Images Courtesy of Gallery Books
Are you a lover of The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? It doesn’t matter. Tongues will be wagging about “MICK: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger.”
The latest biography on one of the world’s greatest performers comes from Christopher Andersen, the writer of bestsellers on the Kennedys, Clintons and royals.
Jagger’s talent, smarts (he attended the London School of Economics), 50-year career and lifestyle of the rich, famous and decadent have long been documented. Still, “MICK” is a well-balanced, addictive read that makes you wonder how he has survived it all – as well as how his circle has managed to survive a man who sometimes thinks and acts like a god.
The book gets into Jagger’s complex relationship with “Glimmer Twin” (and Connecticut resident) Keith Richards, with whom he composed some of rock ’n’ roll’s most indelible songs, including “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Tumbling Dice.” (Amid their raunchy R&B-flavored hits have been poignant ballads like “Ruby Tuesday,” brilliantly covered by the folk singer Melanie, and the haunting, richly orchestrated “Moonlight Mile,” as good as any art song.)
The Glimmer Twins’ sib rivalry played out in many of those songs and in the press.
“When are you two going to stop bitching at each other?” a reporter once asked of Richards, who responded, “Ask the bitch.”
Less funny, though, are details of Jagger’s relationship with his second wife (after Bianca), model and actress Jerry Hall. He would tell the woman who gave him four children that she couldn’t feed her babies in bed at night because the smell of her breast milk made him nauseated.
Meanwhile, the Texas-born Hall would tell her husband’s suitors, like supermodel Janice Dickinson, “I’ve got a gun in my purse and know how to use it.”
The couple’s relationship began in the limelight with outings at Manhattan’s Studio 54 and 21 Club and turned into more than a dozen years of her begging him to marry her and settle down. Marriage “gives me claustrophobia,” Jagger said.
After she sufficiently threatened to leave, he finally married her on Nov. 21, 1990 in an unofficial Balinese ceremony with a Hindu priest dabbling saffron on their foreheads. And then, as Hall slipped into nightwear on their wedding night, Mick reportedly “jumped” their host’s wife.
Their marriage allowed Jagger to club and flirt with island girls at Basil’s Bar in Mustique and carry on not-so-clandestine love affairs with famous faces like Carla Bruni, the singer and wife of ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Jagger stole Bruni away from his good friend, rock-guitarist Eric Clapton. (Bruni was, at the same time, the headache affair that Donald Trump couldn’t shake. “She was using every psychological trick in the book,” Trump is quoted as saying.)
Apparently, stealing friends’ girlfriends was quite the Mick M.O. The book even delves into his attraction to Mackenzie Phillips, daughter of New York neighbor John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas. Jagger had been interested Mackenzie since she was 10, but “waited” for her to reach legal age. (Maybe he just wanted to be thorough: Jagger had slept with Michelle Phillips, John’s second wife and Mackenzie’s stepmother.)
“MICK” also broke the news that’s been making headlines, unearthing his longtime obsession with Angelina Jolie, which was allegedly encouraged by the actress’ late mother.
The book also highlights his bisexuality (hello, David Bowie) and love of dressing in drag, even at the dinner table.
“MICK” does, of course, get into the icon’s musical journey through his collaborations, relationships with band mates and tension over the launch of his solo career. Andersen tells the story of a collision of supernovas when Jagger teamed with Michael Jackson on “State of Shock.” Jackson was seeking street cred and cool style, writes Andersen, but at the end of the day, he blamed Jagger for singing off-key and asked, “How did he ever get to be a star?” Meanwhile, Jagger said Jackson’s capability was “very lightweight – like froth on a beer.”
Throughout the book, Jagger comes off as a waggish, unstoppable force, who never took “no” for an answer and pioneered his way through the music, celebrity and fashion worlds to become a lasting fixture.
The back cover shows a grainy black-and-white photograph of Jagger in a subway looking high and mighty, slightly mysterious and perhaps still up to no good but a hell of a lot of fun. The quote next to the image reads, “Obviously, I’m no paragon of virtue.”
Or as Andersen writes, “More than anyone, Mick had made shock chic.”
“MICK: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger” by Christopher Andersen (Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books, 328 pages, $27).