On May 12th, 1971, Mick Jagger and Bianca Macias tie the knot in a Roman Catholic ceremony at St. Anne’s Church in St. Tropez in the south of France. Mick had been studying Catholicism with the pastor of St. Anne’s, Abbe Lucien Baud so they could have an altar wedding after the civil ceremony. With the sun shining on the Cote d’Azur, it all looked like everything was set for the perfect wedding, but this was The Rolling Stones…
Mick Jagger Getting Married…Really?
The Rolling Stones were now tax exiles. They had all decamped to the South of France over a month earlier and planes were afoot to get the recording of their new album (which would eventually emerge as Exile on Main St) underway. A month to the day after Keith Richards had arrived on the Cote d’Azur, marked The Rolling Stones first rehearsal on May 5th, 1971. For reasons best known to himself, Mick Jagger left it until then to tell the rest of The Rolling Stones that he planned to marry a week later.
For various reasons this irked many. Firstly those in The Rolling Stones management knew that The Stones were broke. They were desperate for them to get on with their new album so they could release it, get out on the road and get cash back into The Rolling Stones overdrawn bank accounts. Mick was the one Stone not living in The South of France, he and Bianca were living in Paris. With Mick Jagger now deciding to get married, this would mean more time away from the band on honeymoon, thus delaying things still further.
Also he had not known Bianca that long. He had split from long-term lover Marianne Faithfull less than a year earlier. Many years later, Marianne Faithful would not be the first to comment on the similar looks of Mick and Bianca Jagger, writing
…in May 1971, Mick had finally given in to his narcissism and married…himself!
From Keith Richards point of view, marriage was just not the thing you did. The furore around the decision of Mick Jagger to actually get married was incredible. Mick Jagger is getting married – yes, Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones is getting married! It was seen as the anti-establishment becoming the establishment.
Keith had never married Anita, Paul McCartney never married Jane Asher, Eric Clapton never married Alice Ormsby-Gore….even Mick did not marry Marianne Faithful. But now here was Mick Jagger, getting married. For Keith it was something that “they” did and indeed it seemed that “they” thought this was akin to admitting that he and The Rolling Stones were accepting that the squares had been right all along.
A Guest List of Showbiz Royalty
To make matters worse, although this was supposed to be a quiet, personal wedding it did not stop a chartered jet taking off from Gatwick airport filled to the brim with a who’s who of the British entertainment world. Alongside Mick Jagger‘s parents Basil and Eva Jagger, were Paul McCartney and Linda, Ringo Starr and his wife Maureen, although the fall-out from The Beatles had still not settled by this point and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were not talking to each other so sat at opposite ends of the plane.
They were joined on the flight by French film director Roger Vadim, photographer Lord Patrick Litchfield, Marshall Chess (of Chess Records) Eric Clapton and Alice Ormsby-Gore, Ronnie Wood (at this time still playing with The Faces, several years before joining the The Stones) and band-mates Ronnie Lane and Ian MacLagan. Also on the plane were Stephen Stills and several of The Rolling Stones regular collaborators in the shape of Nicky Hopkins, Jimmy Miller, Glyn Johns, Doris Troy and PP Arnold.
Even with all these people being shipped in for the wedding, Mick Jagger only got around to inviting band-mate Bill Wyman along to the reception (but neither of the ceremonies) the day before the wedding. Unsurprisingly Wyman is not happy and it is left to his long term companion Astrid and Rose Taylor to buy the couple a wedding present in the shape of a tandem.
With the furore about the very idea of Mick Jagger getting married causing a media storm and a plane packed with celebrities on it’s way to fill out the pews, Mick Jagger‘s hope that this would be a quiet, personal wedding were looking more than a little naive.
The first clues started at London’s Gatwick Airport as hoardes of tabloid journalists descend, firing questions at anyone heading towards the Comet airliner. This included “Spanish” Tony Sanchez, one of The Rolling Stones‘ drug dealers, who he claims had been called by Mick Jagger and told to bring 3 ozs of cocaine with him as, “I’m not going to get through this gig without it.”
The “Civil” Ceremony
This may have been the effect of cold feet on Mick Jagger, but the chaos of the wedding day would have made anyone think twice about getting married.
The Civil Ceremony was due to begin at 4pm, however both Mick and Bianca are late. In front of the town hall is an assorted throng of pres photographers from every corner of the globe. Marius Estezan, the Mayor St. Tropez, awaits the couple and fields questions from the world’s press in the council chambers.
Estezan, obviously unhappy with the intrusion of the hoards of press and non-appearance of the couple told Les Perrin, The Rolling Stones press officer, that if they are not there by 4:30, there will be no wedding. So Perrin called Mick Jagger to tells him what is happening and gets an earful from Mick Jagger, “GET RID OF THEM! If there’s going to be that crowd, then I am not getting married.”
Jerry Pompili, who has only recently been working with The Stones after being house manager at The Filmore East, and Mick Jagger‘s assistant and The Rolling Stones logistics man Allan Dunn try to clear the hall. This proves to be a tough task as the photographers do not want to leave and, much to the annoyance of The Rolling Stones camp, they do not have to leave as French law makes all public buildings public!
Perrin calls Mick Jagger again to tell him the news and Mick Jagger, by now not in the best of moods, says, “Fucking Hell! I wish to god I’d never said I was going to get married in the first place.” So Mick and Bianca arrived to find over 100 members of the world’s press fighting for pole position in the blazing hot sun. Flash bulbs fire off as questions in a multitude of languages and accents bombard the couple as the pushing, jostling and insanity descends on them.
During this bombardment Mick Jagger allegedly says something along the lines of “Fuck it I am not doing this” making Bianca cry, much to the joy of the photographers who think they may just have made their fortunes with the photos of Mick Jagger jilting his bride. However Perrin manages to persuade Mick and Bianca to pose for photographs and get it over with now. So they pose and the photographers then leave them to go to the civil ceremony.
The local chief of police and his guard and Jerry Pompili waited outside as Keith Richards ambled up to take on his role as Best Man wearing braided tights and a green combat jacket. Unbelievably, the cop did not recognize one of the most famous men on the planet and grabbed him, preventing him from entering. “They were standing there with their hands around each others throats screaming in their respective languages and I had to break it up” said Pompili. This is the first of four fights that Keith Richards will find himself embroiled in.
With everyone present, the civil ceremony passes and everyone moves on to St Anne’s church for the religious ceremony.
The St Anne’s Ceremony
Lord Litchfield escorts Bianca Macias, dressed in a white trouser suit by Tommy Nutter and displaying a large amount of cleavage for a Catholic wedding, down the isle to the theme from “Love Story”. Tommy Weber‘s sons, eight year old Jake and six year old Charlie (or “Boo Boo”) act as page boys for the ceremony. Tommy Weber had brought a wedding gift of a pound of cocaine that he had smuggled in to France using Jake and Charlie as mules!
Tommy Weber, while not currently a close member of The Rolling Stones tribe, will soon become a fixture on the Nellcote scene after the suicide of his ex-wife, Susan Ann Caroline Coriat, better known as “Puss”, mother of Jake and Charlie and lover of Anita Pallenberg, takes her own life in a London hotel.
Father Lucien Baud manages to avoid eye contact with Bianca‘s nearly exposed chest for long enough to complete the service with the words
You have told me that you believe youth seeks happiness and a certain ideal and faith. I think you are seeking it too and I hope it arrives today with your marriage. But when you are a personality like Mick Jagger, it is too much to hope for privacy for your own marriage.”
Reg Lancaster, photographer and long time friend of The Rolling Stones, described it as
The place was charged with atmosphere. It was colossal. The ceremony was all in French but Jagger followed it – he’s a good grammar school boy.
As the couple left St Anne’s the world’s press once again charge in to get the photos of the wedding of the year, or even decade. A few hundred feet away is the Bentley to take the happy couple away and they are escorted by Pompili and Dunn.
However the press do not make it easy, fighting for the shots they need for their papers and when they reach the Bentley, Pomili is unable to open the door due to the mass of people. He shoves an Italian photographer aside to make room and receives a blow to the head with a camera as reward. With blood spewing down his face from the cut on his forehead, Pompili grabs the responsible photographer and throws him against the car hard enough to dent the bodywork of both car and photographer.
The Bentley leaves for the reception to be held at the Cafe des Artes.
The guests number from anywhere between 200 and 1000, depending on which report you read. All reports agree that it was quite some party though. As the night progressed, Keith got Pompili (still covered in blood) to assemble some of the rock n’ roll talent for an impromptu jam.
Pompili heads off to approach the great and the good assembled before returning to find Keith Richards passed out on the balcony. Depending on which version of events you read there is debate about whether Keith was back on heroin at this point. Most reports of this time say that Keith was not yet and was simply exhausted, but whatever he was not roused and the jam went on without him.
Terry Reid does some numbers before Mick gets in on the act singing with Doris Troy, PP Arnold, Steven Stills. Mick‘s parents leave not having given their son his present and Bianca also heads off to their hotel, far from impressed at the lack of attention. She later comments that, “My marriage ended on my wedding day.”
The following day most of the guests make it back onto the plane to go home, except for Eric Clapton and Alice Ormsby-Gore. Eric Clapton is suffering badly from heroin withdrawal and cannot get on the plane. Keith Richards, only too aware of the nature of a junkie does not want to help, but Tommy Weber takes pity on him. Keith tells him
You can take the driver and go down to Marseilles and sort him out if you like. But you’ll find he’ll be on your back forever. He shouldn’t have come down here if he didn’t have his shit together.
Keith Richards was well aware of this having experienced it himself, but this would still not stop him finding his own way down that particular route again and very soon. Tommy Weber managed to score Eric Clapton enough heroin to get him home and he too left France.
Eric Clapton was not the only one leaving the country. 6 weeks after leaving the UK, The Rolling Stones had managed a single rehearsal and recorded precisely nothing for their new album. Now Mick Jagger was about to leave the band behind and take off on his honeymoon aboard a 97 foot long yacht with crew of six to take him and his new bride for a ten day cruise around Sardinia and Corsica. No work will be done while he is away, but other events will happen that have a bearing on the recording of Exile on Main Street.
In another world, the woman marrying Mick Jagger would have been Marianne Faithful. She and Jagger had split a year earlier in May 1970 after many years together. Now, less than a year later, here was the man the seemingly did not believe in marriage getting married.
By now Marianne Faithful was a fully fledged junkie. She had been getting through her performances on London’s stage only with a large dose of chemical assistance, which she paid for by sleeping with Spanish Tony Sanchez, a man she described as “loathsome.” She had lost custody of her son and was seeing a doctor in London who she later recalled would simply “pump her full of valium.” She was not in a good way.
When she saw the headlines in London plastered across the newspapers proclaiming “Mick and Bianca wed in French Fracas” it was more than she could take. She immediately headed for a bar, downed several vodka martinis, staggered into a curry house and passed out in her meal.
She was locked in cells to sleep it off and charged with drunk and disorderly conduct and fined one pound. However her downward spiral continued and she was soon to find herself homeless, living on London’s Soho streets for several years suffering with addiction and anorexia nervosa.