on October 19, 2012
I picked this up because I was impressed with Philip Norman's earlier book on John Lennon. I could not disagree more with the previous reviewer who found so many faults here. It also is not a "bio on the Stones, focusing on Mick." It is a biography of Mick Jagger. It may be that, in fact, we read different books.
If you are well-versed in the life story of Michael Philip jagger, then obviously most of the information here is not 'new' in any sense. I agree that Keith Richards' autobiography is more fun to read, as it captures his voice. With the caveat that he tells his tale as he remembers it and at times his story varies from other accounts. But biography and autobiography are two distinct categories.
I didn't get the sense that Norman knocked the Beatles in any way during the course of detailing Mick's life. He shows how highly Mick thought of John Lennon, in particular. I do think he does an excellent job of giving Mick's less publicized benevolence a fair hearing, along with his less charitable moments.
Since Marianne Faithfull does not paint herself in a flattering light but is, at times, brutally honest in her own book (sited here) I simply don't understand this criticism. Also, Brian Jones is not 'constantly denigrated.' Rather his incredible musical talents are highlighted and his seminal role in creating and promoting the band is detailed. His sad and very rapid decline into drugs and paranoia is portrayed with sympathy, especially in Mick's dealings with him
The biggest reveal here is that the decadent 'Lizard King' style rock god was always a role that Jagger played for commercial effect, not in any way a reflection of his real personality, intellect and interests. As for the former London School of Economics student being unaware that taxes were levied on his rock and roll income, Norman makes it clear that the entire band was being misled by their management about their finances.
As for 'the nothing new here' claim. It simply isn't true. An example: the real story behind the infamous Redlands drug bust is revealed for the first time, along with the identity of 'Acid King David.' For the details you must read the book. However, here's a connection that Norman didn't make: 'Acid King David' eventually marries Lotus Weinstock, the last girlfriend of Lenny Bruce.
The only real criticism that one can level is that the first half of Jagger's life is given so much detail and the second half considerably less so. Though I would also make the case that the first half of Jagger's life deserves more attention. Still, for a one volume bio on its subject, this book is the one to get. Of some note is that the author's first interview with Jagger took place back in 1965.
on October 26, 2012
When Michael Philip Jagger made his entrance into the world in Dartford, England, in 1943, his parents, Joe and Eva Jagger, surely had no idea of the magnitude of fame, notoriety and wealth their little boy would one day possess. By the time the rest of us became acquainted with Mick, however, there were definite signs of things to come.
In MICK JAGGER, Philip Norman begins with a bit of background on Mick, then known as Mike, his childhood, his parents and brother, and his early friendship with fellow Rolling Stone Keith Richards. We follow him to the London School of Economics where he likely gained the financial acumen that has allowed him to accumulate and manage the vast fortune he possesses today and to ensure the financial success of The Rolling Stones.
We soon catapult into the days preceding the runaway fame of The Rolling Stones and follow Mick through the ups and downs that have made up his life. The expulsion of Brian Jones from the band and the mystery of his subsequent death, the drug busts and raids, the competition with the Beatles, and Mick's exodus from England to France for tax purposes are fodder for our perusal in MICK JAGGER.
We also get the inside scoop on some of Mick's many relationship with women. Chrissie Shrimpton, Marianne Faithfull, Marsha Hunt, Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall have all figured significantly in his life, and here we learn more about the unique mechanics of each relationship. The gratuitous sex with an ever-changing cast of characters that is part of Mick's bad boy persona and a detriment to maintaining serious relationships are also investigated.
Most fascinating of all are the frequent glimpses into what makes a man like Mick tick. The things that drive, motivate and excite him are all explored in a way that gives us a well-rounded picture of the intriguing man who is revered by some and reviled by others.
Of course, no biography would be complete without an examination of the deep and tumultuous relationship between "The Glimmer Twins," Mick and Keith. While the friendship has taken several hits throughout the years, the strange bond the two have had survived mostly intact and makes for interesting reading.
Last, but not least, the stories behind the songs, facts regarding controversial concerts like Hyde Park and Altamont, tales from Mick's big screen appearances, and details about his relationship with his manager from the early days, Andrew Loog Oldham, are included in this highly detailed portrait.
Author Philip Norman helps us sort fact from fiction and tells us when the two merge to create the larger-than-life persona of Mick Jagger. We find details here that are omitted from other published works on Mick, and we eat them up with the eagerness of starving natives. No matter how much we may protest, the truth is that we can't get enough of Mick Jagger, the man other men want to be and, God knows, millions of women want to be with.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor
on October 7, 2012
But the author has some favs among the bunch, as I guess all writers do. He constantly denigrates Brian Jones, and puts Marianne Faithfull on a pedestal. She must have helped him with the book, as he clearly worships her and believes everything she says, while he basically says Keith made stuff up in his book. Maybe so, but I think all autobiographies are suspect.(This book of Norman's also has Eric Clapton married to someone named "Pamela" who was meant to be a suitable friend for Mick's girl, Marianne. Clapton had no such wife-I don't think he meant to say Pattie (Boyd) due to the time frame, still late sixties, so this is just an error.) Writer also cannot type the name Graham Parsons with referencing the late musician's "beauty"- a man crush perhaps.
The author does tend to build Mick up whenever possible, and also, to issue digs at the Beatles with surprising regularity. He also tends to "debunk" all stories regarding the band and/or Mick over the years, without giving any more than his say so that it didn't really happen that way, especially with regards to Altamont.
The book is also repetitious at times, as though the reader cannot remember something he wrote a few chapters back , so he details it again. Maybe he was being paid by the word.
I really did not uncover anything new in this book; he rehashes the same stories, the drug busts, the infamous Mars bar (over which he giggles and snorts repeatedly) the urinating scandal, as well as a claim that Bianca, too, relieved herself in a gutter during the filming of an aborted movie. Lots of references of who slept with who, allegedly. The saga of Marsha Hunt's baby with Mick, taking the side of Marsha Hunt in this case. Mick's obsession with order, discipline and money, nothing new there, save the little surprise that it never occurred to economic- minded Mick that taxes might have to be paid on rock and roll income. I also find it hard to believe that Eric Clapton actually auditioned and was turned down for the spot in the band vacated by Mick Taylor, due to Clapton's loathing of being in a band, and his own status at the time.
All in all, it is an okay book if you are not already full-versed on the history of the Stones. But even though this author repeatedly disparages it, Keith's book "Life" was far more entertaining.
on May 23, 2013
Philip Norman's Jagger book is a lot like his others - plenty of research into what has gone before in order to write a careful and chronological biography.
This may be part of the problem. Norman became famous on the rock journalism scene for writing the most comprehensive book of the early Beatles years, "Shout!" more objective and researched than most at the time and still considered the best outlining the Beatlemania years. But his writing is notoriously measured and unexciting. More reference than a book you go back to for pleasure.
His Lennon book was long and better researched and John's story was certainly more engaging - art and politics and fame and Yoko, not to mention the music - simply a better yarn perhaps (and had the benefit of hindsight and perspective). Jagger's story isn't quite done, but his actual story - the journey through the last 60+ years - isn't as compelling relayed here.
Norman has covered all the bases and quotes liberally from Marianne Faithful's book as well as the other Stones', including Keith Richards's which Norman admits is more fiction than fact. Why? Because the one true voice, the center, Jagger's voice is missing. There're hardly any meaningful quotes from him. And therefore insight or a sense of what motivates/motivated him is elusive.
Norman makes much hay of how Jagger claims amnesia for much of the more scandalous or inconvenient events in the Stones history. If it was a matter of learning how he ticks by reflection of his actions that would be okay, but the actions are not so revealing. The story seems to boil down to a blues singer who was caught up in a famous band, got pretty girls (often pregnant) in the blur of the '60s and '70s, and became a businessman and turned the RS into an industry almost on accident.
There is no excitement in the music being created here, and no really dishy conversations about how the band stayed together - or almost broke up - or recorded that album (there's some, particularly re "Exile") - or real details of the finances. (Tremlett's Bowie book "Living On The Brink" for example dwelves deep into why Bowie signs with whom, the deals, the advances; this is a topic very important to understanding the Stones, as icons and as an institution.)
Norman does spend a lot of time on Altamont and its lead-in and fallout, and he refers to Faithful's drug-bust and the "wrapped in a rug" detail a half-dozen times as a kind of rimshot. Like he's gotten hold of a delicious morsel that has to last beyond its usefulness because there are few more coming. Norman doesn't get to that kernel of insight into Mick that makes the biography transcend a mere recounting.
Why is Jagger so secretive about some things but not about others? What do the others really feel about him, about rock 'n' roll, about the competition? The tours?
You won't find those answers here. As a summary of Jagger up to now this is fine. But I can't help thinking there's a better book to be written about him.
on February 12, 2013
The author has done a very good job researching and uncovering new details about Mick Jagger. But it turns out - for this reader anyway - that Jagger's life appears to be too BIG just for this book. When you're writing about the front man of The Rolling Stones, who've been the world's most famous rock stars for 50 plus years, it's tough to include every detail. But Norman includes most. As mentioned, some are new but others were big news stories that helped shape the legend of The Rolling Stones. Drug busts, death, violence, mega-hit records, women, children and even Knighthood. And in fact, a running joke through the book is that Jagger had to return a big-money publishing advance to write his memoirs - claiming he couldn't remember much. According to the author, so many events and milestones that made up his life were so outrageous and headline making that it would be impossible for anyone to forget. But that's just an example of what makes Jagger still a bit of a mystery. In interviews he remains vague and secretive about much of his private and even professional, Rolling Stones life. He could be with a woman for years, have children together, and still make it seem in public as if "they're just good friends."
I enjoyed this book. When I mention the subject as being too big - it means the entire scope of Jagger's career simply includes too many milestone events and other interesting facts that could have been examined in more detail. One of my favorite Stones public relations move was when the band announced the 1975 U.S. tour by performing "Brown Sugar" on a flatbed trunk in Manhattan. In this book it wasn't even mentioned. And though the decline and death of Brian Jones and the tragedy that occured at Altamont in 1969 are told in detail, the violence and drug haze that surrounded 1972 "Exile On Main Street" tour seems glossed over in favor of rehashing the story that writer Truman Capote (too old) brought Jackie O's sister (too unknown) to meet the band. No Stones fan at that time really cared about Capote or "Princess Lee" - and we still don't.
But those are very minor ommissions and probably only noticable to a Stones fan like myself. For a good overview of the life of one of the most famous and notorious rock stars of all time (only Elvis, John Lennon and Paul McCartney could top Mick in that category) I recommend this book.
on November 17, 2014
After just reading Keith Richards bio, LIFE, I wanted to hear the Stones story from Mick's point of view. It didn't happen with this book. I don't know if this was an authorized bio but the author barely seems to know Jagger. This author seems to think that the Stones were just Jagger's backup band and that Mick would have elevated any bunch of musicians to greatness. I grew up with the Stones. I rarely could understand what Mick was saying but didn't care because their entire sound was great. Norman presents a story that is pasted together from other books, articles and rumors. To these he adds his own creepy perspective. I feel I know Richards a bit by listening to his recollections and stories, even if his memory is somewhat suspect. I came to like and respect him. I have no idea who Mick Jagger is. Disappointing.
on June 17, 2013
At a certain point about 2/3 of the way through the book, I started feeling that the author was far from enamoured of Mick. He seemed to feel Mick was, for lack of something better to say, too big for his britches. Whether that's true or not, it's just the impression I got from the narrative.
on December 25, 2013
I have been a Stones fan from the very early days so was interested to see what a 2012 biography might reveal on a 50 year career that had not been told before. My conclusion is very little although the facts are well researched and logically presented in a very readable format without the usual "trainspotting" detail.
Jagger comes across as something of a chameleon where he can switch persona easily between rock star, father figure and family man, discoursing on a range of topics from poetry to politcs with appropriate "languages" to match, including Mockney, French, Delta Blues drawl and the middle class English he was brought up on, depending on his audience. Interesting too as another reviewer observed that he still seems to have a solid relationship with all his chirldren.
The Keith/Mick struggle is rather old hat these days and indeed Jagger did rescue the Stones firstly by parting with Allen Klein and again in the 80's when Keef was right out of it. While I was aware that Woody and Mick Taylor were on a monthly wage, it was news to me that Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman were also on a wage. These are areas where some more detail would have been interesting.
Be warned...this is a long book, almost 600 pages. Chapter 18 starts on page 500 talking about the Rolling Stones' world tour marking their 20th anniversary in 1981-82 so you can see how much detail has been devoted to the first two decades. The other three decades are shoe-horned into the remaining 100 pages.
on March 26, 2013
I read Richards' autobiography before I read this book, and to the extent that they differ on some issues I found Keith's book to be more credible. Jagger is clearly an exceptional person, but I find that I don't like him much. In fact sometimes I wonder if he is a type of sociopath. He is smarter than anyone around him but much less appealing. I realize I'm rambling, sorry.. Definitely worth the read.
on February 9, 2015
It reads to much like an Andrew Oldham press release and forgets there were five very talented Rolling Stones and the heart of any great rock n' roll band is the bass player and drummer. Mick Jagger was never sucessfull as a solo act and always needed his musical partners to reach his full potential as an artist. .