The singer in front of the Rolling Stones, the longest running band in the history of the world, is Mick Jagger. Whether you like his music or otherwise, Mick Jagger is a world recognized figure. I actually like the Stones and always have done, and even attended one of their open air concerts. I was not disappointed.
So to the book on review this week. The unauthorized biography of Mick Jagger (ISBN 978-0-06-222206-0, Harper and Collins, 2012) was written by Philip Norman, author of 22 published books, including previous autobiographies of people and groups from the roots of rock and roll. Philip Norman explains in the acknowledgements at the front of the book, why the autobiography is unauthorized. “Sir Mick talks to writers only when he has something to sell. He sees no percentage in telling the truth, or having it told, even where it reflects most positively on himself. The millions are all in the mythology. And the millions always come first.”
The young “Mike” Jagger is introduced, before he met up with Keith Richards and became “Mick”, coming from a fairly rigid household, and was noted for his polite nature. My only personal experience of the early Mick Jagger was in 1967 when a couple of little old ladies told me that “He was a lovely boy, our Mick. Always used to help the old ladies across the street and up the stairs.” Doesn’t quite fit with the stage persona, does it?
One fact that I admit was new to me was that the founder of the Rolling Stones was neither Mick nor Keith, but Brian Jones. The importance of Andrew Loog Oldham as their manager is shown, where Mick was slowly thrust into the forefront, while Brian Jones was pushed, unwillingly, to the rear.
Even the songwriting duo of Jagger and Richards was engineered by Oldham who understood that for the Stones to progress they had to produce their own music and not just do covers of other people’s songs. In fact the early iteration of Jagger and the Stones were all manipulated by Oldham, who was no older than the Stones themselves. And in a time of excesses, Oldham was rewarded for delivering the Stones to American promoter Allen Klein with a Rolls-Royce Phantom V. He was 22.
Mick’s cinematic role in the film ‘Performance’ is covered. A film so avant-garde that even the 70’s was not ready for it, but which became to be considered as one of the finest of its genre years later, and Mick given plaudits for his acting – but then again, as this book shows, Mick Jagger was always acting!
Not only is this book a chronicle of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, but it is also a reflection of the times in which the band grew up. One forgets that in the 60’s women were expected to stay demurely in the background! And marijuana had just arrived on the British scene.
At B. 605, this 600 page book is a blockbuster. If you have enjoyed the Rolling Stones over the past 50 years, you will likewise enjoy this book.