I thought Mick and I would be together for ever. But his cheating drove me to take an overdose: Jagger's first love Chrissie Shrimpton breaks her 50-year silence to start our riveting new series
By Philip Norman
PUBLISHED: 01:36, 29 September 2012 | UPDATED: 01:37, 29 September 2012
Out of time: Chrissie Shrimpton in 1968
When Mick Jagger began dating his first serious girlfriend, Chrissie Shrimpton — the younger sister of celebrated Sixties model Jean Shrimpton and an ethereal beauty in her own right — he had yet to grow into the looks which would earn him a reputation as one of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest lotharios.
‘My sister Jean at that time was going around with a lot of debby Vogue types,’ remembers Chrissie. ‘I used to hear them whispering, “Poor Chrissie, her boyfriend’s so ugly.”’
Small, scrawny and with those famously large lips — once described as capable of ‘sucking the egg out of a chicken’s a***’ — the young Mick would attract such unfavourable attention for some time to come.
He was then 19 and a student at the London School of Economics, while Chrissie, 17, was a secretary in Covent Garden — in those days still the scene of a raucous fruit and veg market.
‘Mick would come and meet me for lunch,’ she recalls. ‘One day, as we walked through the market, a stall-holder threw a cabbage at his head and shouted “You ugly f*****”.’
Given all this, it’s perhaps not surprising that Mick hugely enjoyed showing off his beautiful ‘bird’ to his fellow LSE students, and she would later become the envy of his legions of fans. But life as his trophy girlfriend was far from the paradise they might have imagined.
Dominated by his possessive behaviour and constant infidelity, theirs was a relationship which would see her estranged from her family and driven to attempt suicide before being cruelly cut off by her once adoring lover.
It was a fate which the young Chrissie can scarcely have envisaged when she first locked eyes with Mick Jagger at the Ricky-Tick, a blues club opposite Windsor Castle, in early 1963.
The daughter of a self-made Buckinghamshire builder, she’d had an indulged upbringing and an expensive private education. But she was an unruly spirit, and at 14 had been removed from her convent school at the request of the headmistress.
Dressing like a beatnik and seeking out the proletarian set who liked rhythm and blues music, she occasionally collected glasses at the Ricky-Tick — one of the many small clubs the newly-formed Rolling Stones played as they began making their name in early 1963.
When Mick Jagger began dating his first serious girlfriend, Chrissie Shrimpton, he was 19 and a student at the London School of Economics
The night they met, Mick asked her out on a date. They had been seeing each other for about two weeks when the Stones’ fortunes suddenly began to improve with the appointment of their first manager, Andrew Loog Oldham.
Thanks to Oldham, things really took off for the Stones that summer. Following an appearance on the TV show Ready Steady Go!, the band were waylaid by the shrieking fans who became a constant feature of their lives from then on.
Though Chrissie still found Mick ‘a sweet, loving person’, this evolution from club singer to pop star began to create a barrier between them.
‘We’d be walking down the street, and suddenly he’d see some Stones’ fans,’ she recalls. ‘My hand would suddenly be dropped and he’d be walking ahead on his own.
‘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 onto it and we thought we were going to be crushed.’
Underneath her wild-child exterior, Chrissie remained a deeply conventional young woman who agreed to sleep with Mick early in their relationship only because she believed they had a future together.
‘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 that interested in running around the clubs and everything rock chicks are supposed to do. All I wanted was to have babies and be normal.’
Mick enjoyed showing Chrissie off to his fellow students and she became the envy of his fans
At first, it seemed that her newly-famous lover shared her values.
‘When I was first with Mick, I wasn’t allowed to look at anyone else or even be friends with girls he considered tarts,’ she says.
Yet increasingly he seemed to regard any attractive young female who crossed his own path as fair game.
Maureen O’Grady, a writer for the teen magazine Boyfriend, remembers being alone with him in a dressing room on one occasion and finding herself the target of a pointed come-on.
‘He asked me whether the trousers he had on were too tight around the buttocks and crotch. “No, they’re fine, Mick,” I told him.
‘“Are you sure?” he kept saying. “What about here . . . and here ?”’
Soon afterwards, she met the Stones for a photo shoot in Scotland. Unable to afford the plush Gleneagles Hotel where the band was staying, she asked her photographer to find her a local B&B. He reported back that nothing was available, whereupon Mick offered her the spare bedroom in his suite.
‘I said “No thank you” and found a perfectly nice place nearby,’ she says. ‘Later, the photographer told me that Mick had asked him to say there were no B&Bs in the neighbourhood so that I’d have to stay in his suite.’
For her own peace of mind, Chrissie did not inquire too deeply into what went on out on the road. ‘I think I only knew he was unfaithful to me about three times, though there must have been many more times when I didn’t find out. And when I did, he would be so regretful.
‘I remember him playing I’ve Been Loving You Too Long — the first time I’d heard that beautiful song, which I still find hard to listen to — after I’d found out about something. And I can remember him lying on the floor and crying all over my feet because I’d threatened to leave him.’
Despite such upsets, she and Mick were eventually engaged. No date was set for the wedding, but, in preparation, Mick’s mother, Eva, taught Chrissie to make pastry — for Eva, one of the first essentials of good-wifeliness — while Chrissie’s father, Ted, began looking for houses suitable for them once they were married.
Stricken: Chrissie's relationship with Mick ended in December 1966. Both their faces suggest that things were not going well
In June 1966, Mick made his own efforts in that direction, renting a fifth-floor flat in Harley House, an Edwardian mansion block near Regent’s Park. It was supposed to be their first home as newlyweds, but soon after finding the flat, he informed Chrissie that he no longer wanted to get married, just to live with her there.
She paid a heavy price for agreeing to this new arrangement. Until then she’d managed to conceal from her parents the fact that she was spending most nights with Mick — keeping on, as a cover, a small bedsit in West London with a friend.
The news that she would be openly ‘living in sin’ was so shaming a prospect for her father that he warned she would no longer be welcome at their family home if she went through with it.
At Harley House, she had ample time to reflect on this banishment because Mick’s continual absences with the Stones meant that she spent weeks, even months, there alone.
To begin with, he seemed to find the separations as hard as she did, sending her telegrams and writing her ‘hundreds of letters’ during their tours.
Even from distances of thousands of miles, she says, he was ‘very controlling, very paternalistic, very care-taking’.
‘I used to go to the Scotch of St James Club every night when he was away on tour. He arranged for a car to be sent for me at three in the morning, and then he would ring me as soon as I got in to make sure I was there.’
Chrissie is the daughter of a self-made Buckinghamshire builder
He was rather closer to home when, as the winter of 1966 approached, he had what began as yet another one-night stand following a Stones concert with Ike and Tina Turner in Bristol. Among the guests backstage was singer Marianne Faithfull, who had first met him two years previously.
That was at a party in London. While the other girls were wearing the new daringly short skirts of the day, Marianne arrived in blue jeans and a baggy shirt belonging to her artist boyfriend John Dunbar.
She caused a stir nonetheless. ‘It was like seeing the Virgin Mary with an amazing pair of t**s,’ says record promoter Tony Calder, who was there with Mick and Stones’ manager Andrew Oldham.
‘Andrew and Mick both said together, “I want to f*** her”. Both their girlfriends went: “What did you say?” Mick and Andrew went: “We said we want to record her.”’
Mick and Keith Richards did subsequently work with Marianne, writing the song As Tears Go By, which became a Top 10 hit for her.
Around that time, Mick made various clumsy attempts at seduction — on one occasion trying to persuade her to sit on his lap in a taxi. But she dismissed him as a ‘cheeky little yob’ and went on to marry John Dunbar, with whom she had a son, Nicholas.
She had clearly changed her mind about Mick by the time of that Bristol concert. Her marriage was already over by then, and, after she and Mick slept together at his hotel after the show that night, he began visiting her secretly at her flat in London.
Chrissie began to sense that Mick was becoming increasingly remote and strange in his manner towards her. Still tortured by thoughts of the wedding and babies that might have been, and guilt-ridden over her estrangement from her father, she felt herself perilously near the state that Mick had had such fun with in the Stones’ song 19th Nervous Breakdown.
On December 15, she and Mick were supposed to be going on holiday, but there was no sign of him, and when she phoned his office she discovered that the flights had been cancelled. Even then, she still had no idea that he was seeing Marianne.
‘I remember thinking “He doesn’t want me, and I can’t live without him”.’
Alone at the Harley House flat with her dog, six cats and three songbirds chirruping in the Victorian cage which Mick had bought for her 21st, Chrissie took an overdose of sleeping pills.
‘It wasn’t just attention-seeking or a cry for help,’ she says. ‘I really wanted to die. I thought my life was over.’
She believes it was Mick who found her, though she has never been completely sure. When she regained consciousness, she was in St George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner.
The nurses called her by a name she didn’t recognise. To prevent the story leaking out to the newspapers, she had been checked in under an alias. From there on, Chrissie says, less attention seemed to be given to her welfare than hushing up the fact that Mick Jagger’s girlfriend had attempted suicide.
Chrissie refuses to blame Mick for what happened after he left her for Marianne
From St George’s, she was taken, ‘in a wheelchair, in the back of a lorry’, to a private clinic in Hampstead, where, without any choice in the matter or even explanation, she was given some kind of sleep therapy. ‘The basement where they put me was so damp that I remember, as I lay in bed, my feet were wet,’ she says.
‘Every time I came round, I was put back to sleep. I asked to see my psychiatrist, but when I tried to ask him what was happening, he stuck a needle into my arm while I was speaking and knocked me out again.
‘The way I was treated was probably thought to be the best and no doubt cost a lot of money. But it was very frightening, and very scarring.’
Finally, Chrissie managed to struggle to a pay phone and contact her mother in Buckinghamshire. The long estrangement with her father was instantly forgotten.
‘I’ll always remember that when my father arrived at this clinic, he was in tears — something I’d never seen before.’
Only after Chrissie was released from the hospital, and recuperating at her parents’ home, did she learn from the newspapers about Mick and Marianne. And when at last she nerved herself to return to Harley House to collect her possessions, she found the flat’s front-door lock had been changed and she had to telephone the Stones’ office and make an appointment to be allowed in.
As far as Marianne Faithfull and her friends knew, Chrissie was history, cast off by Mick with as little difficulty as a once-worn satin shirt.
But for some months after he dumped her, she says, he would turn up without warning at her new flat and want to have sex. She found it impossible to refuse him, but if they saw each other at a party he never acknowledged her, and after about a year the visits ceased.
Chrissie went on to date another rock star, Steve Marriott from the Small Faces, who was even smaller than Mick — so tiny, in fact, that Chrissie nicknamed him ‘Peter’ — as in Peter Pan — while she made him call her ‘Wendy’. She then got out of the pop/fashion world completely, got married and had two children.
She also began studying for a sociology degree, hoping to make sense of that heady decade ‘when not only my sister and my boyfriend, but almost everyone I knew, seemed to become famous’.
Now living quietly in South London, she refuses to blame Mick for what happened. ‘You can’t help going off people, and we were both very, very young.’
Others who knew the couple are not as lenient. When bass guitarist Bill Wyman resigned from the band in 1993, after much wrangling with Mick, he rarely revealed his feelings about him, except on the odd private occasion.
One such was when he happened to bump into Chrissie and her daughter Bonnie. ‘Your mother was lovely and he treated her like s***,’ he told Bonnie. That’s a verdict with which many would agree.
Read more: I thought Mick and I would be together for ever. But his cheating drove me to take an overdose: Jagger's first love Chrissie Shrimpton breaks her 50-year silence to start our riveting new series | Mail Online