How Mick Jagger Got Dissed By M.C. Escher

Image credit: 

On January 1, 1969, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger wrote artist M.C. Escher a letter asking Escher to provide an image for the Stones' second volume of greatest hits, entitled Through The Past Darkly. Jagger was a big Escher fan, and addressed the letter to "Maurits," the "M" in "M.C." Well...turns out Escher was NOT a Stones fan. Below is the correspondence, as reproduced by a World of Escher forum post from 2002. It's kind of mind-blowing to think that an artist would turn down the chance for a Stones album cover, but hey -- apparently Escher preferred Bach (and Mott the Hoople, which used a colorized version of Escher's "Reptiles" on their self-titled debut in 1969).

Jagger's Letter

Dear Maurits,
For quite some time now I have had in my possession your book (Graphic Works Of...) and it never ceases to amaze me each time I study it! In fact I think your work is quite incredible and it would make me very happy for a lot more people to see and know and understand exactly what you are doing.

In March or April this year, we have scheduled our next LP record for release, and I am most eager to reproduce one of your works on the cover-sleeve. Would you please consider either designing a "picture" for it, or have you any unpublished works which you might think suitable -the "optical illusion" idea very much appeals to me, although one like "Evolution" would of course be equally as suitable. -and would say the same thing. You might even like to do a long one like "Metamorphosis" which we could then reproduce as a folding-out sleeve. It could be either in one colour or full colour, that would be up to you entirely.

Naturally, both you and your publishers would get full credits on the sleeve, and we could negotiate a fee on hearing of your decision to do it. I would be most grateful if you could contact Peter Swales or Miss Jo Bergman at the above address or telephone (reverse charge), and either will give you every necessary assistance. However, I am not so fortunate as to possess a Dutch interpreter, and so if you do not speak English or French, I would again be grateful if you could fix up somebody in Baarn to oblige.

Yours very sincerely,
MICK JAGGER
for ROLLING STONES LTD.

Escher's Response

I have bolded the diss.

Dear Sir [addressed to Mr. Peter Swales],
Some days ago I received a letter from Mr. Jagger asking me to design a picture or to place at his disposal unpublished work to reproduce on the cover-sleeve for an LP record.

My answer to both questions must be no, as I want to devote all my time and attention to the many commitments I made; I cannot possibly accept any further assignments or spend any time on publicity.

By the way, please tell Mr. Jagger I am not Maurits to him, but
Very sincerely,
M. C. Escher.

According to the forum post that brought this all to light: "In an ensuing letter, Mick Jagger asked for permission to use the Escher image "Verbum" a hexagonal image for which a hexagonal album cover would be designed, a request that was again denied. Escher claimed that he was not offended by the "over-familiarity" of Mick's letter, it was more that he received so many requests, and in all fairness to all the other refusals, he could not make an exception to that rule. The Stones LP entitled "Through The Past Darkly" was released as a hexagonally designed cover-sleeve." Pictured at the top of this post is the actual image used for the sleeve. Not exactly a masterwork. (Note from the comments: yeah, that's an octagon, not a hexagon. Well, anyway.)

(Via Kottke.org, in a rather amusing post entitled From the desk of Mr. Jagger, which includes correspondence with Andy Warhol.)

More from mental_floss...

October 21, 2009 - 9:39am
webby
submit to reddit