A sloppily rendered bio of the Rolling Stones' lead singer offers glimpses of a more human Mick Jagger than previously seen, but gets mired in contradictions and the details of the group's long decline. In what's at best undistinguished prose, Sandford struggles to fathom Jagger's contradictions—the performer's angry, unconventional public poses and his equally obvious longing for respectability. Much of the worst writing comes early on (Jagger's mother's lips grow ``pendulous'' as she waits in a bread line) as the book sets out to describe the Stones' early years. Sandford does show what the fuss was about—and what a nerve the Stones' early exploits struck in British culture. We watch Jagger provoking fan hysteria (egged on by early manager Andrew Oldham) and honing his stage act with moves stolen from James Brown and makeup tips from Little Richard; and then there's the later Jagger, grown from a youthful reader of Marx into an admirer of Margaret Thatcher. Sandford departs from previous biographers in revealing Jagger to have been as much subject as architect of much of what happened to the group. Though he's hardly exonerated for events like Altamont- -the free Stones concert ending in violence and murder—we do get a Mick more realistically ambivalent than Mephistophelean. But some of the author's theorizing is harder to credit. We're told that Jagger's Englishness may be the key to his character; then that he is ``one of those people...rare in England, able to sustain conflicting ideas and still function''; and then that he possesses the ``traditional values of Britain'' insofar as these include a sense of irony. Long chapters chronicling the Stones' decline drag badly. Sandford may manage to inch closer to the real Jagger, but only die-hard fans will be caught up in his account.
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