5th February 1981. Hamilton, Bermuda.
Jagger steered his way through a mass of bodies writhing on the dance floor of the Forty Thieves Club. At the same time, he maintained a tight grip on the forearm of the man walking beside him. All around, loud rock music thumped from the speakers. Coloured lights flashed. The other man, dressed in a white suit and matching fedora, staggered a little as he followed Jagger’s lead. Jagger tightened his grip on the man’s arm. If he were to let go now, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.
They made their way towards the main door. Jagger thrust out his spare hand and pushed it open. They walked out into the mild evening air. Jagger took several deep breaths and let the world slow down a little. He looked around. Fortunately, several taxis were parked and waiting. Quickly, he led his companion to the first car in line.
The driver popped his head through the open window.
“Hey,” Jagger said, coming closer. “Can you take my friend back to Fairylands? He’s had a little too much to drink. But he won’t puke. I promise.”
The driver smiled. He said nothing but gave Jagger the thumbs up. Jagger handed the man some cash and a piece of paper with an address scribbled on it.
The driver counted the cash. His eyes lit up. “Hey friend,” he said. “This is too much for Fairylands.”
Jagger extended his hand towards the driver.
“Just get him there. And if does puke, I’ll buy you a new car.”
The driver reached out and they shook on it.
“You need help getting him in?” the driver asked.
“Nah I got it.”
With his spare hand, Jagger opened the car door and gently guided his companion into the back seat.
“Hey John,” he said. “Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?”
John Lennon, who was trying to sit upright in the backseat, turned to Jagger and shook his head.
“Go on,” he said. “Have some fun Jags.”
Jagger nodded. He signalled for the driver to go. As the car moved away, he took note of the license plate number – just in case.
“Jesus,’ Jagger said, walking back towards the club. “Since when did I become the responsible one?”
The Forty Thieves Club was located on Front Street, close to Hamilton Harbour. The club, which had been open since 1962, was a big hit with tourists and locals alike and was always busy.
Jagger walked past the burly doorman who greeted him with a nod. He was torn between what to do next - get shit-faced or follow the boss back to the house? The last thing he needed was to go back later and find Lennon drowned in a pool of his own vomit. He’d been surprised – very surprised at how much of a lightweight the legendary rock star was when it came to drinking. Lennon had downed no more than half a glass of beer before he’d started slurring his words. Then came the growling. He’d been talking nonsense most of the night; ranting about a variety of topics, a little music, but mostly politics. Specifically, he’d criticised the former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, calling him all sorts of amusing names. No biggie. Everyone was down on Carter after the shit that was the seventies. What had surprised Jagger was that Lennon had gone on to express his support for the new Reagan regime. Turned out that he actually liked the current President. This didn’t fit with the John Lennon that Jagger knew. But he’d deliberately avoided getting into a political debate with his boss. It wasn’t the right time or place for that.
Thank God he was sober.
Jagger sat down at the large, circular bar, where he and John had been sitting all night. He caught the barman’s eye and ordered another beer. While he waited for his drink to come, he took in the décor on the walls. The club was full of paintings of scenes from the Ali Baba story, some of which were quite vivid and fitting. Others seemed a little tacky to Jagger’s eye.
His eyes wandered towards the stage. There was no live music that night, but blasting from the club speakers was a variety of contemporary hits from the likes of The B-52’s, Blondie, and Stevie Wonder.
The laid back vibe of the little Atlantic island had agreed with Jagger from the start. He even blended in with the tourists, who weren’t averse to wearing Hawaiian shirts and cream chinos themselves.
As he sat there at the bar, Jagger felt someone tap him on the shoulder. He turned around and a middle-aged white guy, late forties to early fifties, and hovering on the brink of obesity, stood before him. The man was dressed in a silk white shirt, black trousers, and a dark fedora hat tilted to the side, partially covered a mop of thinning blond hair.
He leaned closer to Jagger, doing his best to be heard over the voice of Debbie Harry, who was singing the first verse to ‘Call Me’ through the speakers.
“Say wasn’t that John Lennon you were with earlier?” the man said.
No biggie, thought Jagger. Most people already knew that Lennon was back on the island. He’d publicly spoken of his affection for Bermuda where just a year earlier, he’d been inspired to write songs again after a mid-seventies slump.
“Sure,” he said. “That was John.”
The man’s face lit up.
“Well, that’s just incredible,” he said, positioning himself on the vacant barstool. The one Lennon had just been sitting on. “You know I saw you guys sitting over here and I said to myself – that’s John Lennon! I was going to come up and say hi, but I didn’t want to be one of those assholes, you know what I mean? The guy who doesn’t know how to play it cool around celebrities.”
Jagger nodded. “Well you’re safe now,” he said. “I’m not famous.”
“Yeah but you are,” the man said. “You’re the guy who saved his life aintcha? I recognise that long red hair n’all.”
Jagger nodded. “I work for him now.”
The barman brought Jagger’s beer over to the bar. He placed it on the mat and Jagger dug into his shirt pocket for his wallet. As he did so, the other man was already putting a note into the barman’s hand.
“That’s on me,” he said to Jagger. “You’re a real live hero, aintcha?” And to the barman he said: “I’ll take one of those beers too my good man.”
The barman nodded and walked away.
“Don’t mind if I join you, do you?” asked the man.
“No,” said Jagger. Too late. He’d sat down anyway. Still, Jagger wasn’t sure about wanting to spend time around this guy – his asshole detector was tingling.
“The name’s Paul,” said the man, thrusting a fat hand towards Jagger. “Paul W. McCreet, from Lake Charles, Louisiana.”
They shook hands.
“Jagger. Just Jagger.”
“That’s kind of funny,” he said. “You saving Lennon’s life, but being called Jagger. Be even funnier if you were called McCartney, wouldn’t it?”
Hilarious, thought Jagger.
“Anyway,” McCreet said. “I guess I was too nervous to come over when John was here.”
“He appreciates people who leave him alone,” Jagger said.
McCreet nodded. “Good thing I held back,” he said. “I bet he doesn’t want to bump into another guy called Paul Mac.”
Jagger had to laugh. As he did, the barman came back with another beer.
“Thank you,” McCreet said, eyeing up the copper-coloured liquid. He drank at a furious pace, almost draining the glass in one go. Then he wiped the froth from his lips and leaned in closer to Jagger.
“Seriously though,” he said. “I love The Beatles. “I dig their music.”
Jagger said nothing.
“Looked like you guys were having a deep discussion earlier,” McCreet said. “C’mon Mick Jagger! Tell me the Fab Four are getting back together.”
Jagger lifted the glass of beer to his lips. He shook his head. “No,” he said. “But he’s here making music. We’re putting demos together for the follow-up album to Double Fantasy.”
“Double Fantasy,” McCreet said, wiping more froth off his lips. “I liked John’s stuff. Pity she had to put her songs on it.”
Jagger let out a sigh.
“Yoko?” he said. “I think some of her stuff is incredible. Have you heard ‘Walking on Thin Ice? It’s way ahead of its time man.”
McCreet looked as if he was about to burst out laughing.
“I wish she would go walking on thin ice,” he said. He drained the rest of his glass. “On the back of a six ton elephant.”
Jagger ignored him. Best not to engage with the Yoko-haters.
“Anyway,” McCreet said, trying to catch the barman’s attention again. “What sort of work do you do for John?”
A thought occurred to Jagger. Had he been the McCreet on so many other nights? The annoying drunk? The one guy that everyone else wanted to avoid?
McCreet was struggling to catch the barman’s eye. Jagger raised a hand and the tall barman was over in a second.
“Two more,” Jagger said. He turned to McCreet. “And then I’ll have to go.”
McCreet scowled a little. He was clearly unhappy at the prospect of this conversation ending.
“So what did you say did for John?”
Jagger sighed. He wanted to tell McCreet to fuck off and mind his own business. But he wasn’t sure that the big man would take it too well.
“Running errands,” Jagger said. “Picking up his favourite sushi. Helping with Sean. That kind of thing.”
“Part of the family, huh?”
“They certainly make me feel that way,” he said. “Last month I had a birthday and they threw me a big party at the Dakota. Presents, cake, and beer – it was incredible. Made me feel like I’d been with them for years. They even had all these long, red-haired wigs and beards made up in my honour. Hawaiian shirts too. Everyone was wearing them, even Sean.”
McCreet stared at Jagger for longer than felt comfortable. Jagger wondered what the fat man was thinking about. Still star-struck? He’d been so close to the great man after all. Lennon had been sitting on that same stool just minutes earlier. A couple more drinks and he could see McCreet getting down on his knees and taking a deep sniff.
Smell that Beatlebum.
“I’ve been helping him with the new songs too,” Jagger said.
McCreet just looked at him.
“Yeah,” Jagger said. “I’ve been doing a little background percussion. Bongos, tambourine, that kind of thing. As well as being in charge of the tape recorder.”
“You lucky motherfucker,” McCreet said. There was more than a hint of resentment there. “You’re making music with John Lennon?”
Jagger smiled. “Yeah.”
The next round of beers arrived. Jagger went to work on his fast. So did McCreet.
“You hippie bastard,” McCreet said. “Tell me what you were talking about. I want to know about that deep discussion you guys were having right here. I want to know everything. When are the Beatles getting back together?”
Jagger shook his head. “No Beatles,” he said. “It was mostly politics.”
McCreet’s eyes narrowed until they were a pair of black slits.
“Still a commie is he?”
Jagger finished his beer and slid the glass across the bar. Then he turned to McCreet.
“What was that?”
McCreet leaned in. “Lennon,” he said. “Still a commie bastard, is he?”
Jagger shook his head.
“You’d be surprised,” he said, dismounting from the barstool. “You’d be very surprised.”
With that, Jagger strolled past the large figure of McCreet, who was staring back at him from the barstool. There was real hurt in the fat man’s eyes. As Jagger walked past, he laid a hand on McCreet’s shoulder and leaned in closer.
“Goodnight asshole,” he said.
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