The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger is no stranger to criticism. His band have been vilified and thrown from pillar to post for decades. However, he’s also no stranger to lambasting others too, and he once shrugged one classic band off as “silly nonsense”.
One of the more bizarre reasons The Stones found themselves in hot water was their now-iconic track ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. Jagger delivers the song in a first-person narrative as the devil himself, playing around with satanic themes and imagery. As a result of the track, he ended up as the devil incarnate.
This condemnation was aided by The Rolling Stones releasing and album titled Their Satanic Majesties Request the previous year. However, they decided to dig deep into the ideology on ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, unlike Satanic Majesties.
After the track’s release, The Rolling Stones gained a reputation that they couldn’t brush off, and for some, they still believe it today. “Before, we were just innocent kids out for a good time,” Keith Richards later remembered.
Adding: “But after ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, they’re saying, ‘They’re evil, they’re evil’. There are black magicians who think we are acting as unknown agents of Lucifer and others who think we are Lucifer”.
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Even in 1995, Jagger was still defending the song. This time, the singer threw another band under the bus, who he called “silly nonsense”.
“It became so involved with [Altamont] – sort of journalistically and so on,” Jagger admitted to Rolling Stone via Cheat Sheet. “There were other things going on with it apart from Altamont”.
He continued, “My whole thing of this song was not black magic and all this silly nonsense — like [heavy metal band] Megadeth or whatever else came afterward. It was different than that. We had played around with that imagery before — which is [Their Satanic Majesties Request] – but it wasn’t really put into words”.
Jagger then maintained: “The satanic-imagery stuff was very overplayed [by journalists]. We didn’t want to really go down that road. And I felt that song was enough. You didn’t want to make a career out of it. But bands did that – Jimmy Page, for instance. I knew lots of people that were into Aleister Crowley. What I’m saying is, it wasn’t what I meant by the song ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. If you read it, it’s not about black magic, per se.”
Interestingly, the true inspiration for the song was French poet Baudelaire and Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita rather than anything occult rather than Crowley. However, the truth has never stopped.
Despite only venturing down that route on one occasion, the atrocity in Altamont only furthered people’s belief that they were sons of the devil. It has stuck against the band’s name. Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, however, became hooked on black magic as a teenager, which explains Jagger mentioning his band. Contrastingly, The Stones singer just flirted with the idealogy for the sake of art.