MICK: THE WILD LIFE AND MAD GENIUS OF JAGGERChristopher AndersenNewSouth Books, $34.99
Forget the hoary question of whether you would let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone, the decision now is whether you’d let your mother read one of their biographies. Tawdry and decidedly lightweight, Christopher Andersen’s book about Mick Jagger, frontman for the group routinely described as the greatest rock’n’roll band of all time, is nearly as irrelevant as its subject’s intermittent solo career.
The Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary recently, with the band’s first gig taking place on July 12, 1962, at London’s Marquee Club, and this book ties in with that via an extended update of Andersen’s 1993 paperback, Jagger: Unauthorised (a book that is curiously absent from the published list of the author’s previous works). The presentation of this hardcover improves on its predecessor, but they’re both, in essence, lurid and repetitive reads.
Andersen, whose specialty is British and American royalty (the Windsors and Kennedys, respectively), focuses on Jagger’s sex life, identifying the one-time London School of Economics student as bisexual. The musician’s immense back catalogue gets short shrift: the classic 1971 album Sticky Fingers earns a paragraph, while Angelina Jolie, who strutted through a Stones video clip in 1997 and allegedly caught Jagger’s eye, receives five pages.
The book relies on a wealth of previously published material. Andersen hasn’t interviewed Stones talisman Keith Richards, but he’s read the guitarist’s autobiography, Life. The trials of Jagger’s career, such as gaining control of the band’s finances and his creative relationships with Richards, are referenced without insight, making way for a list of male and female conquests that grows astronomical through suggestion.
Andersen’s problem is that, at the age of 69, Jagger has long been well defined. A compelling frontman turned preening showman on the stage, and a ruthless careerist with a social chameleon’s skills off it, Jagger’s played the anti-establishment provocateur and then accepted a knighthood, and apart from when the Rolling Stones are engaged in selling out stadiums, he’s simply a famous face with more lines than you remember.
At a certain point, roughly when Andersen has Jerry Hall seeing off Carla Bruni in the 1990s, the endless listing of Jagger’s assignations and the text’s uninformed, moralistic tone manages to render Jagger a sympathetic figure. Andersen links Jagger with the late Princess Margaret, suggests Princess Diana was intrigued and even shoehorns Pippa Middleton in, and, if nothing else, it makes you appreciate Jagger’s fortitude.
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