A biography and cultural examination of the Rolling Stones' frontman Mick Jagger's spectacular life and the cultural revolution he led.
As the Rolling Stones' legendary front man Mick Jagger remains an enigma. He hasn't given an in-depth interview for a decade and a half and never commented on his friend and partner, Keith Richard's often critical biography. Drawing on firsthand recollections from rockers, filmmakers, writers, radicals, and other artists who have been transformed by Mick Jagger's work, acclaimed music journalist Marc Spitz has created a unique examination of the Jagger legacy, debunking long held myths and restoring his status as a complicated artist. Combining biography with cultural history, Jagger unfolds like a captivating documentary, a series of episodes tracing the icon's rise from his childhood in middle-class postwar London to his status as a jet-setting knight.
A culturally astute, often funny, and painstakingly researched read, Jagger offers a far richer portrait than biographies published previously. The book reveals much about his relationships (with Marianne Faithfull and ex-wives Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall); his complex, creative partnership with Keith Richards; his friends like John Lennon and David Bowie; and enemies like Hells Angels leader Sonny Barger. Spitz goes even deeper, exploring Jagger's many roles: an authentic soul man; powerful social commentator; sexual liberator; would-be movie star; and yes, sometimes, a shrewd businessman with an enthusiasm for much younger women. The myth of Mick is examined and rebooted for the twenty-first century.
Marc Spitz's "Best of Jagger" Playlist
Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue is a look at the Mick Jagger as you have never seen him before. From bluesy teenager to hardened legendary rocker, Jagger explores the highs and lows of over 50 years of rock n’ roll (with a little glam rock, punk rock, soul music and cocktail party mixed in). Combine with author Marc Spitz’s "Best of Jagger" playlist and you will find yourself on the Mick side of the Glimmer Twins.
Here are Spitz's 10 favorite Jagger vocal performances (in order). Preview all 10 songs.
1. "That’s How Strong My Love Is" (1965)
Anyone who says the dude has no soul needs to dig this one out. You can’t fake blood and Mick’s broken heart bleeds all over the track. While you can’t beat Otis Redding’s version from the same year, Mick and the Stones come very close.
2. "Moonlight Mile" (1971)
Simply the greatest comedown record of all time, as if the someone finally turned the light on at long and perilous 60s cocktail party and everyone started to shiver and scheme at once. Keith is famously absent but Micks Jagger and Taylor craft an inimitable mood full of dread, resolve and unmatched beauty.
3. "Emotional Rescue" (1980)
More a new wave disco suite than anything else, the title track of the Stones’ seventeenth (!) album features three great Mick vocals: a cartoon mouse falsetto, a gleefully smarmy drawl and finally, a stentorian, spoken vow to cross the desert on Arabian horseback and somehow end up at Studio 54 before last call.
4. "Shattered" (1978)
Three words: "Shmatta, shmatta, shmatta."
5. "The Spider and the Fly" (1965)
Who else can infuse a lyric like: "Down to the bar at the place I’m at..." with Hitchcock-ian suspense and sexy mischief? Something amoral is about to happen. Less an ode to the famous Mary Howitt poem and more a warning (that none of his women seemed to heed) that a spider will be a spider.
6. "I Can’t Get No Satisfaction" (1965)
So overplayed it’s underplayed. You don’t listen to it as much as you should because you think you know it, but have another (loud) date with it and be reminded (as last season’s Mad Men demonstrated) why it’s the greatest rock and roll recording of all time.
7. "Lady Jane" (1967)
Quietly elegant, terribly English, with the late, great Brian Jones’ lacework dulcimer and Mick’s least camp (or perhaps most) vocals ever.
8. "Ventilator Blues" (1972)
Slathered with echo and heavier than metal, this is one of the few places on record where Mick sounds like he might be able to kick your ass without a security team. Exile on Main Street purists can’t really abide including this without a nod to it’s segue song, the gospel great, "I Just Wanna See His Face."
9. "Too Much Blood" (1983)
Featuring Mick’s cockney "rap" (this was after all, the era when every respectable British rock god from Joe Strummer to Adam Ant, Captain Sensible and Malcolm McLaren released a rap record) about a Japanese pal who ate his Parisian girlfriend and buried her bones in the Bois de Boulogne. Not the greatest protest song ever written, but, musically, at least, certainly the Rolling Stones greatest (and only) Duran Duran homage.
10. "Country Honk" (1969)
Rock’s greatest mimic can turn on a Jamaican patois (see 1976’s "Hot Stuff") and, most consistently an African American blues baritone (see every Rolling Stones record up to Aftermath), but he seems to get the most pleasure from channeling the hard r’s and elongated vowels of our country "sang-errrs." The more famous single version (with more cowbell to boot) contains a straight forward rock vocal but this album track (off Let It Bleed) is more fun than a jar full of spit.
Listen to the "Best of Jagger" playlist
"Talk about sympathy for the devil: Marc Spitz turns Mick Jagger’s life into a savagely funny, monstrously hypnotic narrative. It’s a brilliant tale of sex, music, decadence, and celebrity, one that seems to suck in most of the past century, from Route 66 to Studio 54. Nobody’s ever told the story better—Jagger might be rock & roll’s most unknowable soul, but Spitz gives him back every bit of his Satanic majesty."
(Rob Sheffield )
"Mick Jagger is our age's Byronic exemplar of action and experience. Mick and the Rolling Stones opened new worlds for us, and worlds beyond. Marc Spitz, Jagger's latest biographer, has done him justice and more, with new info, trenchant insights, and best of all- a sense of humor."
(Stephen Davis )
"The first sentence of the 5th paragraph of this book is 'Here we go', and Spitz means it. This is a sustained, headlong, late-night crystalline rant/sermon/declaration that never lets up, never plays safe, and, when you're finished, finally lets you breathe. Goddamit. Now I have to go buy this dude's Bowie book."
(Patton Oswalt )
"If Chuck Berry invented 'rock and roll' Mick Jagger invented 'rock star.' With the swagger and the soul, the brains and the balls, Spitz proves that Jagger is truly the man. An insightful and inspiring page burner, Jagger is a pleasure for even the most jaded jukebox junkie."
(Jesse Malin )
"With a reporter's doggedness, a fan's zeal, and a stand-up's eye for absurd detail, Marc Spitz makes the awfully compelling case that Mick Jagger's true talents have long gone underappreciated. Jagger provides ample proof of why Spitz is one of rock lit's funniest, funkiest, and finest voices."
(Doug Brod, Editor in Chief, SPIN
“[A] picaresque biography.”
“An eager hagiography that takes aim at Mr. Richards while trumpeting Mr. Jagger’s overlooked fine qualities. Spitz knows enough about the Stones’ history to pick good shots and leave out the dull stuff.”
(New York Times
“His history is every bit as compelling as the one portrayed by Richards in his recent autobiography”
(The Boston Globe
“Stones fans and popular music readers can rest comfortably knowing that Jagger is not only an engaging biography, but also a compelling work of cultural criticism.”
“Competently enough written, this is a pleasant read that nicely puts all the old stories in some order, referencing discarded lovers, dalliances, and other time-honored themes.”
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