Scarlet for ya: Paul Mescal does classic Connell in The Rolling Stones’ new video

The Normal People star has more in common with the Stones than you might think

Irish actor Paul Mescal talks to Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger about his decision to go "in at the deep end" by working with the legendary band for his first ever appearance in a music video. Video: Reuters

 

In any other year this would have officially been the Summer of Paul Mescal. He brought wounded manhood and Sligo GAA into the living rooms of tens of millions as Connell in Normal People, gifting to the world the torrid west of Ireland telly romance it didn’t know it had been craving.

And that, it turned out, was just the beginning. Since then he has turned O’Neills shorts into a fashionista fetish item. This week he has already been the best thing in The Deceived, the creepy Irish Gothic whodunnit from Derry Girls’ Lisa McGee. (Wait for it on Virgin Media.)

Having conquered TV and fashion, what’s left? The answer, obviously, is for Mescal to star in the video to a new Rolling Stones song. Or at least a “new” Rolling Stones song. Scarlet is a previously overlooked B-side recorded in 1974 and featuring Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Or so Page says – Mick Jagger claims not to remember making it.

Mescal is a former Kildare footballer. And so wearing a white shirt while rolling on the floor in disappointment may come naturally to him. No wonder he commits so completely to the bit

It is released as a single 46 years later, following a deluxe reissue of the album the Stones were working on at the time, Goats Head Soup. And who better to introduce it to a new generation than the man with the golden chain?

With a pandemic going on there are, of course, limits to how epic the video can be. Anyone expecting Mescal in a fedora tilting at 90 degrees, like Michael Jackson in Smooth Criminal, is going to be underwhelmed. It’s just the actor in a room at Claridges’s hotel in London, appearing to speak into a hand-held camera. (The video was made in a socially distanced shoot.)

“Scarlett, I’m a little bit drunk,” he mumbles. “I am very sorry.”

Sorry? For what? Did he not ask her to the debs, either? Has he neglected to inquire whether she wanted a spring roll as he set off down the town with the boys? We don’t know – we shall never know! – because Jagger’s vocals jump in and Mescal spends the next three minutes miming along, looking low-key distressed in a fashion that can only be described as classic Connell.

It’s… a music video, all right. Mescal mimes, pulls faces, sweats a great deal and cavorts in his vest. (I wish there were another word for enthusiastically lurching around in your stringy top – but, no, “cavort” it must be.)

Mescal is a former Kildare footballer. And so wearing a white shirt while rolling on the floor in disappointment may come naturally to him. No wonder he commits so completely to the bit.

Classic Connell: Paul Mescal in The Rolling Stones’ new video, Scarlet
Classic Connell: Paul Mescal in The Rolling Stones’ new video, Scarlet

Weirdly, Co Kildare might be the one thing he has in common with the Stones. Ronnie Wood, the band’s multi-instrumentalist (though not at the time Scarlet was recorded), purchased a house not far from Mescal’s hometown of Maynooth in the 1990s and has been spotted regularly in the area.

Some of the apocryphal stories about him deserve their own Paul Mescal videos. Wood and Rod Stewart were said to be enjoying a rowdy two-man singalong at a pub near Wood’s mansion at Digby Bridge only for the landlord to explain that he didn’t care who they were – singing was forbidden.

On another occasion Wood, having taken delivery of a Rolls-Royce, was driving through Clane village when the fuel gauge went into the red. He stopped at a garage but could not locate the petrol cap. Several other customers joined the search. Soon a small crowd circled the car in vain – only for a passer-by to finally walk up, flip the Silver Lady statuette and reveal the cap. Is any of this true? Possibly not. We do know, however, that, headlining Slane in 2007, Mick Jagger introduced Wood as “the boy from Naas”.

So what happened when the boy from Naas met the heart-throb from Maynooth? The answer is that The Rolling Stones put out a perfectly all right video that doubles as a bonus helping of Connell being all antsy and overwrought. Normal People devotees will devour it. Stones fans will shrug it off as a bit of lockdown fun and go back to their record collections.

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