Master of All He Surveys

 

That was my first real mistake... That was Charlie Watts' room, not Pete Wolf's room, and Mick was not in Gil's room, but in Mick's room.



    Most high-ranking visitors to Long View Farm are flown up in the company airplane, and then driven out to the Farm by me, in the black Cadillac. And most of these high-ranking personalities, even the most famous of them, obey me for a while, just a little while — once they've arrived. 
    "Welcome to Long View Farm," I invariably say, just as the car stops moving in the gravel driveway. "That's the big Red Barn, and this is the Farmhouse. Come on in here with me, I'll get us a drink, and then I'll show you around." 
    And my guests almost invariably obey. "Nice looking place," they'll say, or something like that. Then they follow me into the house, I get them a drink, and show them around. 
    This time it was different. 
    "Welcome to Long View Farm, Mick," I said. "That's the big Red Barn, and this is the Farmhouse. Come on in here with me, I'll get us a drink, and then I'll show you around." 
    No reply from Mick. He was already on his feet outside the car, and heading not for the Farmhouse, per his host's orders, but toward the barn instead. 
    "Mick" I shouted after him. "This way. Over here!" 
    But to no avail. Mick was walking in a straight line toward the big Red Barn, slowing down only to acknowledge the presence and handshakes of members of his entourage. He disappeared inside the little door on the left, and for a long moment we heard and saw nothing of him. Then, without warning, he reappeared in the big red doorway, arms akimbo, surveying the large hill across the street, then the pond, then the riding ring down in the valley. He seemed to sigh, then he thrust his two hands into the back hip pockets of his Bermuda shorts, and headed back across the driveway toward the Farmhouse. He wasn't ready before; he was ready now. 
    Most visitors, when entering the Farmhouse at Long View for the first time, are amazed, awed, and astonished. They're at a loss for words, most of them, and will often stand rooted to the threshold of each room, looking respectfully up and around, marveling to each other, and having to be coaxed by me from one area to the next. "It's all right. You can come in here. Come on in, this is the studio area. Doesn't look like a studio, does it? An old farmhouse, before we came..." and so forth. 
    With Mick Jagger, this, too, was different. 
    Mick marched up the steps to the porch, through the vestibule, and into the high-ceilinged country kitchen, with precise, confident steps. And, once inside, he kept on going — past the display of flowers, past the wall of inlaid wood carvings, around the massive fireplace, and over to the large octagonal table which seats either eight, or sixteen. The footsteps stopped there for a minute, and then Mick marched back, and presented himself crisply at the serving bar. 
    "Don't mind if I have a beer," he announced. 
    "Great," I said. "Then I'll show you around a bit." 
    "Naw," he said. "I think I'll sit over there with Charlie for a while. 
    "What's that?" Mick asked, pointing to the red and white can of beer I was emptying into a glass for him. "Can't drink that swill. Don't you have some Beck's or some Heineken's or something like that? You Americans haven't learned how to make beer yet." 
    "But of course, Monsieur," I laughed, motioning toward one of the four Long View staff members standing at attention in the doorway to the pantry. "No problem." 
    Mick took his beer, grabbed Charlie Watts, and headed back toward the large octagonal table. It was as though he'd been living here for years, not minutes. 
    Astonished, a bit miffed, and wondering if Mick really knew where he was going, I followed the two of them past the fireplace and over to the table, and stood by as Mick installed himself at what you'd call the "head" of the table; Charlie Watts at his right hand. His back was to me, Mick's was, and I stood there for a moment looking over his shoulder. He seemed to be doing just fine, I had to admit. 
    "Sit down if you want," Mick said. "But just don't stand there behind me like that. Makes me nervous." 
    "A thousand pardons, gentlemen," I said, reaching deeply for my sense of dignity. "Just making sure you got the right color beer. I'll let you be." 
    Mick said nothing in reply. Didn't even turn around in his chair. Raised his left hand in a backwards salute instead, and continued talking to Charlie Watts. I was dismissed. 
    Alan Dunn was quick to take me aside. 
    "Don't get your feelings hurt, Gil. Better leave him alone for a while, then we'll show him the rest — the sleeping accommodations, and the like." 
    "Better happen soon, Alan," I said. "Bill Wyman's only about twenty minutes away now, on the Mass. Pike. Just heard from Randall." 
    "Hmmmm... I see what you mean. O.K. You wait here. I'll see what I can do." 
    Mick had a rule, I had been told earlier that day by Alan Dunn. It was that the first band member on the premises got to choose the living accommodations, at least for himself. Today's schedule showed Mick Jagger arriving at the Farm at about 6 PM. Bill Wyman was expected to arrive about 6:10 PM, only ten minutes later. Alan Dunn's brow had furrowed as he described this rule to me. It was Mick's own rule, I was given to understand. 
    In a joking reply, I said to Alan that I could probably arrange to have Wyman's limo delayed en route, for a lengthy gas stop for example, if that would ensure his arrival later than Jagger's, and thus Jagger's free choice of digs. Alan laughed, but not quite loud enough to suit me, and so I knew I was being authorized to do precisely that, although at my own risk, if I thought it likely that Wyman might actually arrive first. As it turned out, Bill and Astrid were delayed at Customs at Logan, and Mick arrived with breathing room. But it was now important to show him around, and fast. 
    "Mick's ready now," Alan said. "Why don't you show him some bedrooms." 
    "Happy to, Alan," I said. 
    Mick was on his feet — already poking around — and was clearly prepared to take the tour all by himself, if need be. 
    "Let's go, Mick," I said, and headed him first into Control Room A, with all its glittering lights and paraphernalia — the room which important rock 'n' roll artists came from all over the world to use. He walked in only a few steps, sniffed the air briefly, and dismissed the entire scene with a wave. "Get me out of here, and show me the bedrooms, " he said. "You Americans are crazy with your air conditioning." Mick had seen Control Room A, appropriated it quickly as his, and was now ready to see more. 
    We led him upstairs, past the room we call "The Crow" where Stevie Wonder spent so many hours in 1976, and up on to the third floor, where I ordinarily stay, but where I wasn't staying any more. Long View was to be given over to this particular band — lock, stock, and barrel — and that went for my room, too. 
    This room Mick actually walked into. He sniffed the air, and then bounced himself briefly upon the bed. He noticed the open nautical hatch through which the late afternoon sky still shone, the hanging plants which John Farrell had sprayed with water mist only a few minutes earlier, and the white porcelain sink and toilet, which we never bothered to wall in as a closed bathroom. He smiled, and said that this room would do for himself very well, unless perhaps there was an alternative which might be preferable. "No, Mick," I said. "We all thought this would be the room you'd stay in." 
    "And so Charlie can stay across the hall, then?" he asked. 
    "Sure," I said, "take a look. We call that Pete Wolf's room." 
    That was my first real mistake, as I was to learn only moments later from Alan Dunn. That was Charlie Watts' room, not Pete Wolf's room, and Mick was not in Gil's room, but in Mick's room. 
    The Rolling Stones had arrived at Long View Farm. .

 


 All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.