Mick Jagger Recounts Fleeing High Tax Rates in England, Success ‘Resented’ Unlike in America

On Tuesday’s Larry King Live on CNN, a pre-recorded interview with Mick Jagger was shown in which the English musician talked about his decision to leave his home country in the 1970s to escape the 90 percent marginal tax rates of the time on high-income earners. After noting that he had made bad financial decisions in his earlier days of success, he recounted: "We had to leave England to acquire enough money to pay the taxes because in those days, in England, the high tax rate was 90 percent, so that's very hard. ... You made 100 pounds, they took 90. So it was very difficult to pay any debts back. So when we left the country, we would get more than the 10 pounds out of 100. You know, we might get 50 or something."

After King asked if he was "held in low regard in your mother country for leaving it," Jagger explained that, unlike in America, successful people are "resented" in most countries, including England:

MICK JAGGER: You're already held in low regard in most countries if you even step out of it, ever. You know, what people want you to be is a little band that plays in clubs, and that's where you should belong, you know. They don't want you to be a big success. You're never the same, you know. So especially in England in those days. And even now I think that you, once you become a success, a worldwide success, you no longer belong to the little place where you started, to the little part of west London where you were brought up, so, or played. And so you lose something of that when you become a success. I don't think America's really like that. I think you find that kind of hard to understand.

LARRY KING: Yeah. Success is resented?

JAGGER: Yeah, it's resented.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Tuesday, May 18, Larry King Live on CNN:

LARRY KING: Let's talk about the exile. What, you had a tax lien? You know, people forget this story.

MICK JAGGER: Yeah, it's not particularly interesting to, except for us.

KING: When a major group leaves-

JAGGER: Yeah, well, we had to go, which is sort of, we had some problems that we had some very bad advice. And we were, you know, pretty green in some ways. And we were just interested in making music, and we weren't really interested in the money side of things too much, a very typical story.

KING: That wasn't the goal?

JAGGER: Money wasn't the goal. We expected to be well off, you know, because in those days you just did if you were successful. And we were very successful, but we weren't very well managed. So we had to leave England to acquire enough money to pay the taxes because in those days, in England, the high tax rate was 90 percent, so that's very hard.

KING: You made 100 pounds, they took 90?

JAGGER: Exactly. You made 100 pounds, they took 90. So it was very difficult to pay any debts back. So when we left the country, we would get more than the 10 pounds out of 100. You know, we might get 50 or something.

KING: What was it like to live in France? The documentary shows it.

JAGGER: Yeah, the documentary, it was, you know, France is a nice, you know, I knew France quite well. And, you know, most English people have been to France when they're kids, you know, it's like the next door country, and most English people have got experience of France. And then the south of France is pretty-

KING: Not bad?

JAGGER: Not bad, you know, most people love it. ...

KING: Wasn't it hard, though, wasn't it hard to leave home?

JAGGER: It's hard, yeah. I think at the beginning when you're young, it's not, you know. It's not really. I didn't find it much of a wrench. But then after a while, you know, you realize that, you know, I mean, I didn't miss the British food and all that sort, but some English people miss all those things. But after a while, you realize that you, it makes you a bit rootless, I think-

KING: Ruthless?

JAGGER: Rootless.

KING: Rootless.

JAGGER: Rootless, yeah. But, you know, having said that, if you're a touring musician, you tend, that's where you tend to be.

KING: The road?

JAGGER: The road is your life. And so it's not, you know, in a way, you can overplay that.

KING: Were you held in low regard in your mother country for leaving it?

JAGGER: Oh, probably. Everyone is. I mean, everybody that, I mean, you're already held in low regard in most countries if you even step out of it, ever. You know, what people want you to be is a little band that plays in clubs and that's where you should belong, you know. They don't want you to be a big success. You're never the same, you know. So especially in England in those days. And even now I think that you, once you become a success, a worldwide success, you no longer belong to the little place where you started, to the little part of west London where you were brought up, so, or played. And so you lose something of that when you become a success. I don't think America's really like that. I think you find that kind of hard to understand.

KING: Yeah. Success is resented?

JAGGER: Yeah, it's resented. It was then, anyway. I'm not sure about now, whether it really is on the same level. England is a much more open place.