspiration for the name of the Stones' private jet, the Lapping Tongue.
Facilities aboard included two bedrooms equipped with giant mirrors and furnished in a garish shade of gold, a library, a Jacuzzi and a fully-stocked bar, not to mention a retinue of well-endowed groupies and unusually accommodating stewardesses serving non-stop tequila sunrises.
When this flying pleasure palace took the Stones to Chicago on their American tour of 1972, the partying on the ground continued at Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion.
As Hef acknowledged, their three-day residency there transcended mere decadence. The arrangement during their stay was that, after a little ice-breaking, each Stone would pick the two or three girls who struck his fancy and retire to his own soundproofed room. That ice-breaking could be very brief indeed.
One pneumatically built young Playmate who, like the others, was nude but for her stiletto heels and strategically placed jewellery, introduced herself to Mick Jagger with the words: 'Shall I put my diaphragm in now'
The honourable exception to all this was drummer Charlie Watts, who preferred playing snooker in Hef's recreation room.
He married his wife Shirley in 1964 and today remains on course to be the first major rock star to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary.
The Rolling Stones at San Diego Forum on June 13, 1972, taken by Tom Gundelfinger O'Neal
'I just sat at the back and played the f****** drums,' he once said of the Stones' wildest years.
Of all the band members, Watts presumably found it easiest to adapt to the Stones' demanding new regime: Its ethic could be summed up as play hard, work hard.
'Be punctual, make money and don't hurt anyone. That was the given system,' recalled their office manager Jo Bergman. 'It wasn't fun.'
This new-found air of relative propriety occasionally jarred with Keith Richards, not a man who liked to be tucked up early with a mug of cocoa — as was apparent to neighbours of Redlands, his country estate in Sussex.
At the beginning of the Seventies there was a re-dedication of the war memorial in nearby West Wittering and Richards, a serious military buff, appeared unexpectedly with some friends.
As the Last Post played, a surge of patriotism evidently flowed through Keith's group, and there was an awkward attempt to pay respect to the fallen by standing at attention. Not everyone managed to stay upright.
A snapshot of his and Jagger's very different approaches to life can be gleaned from a tennis match they played at Richards' villa in Jamaica in 1973. Jagger turned out in immaculate Wimbledon-style whites, while his opponent sported ragged jeans and kept a cigarette butt clamped in his lips throughout. Keith still managed to win the match 6-1.
One thing they did have in common, however, were domestic arrangements which fell somewhat short of the monogamous ideal.
Keith Richards did not split up with Anita Pallenberg until 1979 but, back in England, he had taken to sitting around London clubs like Tramp wearing tight jeans and a suggestive leer. One night he thought he'd scored with a scantily-clad blonde model who introduced herself as Krissy Wood, wife of Ronnie Wood, then a guitarist with the Faces but soon to join the Rolling Stones.
There was encouraging talk about a nightcap and, assuming that her husband must be out of town, Richards drove Mrs Wood home in his new yellow Ferrari. Once at her South London mansion, though, he found that they weren't alone. Down in the basement studio was Ronnie, working on a new song with Mick Jagger.
A moment of awkwardness passed when Ronnie poured everyone a large brandy. Some good did come of the night, thanks, indirectly, to Bianca Jagger. It turned out that she had complained that the Stones' music was glorified pop which lacked any serious message.
Jagger's response was to pen the song he and Wood were slaving over that night — It's Only Rock And Roll (But I Like It) and, with Richards joining them unexpectedly, and Faces drummer Kenney Jones drafted in at short notice, they recorded it then and there.
U.S. film director Martin Scorsese (centre) and the Stones at the premiere of their Shine A Light film in 2008
The record not only sold decently, but its title became an enduring catchphrase. In later years, this would adorn the lava lamps which, along with a line of 'personally approved' ladies' underwear and other exotica, would join the band's lucrative range of officially licensed merchandise.
Not that Bianca Jagger received much thanks for her inadvertent contribution to music history as, just three years into the marriage, her husband began straying from his marital vows with impudent regularity.
His lovers included singer Linda Ronstadt and former Playmate Bebe Buell who remembered him as a 'very classy, elegant guy'. On her 21st birthday, in July 1974, he took her to a Japanese restaurant in New York. 'He poured some champagne, and asked me which historical figures I'd most like to have dinner with. “Oscar Wilde, Albert Einstein and John Lennon,” I told him.
'Mick made a phone call. After the meal we drove across town, pulled up at a dark apartment building, went up a narrow flight of stairs and there at the top was Lennon. “Happy birthday,” Mick told me.'
New York was also the location for Bianca Jagger's 32nd birthday party three years later. She celebrated it at the Studio 54 nightclub, trotting around the dance floor on a white Arab stallion led by a big, black male model wearing gold underpants and nothing else. Two weeks later her husband was openly hitting the town with Jerry Hall, a fun-loving Texan model whose knowledge of the Kama Sutra was rumoured to be far more than cursory.
Keith Richards, pictured in 2008, gestures at photographers
Hall publicly extolled Jagger's astonishingly 'weird and dirty' sexual prowess, said to include extensive use of role-play and dressing-up. Whatever went on behind closed doors, he was certainly not averse to cross-dressing among friends.
In 1980, following his divorce from Bianca, he and Hall bought a chateau in the Loire Valley, described as 'a total knocking shop' by one guest, a minor and unstuffy royal who delighted in exciting Jagger's interest by going about bra-less.
'The great thing was, you could meet anyone there,' she said. 'The local vicar would be sitting next to [the U.S. rock star] Lou Reed.'
Along with candlelit suppers for the likes of Princess Margaret went Saturday night drag parties.
'Mick was terribly dashing one night in a tight black shift dress and a ratty silver-fox fur,' one of their friends told Vanity Fair. 'He was so chic, he looked like Coco Chanel.'
For all this frivolity, Jagger's enthusiasm for business continued to alienate Keith Richards. One journalist who visited them during their American tour rehearsals in 1981 recalled that the two had little to say to one another.
'While Mick padded around with a calculator, Keith's preferred props were a joint and a constantly replenished tumbler of vodka over ice,' he said.
'I noticed that when he was out of the room, the other musicians regularly referred to their lead vocalist as “Her Majesty”.
Richards also began calling Jagger 'Brenda' after chancing across a book by Brenda Jagger, a spinster author of historical fiction. Soon he was saying it openly, turning to Ron Wood and making remarks about 'that bitch Brenda' while Jagger remained oblivious, presuming that they were talking about some new female acquaintance.
Relations between them worsened as Jagger announced plans to pursue solo projects. This infuriated Richards and, in 1984, at a meeting in New York to discuss their investments, bass guitarist Bill Wyman recalled Richards arriving in the boardroom brandishing a knife.
'It nearly came to blows,' he said.
The band might have folded but for the Wall Street crash of 1987 in which investors, including a number of prominent rock stars, lost millions. This coincided with the disappearance from the charts of Jagger's newly-released solo album, Primitive Cool, and shortly afterwards he began calling the others to talk about touring again.
'I noticed that when he was out of the room, the other musicians regularly referred to their lead vocalist as “Her Majesty”.'
'You either keep moving or you die,' he observed and, astonishingly, the Stone's high-water mark was still to come.
In the years ahead, Jagger would prepare for tours by jogging seven miles a day, while Richards trained on vodka and cigarettes. Yet they came together on stage with shows which can still generate communal frenzies among their fans.
Today, Jagger's personal fortune is estimated at around 200 million, and Richards' at 175 million, but there is no sign of a truce between the Glimmer Twins.
When Jagger released his fourth solo album Goddess In The Doorway in 2001, Richards gave it a succinct two-word review: 'Dog s**t.' The next year he was furious when Jagger, so long identified with the anti-establishment, rang to inform him that he'd accepted a knighthood.
From them on, Richards referred to him by the slightly extended title 'His Royal F***ing Highness'. Things can hardly have been helped by Richards' autobiography which was published in 2010 and included disparaging remarks about the size of Jagger's manhood.
At the time, relations between them were said to be 'Arctic'.
Nevertheless, there has already been talk of a tour to mark the 50th anniversary of their debut performance back in July 1962.
The Glimmer Twins and the rest of the Stones are not, it seems, done with us yet — nor we with them.
Their curious headlock on our affections means that concert venues around the world may have to lay on shepherd's pie for quite some time to come.
* Extracted from The Rolling Stones: Fifty Years by Christopher Sandford, published by Simon & Schuster at 20. 2012 Christopher Sandford. To order a copy for 15.99 (incl p&p), call 0843 382 0000.