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Mick Jagger's First Girlfriend Looks Back
Chrissie Shrimpton met Mick Jagger in 1963, when she was an aspiring model and actress of seventeen. They were together for three years. In Philip Norman's new biography of the singer, Mick Jagger, Shrimpton remembers the highs and lows of the relationship.
Outed as Mick's steady girlfriend some months previously, Chrissie was regularly pictured by his side with her flicked-up, Alice-banded hair, enormous black eyes, and matching full-lipped pout, her famous surname giving that intriguing extra twist to his own accelerating fame. Along with Paul McCartney's similarly "classy bird," Jane Asher, she was the envy of almost every young woman in Britain.
In reality, Chrissie hated the life she now found herself leading as the consort of a fast-rising star. "The fans used to attack me and throw things at me, and it was often really frightening. I can remember being in cars and having to hold the roof up because there were girls piling on the roof and we thought we were going to be crushed." Under her wild-child exterior was a deeply conventional person who had slept with Mick as a seventeen-year-old only because she genuinely believed she would marry him and start a family. "As far as I was concerned, it was total love and I'd be with him for the rest of my life. I hated all the fan hysteria stuff and I wasn't really interested in running around the clubs and everything rock chicks are supposed to do. All I wanted was to have babies and be normal."
Still resolutely refusing to be drawn into the couture world after [her older sister] Jean, Chrissie continued to work as a secretary, latterly with the Stones' record company, Decca, and thus to have a daytime routine out of synch with Mick's nocturnal one of performing, recording, and partying. Even after her existence became known to his female followers, [manager Andrew Loog] Oldham still felt it unadvisable to parade her too much at Stones gigs and public appearances. "As a girl in those days, you were a second-class citizen. You were on your honor to stay in the background and keep your mouth shut."
Just as her sister kept her at arm's length from the Bailey-Vogue set, so she met few of the musicians with whom Mick consorted, on the road or at their chosen club, the Ad Lib. One exception was "the Duchess," the glamorous young black woman in a skintight gold lamé catsuit who played guitar in Bo Diddley's band. Another was Mickie Most, the young singer-turned- producer responsible for the Animals' "The House of the Rising Sun" that Mick had so ungraciously slagged off. "Mickie's wife was also named Chrissie, so we were two Mickie-and-Chrissies."
Her main ally within the Stones' circle was [drummer] Charlie Watts's steady girlfriend, Shirley Shepherd, a sculpture student at the Royal College of Art, to whom Charlie became engaged in April 1964. A strong-willed, outspoken character, in utter contrast to his mildness and politeness, Shirley refused to accept the vow of anonymity imposed on Chrissie and other Stones' women. Since Mick found Charlie the most restful of all his bandmates and Chrissie got on well with Shirley, the four went on holiday together to Ibiza during a brief respite from touring that summer. When they arrived at their hotel, Shirley found she and Chrissie were expected to register separately so that lurking paparazzi would not link them with the two Stones. "A photographer tried to take a picture of our names in the hotel register," Chrissie remembers. "So Mick hit him. And when we left, Shirley and I were told we had to come home on different flights from Mick and Charlie. I went along with it, of course, but Shirley absolutely refused to be bullied by Mick."
Shirley was also one of the few around Mick who ever dared find fault with his appearance. "Neither of our boyfriends looked good on the beach," Chrissie recalls. "Mick was terribly skinny and Charlie had a fat tummy and used to keep his socks on when he sunbathed. I remember Shirley saying 'They don't show up well in the sun. They look better in the evening.'"
From that point, Shirley defied the diktats that streamed from Mick and Oldham almost on principle. "The firm rule was always 'no girls on tour,' but Shirley would nearly always go because Charlie simply refused to get up or wash if she didn't," says Chrissie. "We weren't supposed to go into the studio while the band was recording, but she decided she was going and took me with her. Mick was absolutely furious and ordered us out, but Shirley hissed at me, 'Don't move!' So we just sat there with Mick pulling Nankers [faces] at us through the control room glass. If he ever came into the dressing room and found girlfriends there, he'd glare so much that the girls did Nazi salutes and went 'Heil Jagger!'"
Excerpted from Mick Jagger by Philip Norman, by permission of Ecco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2012 by Jessica Productions Ltd. All rights reserved.