The second, livelier and all-around better of two major unauthorized Jagger biographies (after Christopher Andersen’s Mick) out in time for the Rolling Stones’ 50th year.
A British novelist, music journalist and biographer, Norman (John Lennon: The Life, 2008, etc.) has made a minicareer telling the stories of the two biggest bands in rock history, the Beatles and the Stones, in several big books. (In his introduction to this mostly sympathetic life, Norman writes, plausibly, that these two bands “constitute one single, epic story.”) Whereas Andersen portrayed Sir Mick as a soulless Narcissus or Faust, Norman succeeds at least partly in getting to the middle-class, suburban man behind the myth; he offers a sort of retort to Keith Richards’ Life (as well as most other Jagger biographies) in shining a slightly better light on his subject. The author convincingly debunks legends like the kinky Mars bar tableau at the Redlands drug arrest in 1967 or Jagger’s coldblooded dismissal of Hells Angel violence at the Altamont festival in 1969. Without shying from uncomplimentary facts about his subject’s worst behaviors—mainly his treatment of the “lesser” Stones Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts and his numerous infidelities—Norman consistently provides evidence of Jagger’s better side: his bouts of generosity (particularly toward friends and lovers in need), the sensitivity that frequently drives him to tears, his mutual adoration of his children by several mothers. Tellingly, the 25 years since the Stones’ silver anniversary in 1982 are compressed into the last 90 pages of the 600-page narrative—even Norman seems to lose interest in Jagger apart from the Stones.
Not the definitive Jagger life, but an enjoyable, entertaining biography.