Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger AP Photo / Joel Ryan

No one has the swagger like music legend Mick Jagger

THAT'S Mick Jagger.

I blurted out the words across the Portobello Rd markets in the heart of London. It was a Saturday spring afternoon in 1981.

The markets were bustling, but less than 20m down the street, two tallish men appeared in dark suits and white shirts, unbuttoned at the neck, that should have been worn with ties.

They stood out. They were out of place, not the least because behind them was an unbelievably tall blonde woman in sunglasses.

The entourage was much closer before it parted and Jagger stepped out.

Short, thin and surprisingly out of proportion, he looked like a bobble head figure of, well, Mick Jagger.

Then I opened my mouth.

Jagger, only a metre or so away by now, heard the sentence, and without even a sideways glance ducked behind his security men and sidled up next to statuesque Texas model Jerry Hall.

The group awkwardly - and hurriedly - shuffled off.

I had orchestrated a Monty Python skit involving one of the greatest singers of all time.

And I had single-handedly ruined a quiet afternoon stroll of a family less ordinary.

But then along came Christopher Anderson's new book, The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Mick Jagger.

And the world is balanced again.

This July 24, 1972 file photo shows Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones during a performance in San Francisco.
This July 24, 1972 file photo shows Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones during a performance in San Francisco. AP Photo

It is a gift from Anderson - an American writer who has worked for Time, People, the New York Times, Life, and Vanity Fair, and is the author of 31 books, including biographies of Princess Diana, The Clintons, Madonna, and Wills and Kate - to The Rolling Stones on their 50th anniversary.

Anderson clinically tries to pin down the Stones' lead singer, who turns 70 next year.

He does not, exactly, succeed, but he does give some substance to the weird events that have shaped Jagger.

Love him or hate him, as he struts into his seventh decade Jagger still holds sway.

Forty years ago, Carly Simon wrote the hit song You're So Vain about him, but as recently as 2010 Kesha sang, "we kick 'em to the kerb unless they look like Mick Jagger".

And last year, Christina Aguilera had a hit with Maroon 5 called Moves Like Jagger.

Even the Jonas Brothers have waxed lyrical about the singer: "That won't matter if you can swagger like Mick Jagger".

In short, he has had become more than just a singer - or even one of the best singers.

He has become part of the torn, ragged, stone-washed fabric of rock'n'roll.

But how have Jagger and The Stones endured in an industry that stacks up volatile, explosive egos, one on top of the other, and shakes vigorously?

Anderson suggests it is not only Jagger's lifelong friendship with guitarist and songwriting partner Keith Richards.

Jagger's drive and ambition have something to do with it.

So has his insecurity - stripped bare during innumerable dalliances, recounted to the point of uncomfortable boredom in Anderson's book.

"Mick can never be alone," says an exasperated Jerry Hall, who met Jagger in 1977, married him in 1990, and divorced him in 1999.

Hall had been engaged to suave Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry until an affair with Jagger ended it.

Anderson writes about Jagger coldly, for the most part, while the many women who had relationships with him seem to feel he has warmth, charm and vulnerability.

Richards' critically acclaimed 2010 autobiography, Life, savaged Jagger, describing him as unbearable and insufferable.

He wrote: "Sometimes I think, 'I miss my friend'. I wonder, 'Where did he go?'"

Angered by Jagger's hunt and eventual capture of a knighthood in 2005, he revealed he had added "Her Majesty" to the nickname he had given Jagger, "Brenda".

But it was his throwaway line about Jagger's "tiny todger" that caused the biggest kerfuffle.

For Jagger, who had relationships with the likes of Carla Bruni, now the wife of French politician Nicolas Sarkozy, Angelina Jolie, Sophie Dahl, Anita Pallenberg, Margaret Trudeau, Linda Ronstadt and Marianne Faithfull, it was too much.

And so it was for several of Jagger's women.

Even Faithfull, whose tempestuous, drug-fuelled relationship with Jagger had ended very badly decades before, entered the fray.

She described Richards' comments as unfair and "just plain nasty".

Jagger, Anderson writes, was shocked.

His reaction - he refused to talk to Richards for months - left Richards, who maintained his comments were intended to be lighthearted, stunned as well.


Mick Jagger flanked by his girlfriend L'Wren Scott arrive at a grand-gala ball on the occasion of Italian fashion designer Valentino 45th anniversary celebrations.
Mick Jagger flanked by his girlfriend L'Wren Scott arrive at a grand-gala ball on the occasion of Italian fashion designer Valentino 45th anniversary celebrations. APPhoto / Alessandra Tarantino

Jagger's world, according to Anderson, is strange and amoral, and appears to be peopled largely by strange and amoral characters.

Everywhere Jagger goes, rumours of liaisons follow.

The Queen, according to Anderson, refused to knight Jagger - Prince Charles did the honours - because of Jagger's "friendship" with her sister, Princess Margaret.

And even Kate Middleton's sister, Pippa, whose family owns a holiday home on the Spanish island Ibiza, as does Jagger, has been "linked" with him.

His rocky relationships probably go a long way to explaining, too, some of the song lyrics he has written, which often appear misogynistic.

In fact, many of them were specifically written about his friends, most famously Brown Sugar about singer and novelist Marsha Hunt.

Considering how fiery, fast and furious some of them have been, it is easy to see why he has a reputation.

Nonetheless, Jagger and Richards' relationship seems to have thawed since 2010.

The band gathered earlier this year to mark the 50th anniversary, and some reports have them preparing for another world tour next year.

Time, despite all Nature's efforts, seems to be on their side still.


All about Mick

THE NAME - Mick has always been called Mike by his family.

HIS MUM - Australian-born Eva, a hairdresser, was an active member of the British Conservative Party, and Mick remains a supporter.

HIS DAD - Joe, a teacher who was heavily into fitness, instilled a strong fitness ethic into his sons. He lived until he was 93.

HIS SIBLINGS - The elder of two children, Mick's brother Chris is a teacher.

HIS UPBRINGING - Mick was born in middle-class Dartford, in London's south-east. He was a good student, eventually being admitted to and studying at the London School of Economics, though he did not finish.

HIS MUSIC TASTES -  Heavily influenced by rhythm and blues, Mick remains a big fan of the Beach Boys, on a 1964 British television talk-show Mick said I Get Around was one of the greatest songs he had ever heard.

ON THE COVER - Mick has appeared on Rolling Stone Magazine's cover 20 times. The first time was in 1968, and the latest, 2005.

OLD FARTS - How The Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten described the Rolling Stones in 1979. Rotten said the band's time was over.

ALL IN THE FAMILY - Although he has had longtime relationships with Christine Shrimpton, Marianne Faithfull, Bianca Jagger and Gerry Hall, Mick has only married - and been divorced by - Hall. He has been with his current partner, US model and fashion designer L'Wren Scott, since 2001. They live mainly in Los Angeles. He is a father and grandfather.

100 GREATEST ARTISTS - The Stones were rated fourth on the Rolling Stone Magazine list in 2004, behind, in order, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley.

DESERT ISLAND DISCS -  Although an invitation to do BBC Radio's legendary segment is considered a rare privilege, Mick is among those few who have turned it down. Others include former British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and Prince Charles.

AWARDS - Mick and Keith Richards won the Ivor Novello Special Award for Songwriting in 2005, and they were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1993.