Book review of Philip Norman’s ‘Mick Jagger’

Phlip Norman
Mick Jagger
Ecco, 640 pages, hardcover

By Gillian G. Gaar

Having previously done a biography of his favorite Beatle, John Lennon, Philip Norman now turns his biographical eye to the head Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger. Norman has the advantage of having previously interviewed the Stones for his earlier bio on the band, “Symphony for the Devil: The Rolling Stones Story.” For all time he’s spent in the spotlight, Jagger remains an elusive character.

Mick Jagger by Philip NormanThat’s why, as Norman details, we’ll never see an autobiography from him like Keith Richards’ “Life,” no matter how much Jagger may have wanted to answer some of the charges in Richards’ story (and Norman dismisses a lot of Richards’ book as being fiction). In fact, we learn that Jagger agreed to do an autobiography at one time, but ultimately revealed so little about himself in the text that the project was scrapped, and he had to return the advance as a result.

As with the Lennon biography, Norman is excellent in conveying the idyllic nature of Jagger’s pre-fame years. Though, he reminds the reader rather too frequently that things back then were very different from today, before the Internet, digital cameras, a rapacious 24-hour-a-day media — yes, we get the point. Similarly, his constant sexual innuendos are embarrassing. You could have a drinking game around how many times he chortles over the Mars bar myth, when Mick and Marianne were alleged to have “shared” the candy bar in a lewd way during the drug bust at Keith’s home in 1967. After all, Norman isn’t a 12-year-old boy who’s just learned about sex. Then again, there may be no other way to write about a man Norman aptly describes as an “Eternal Teenager.”

Norman writes sympathetically about the (many) women Jagger’s left behind over the years. And there are a few revelations, too, like the real story behind the 1967 drug bust: The Stones were set up in the hopes of keeping them out of the U.S. And why Jagger failed to have a career in the movies, despite his obvious charisma and the number of roles he’s been offered over the years. It’s also, in some ways, a sad book, as it chronicles Jagger’s slide from a desire to make music to a desire to simply make money. For however much dough he’s raked in over the years, it’s still not enough to give him “Satisfaction” (chortle).

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