The lost Rolling Stone memoir seems set to stay that way but Aidan Smith is desperate to see it published
Go on, admit it: when you read that story about the rock star buying a historic mansion while high on acid you tried to do the voice. Knowing what you think you know about him - that he’s money-crazed - you’ll have imagined him trying to knock a few thousand off the price, or attempting to get the seller to throw in the big painting in the grand hall because, in buckles and ruffs, it reminded him of his dandyish younger self. And at this moment you’ll have dropped the voice right down to a camp croak, the way the rock star always did when straining for gravitas.
Then when you read about him assuming the lifestyle of the country squire, you’ll have added some movement to your mimicry. A flounce or a wiggle. Finally when you stopped laughing about the incident with the horse, when the steed roared off and the rock star thought the best thing to do was biff it between the eyes, you’ll have finished your impression with a mincing strut, as if the rock star had slammed the stable door on the insolent beast and was repairing to the safety of the rustic pile and - below the portrait of the virile prince - the French regency chaise longue.
Everyone thinks they can “do” Mick Jagger. He’s one of the most easily-imitated people on the planet. But do we get him right? I don’t mean the mannerisms but is it fair that we always paint him as a clown, a parody, a silly grandad in satin breeks, a pouting accountant with a grass-snake’s waist, the member of the Rolling Stones who’s more interested in lucre than legacy?
Write your story, put it all down in a book, prove you’re none of these things, reclaim your crown as the leader of the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world. This has always been the challenge to Jagger who’s always responded by saying he’ll never pen his memoirs. But he has; a manuscript exists. The silly old fool, though, doesn’t remember where these 75,000 words came from.
Alas, they’re not about to be hitting the shelves anytime soon. Publisher John Blake is in possession of the manuscript, which at one time the author was keen to see make the journey into book form but then, as Blake puts it, “the steel gates clanged shut”. Jagger chose to remain the Little Read Rooster.
In this he is at least showing consistency and conviction, characteristics which the Stones’ music has long since abandoned. Explaining recently why he had no interest in writing a book, he said: “I think the rock ’n’ roll memoir is a glutted market. If someone wants to know what I did in 1965, they can look it up on Wikipedia without spending any money.” Good old Mick, always thinking about the bottom line.
But now we know he was fibbing. He actually reckoned there was no better person to tell this fantastical tale than Michael Philip Jagger. He had a go at putting the definitive account down on paper, and was happy enough with the results. All that was needed was for Blake to contribute a foreword explaining the book had been written “long ago and far away”. But all we’ve been given are crumbs from the table of the great gutsing and gormandising Stones bacchanal.
So we’re left, for now, with the story about the anecdote about the horse and the anecdote about the house. There are brief words from Jagger’s mother Eva, when he visited his parents after two years of debauchery: “Oh Michael. Your hair ... ” There’s some myth-busting: those legendary backstage feasts of caviar and stuffed quails were never touched. And that’s just about our lot.
Oh, apart from “arse wars”. It was in his 2010 memoir Life that Keith Richards, among many jibes at Jagger, moaned about having to look at his prissy, jiggling backside. Well, we now learn that Jagger had a similar complaint - of the tedium of “looking at Keith’s scraggy, monkey-like bottom night after night” - and that he made it first, the unpublished book being written in the early 1980s.
You see? The man has a way with words. “Scraggy, monkey-like” is a decent insult. And the much-mocked singer was paying attention. Jagger was supposed to have handed back an advance for the book of £1 million - huge for the day - because he couldn’t remember what his beat combo had been doing when groovy pop culture exploded all over bowler-hatted, buttoned-up London Town. But as I was once told by Marianne Faithfull - don’t you hate namedroppers? - Jagger danced round the drugs scene, peering over the abyss but never plunging right in.
Richards - hollering from the bottom of the abyss - has taken all the plaudits for his book and for being the “soul” of the Stones. Surely, though, Jagger has been moved to respond, offer a slightly different version of events, hit back at his guitarist’s name-calling (“Brenda”, “Her Majesty”, “tiny todger”)? Jagger-Richards is the most complex, juvenile and enthralling relationship in rock. As is often remarked, it’s like the naked wrestling scene in Women in Love played out over half a century, but with inferior bahookies.
What was Jagger doing in ’65? I know this. He wrote and released a monster single (Satisfaction) and got in tow with a monster manager (Allen Klein). He toured the world, performing twice-nightly in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, with Richards being knocked out by flying furniture and electric shocks. He holidayed in Tangier with Chrissie Shrimpton before Anita Pallenberg entered his orbit. I know this but I’d love to hear Jagger tell me all about it.