Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tony Scaduto's Jagger: Everybody's Lucifer (A Book Review)

In the early Seventies Tony Scaduto, a crime reporter for the New York Post, had the good fortune of landing a contract to do a bio on Dylan. His claim to fame here was writing as a journalist rather than a fan. His background on the mafia and crime reporting may have also been carried over into a jaded, hard-boiled Humphrey Bogart-like approach that makes everyone a suspect.

The results must have been successful because other books followed including books on Marilyn Monroe, Sinatra and the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, the topic of this blog post. Keep in mind that this book was written in near forty years ago, so it doesn't cover anything in the 80's, 90's or current century, which is a large swath of territory.

First, this is not a great book and I was surprised to see some rave reviews at Amazon.com, though I should not have been. And then there is the one-star review which begins, "Skip this book, and read Philip Norman's Mick Jagger instead. Also, read Keith Richards' Life or Sam Cutler's You Can't Always Get What You Want."

I picked up the book knowing that even he didn't consider it his best work. Not sure where I'd read that. Nevertheless, in the Sixties I was a Stones fan. I had most if not all of their early albums. Like many, I was attracted to their "bad boy" image, a clear contrast to the squeaky clean cheerfulness of the Fab Four. The Beatles went on Ed Sullivan in matching suits; Jagger performed there in a torn sweatshirt.

From the opening line Jagger surprised me. The first words were "Brian Jones was still alive back then." After decades without Jones the whole Brian Jones story came rushing back. I remember it making the news when he drowned in his pool, heavy-laden with barbituates and alcohol. Images of Jones with Nico in Hollywood, came to mind  along with bits and pieces of recollection. During his time recording with the Stones he played at least seventeen different instruments.

Where Scaduto takes the story, however, is quite different from what I'd expected. The entire first section (Book One) is about Brian Jones. If you go to the two photo sections, it's photos of Brian Jones juxtaposed with Jagger shots.

Tony Scaduto must have disliked Mick Jagger because every story in the book is written in such a way so as to put the singer in the worst light possible. Throughout the book he refers to Keith Richards as Keith, Marianne Faithfull as Marianne, and Brian Jones as Brian, but Jagger is always Jagger.

Those familiar with the story know that Brian Jones created the Rolling Stones. Over time Richards and Jagger, with the help of their young manager Andrew Loog Oldham, pushed forward to be the front men for the group. Jones's skills were weakening due to his drug use excesses among other things and he was ultimately becoming a detriment to the band. In the end Jones was kicked out and replaced with Mick Taylor.

Scaduto the former crime reporter lays out the details that allege that this power play and additional maneuvers by Jagger and Richards were what killed Brian Jones. Keith stole Brian's girl (Anita Pallenberg) and the band was stolen from him as well. Nothing ever seems to be Brian's fault. These sins of commission were not what finally nailed Brian's fate, rather it was Jagger's sins of omission, his failure to make efforts to suture the emotional lacerations to Jones' fragile soul after this massive humiliation (being evicted from "the world's greatest rock and roll band.") This, it seems, is the picture the author aims to produce.

I don't believe Jagger himself was ever interviewed by Scaduto, who does do a good job of painting pictures of some of the Stones concerts, especially the Stones' 1969 U.S. tour, which ended in the disaster called Altamont. Marianne Faithfull's perspective is a primary source throughout, though the Amazon.com reviewer claims much of this came from her autobiography.

Jagger: Everybody's Lucifer ranks #2,311,587 in the book section, Amazon Best Sellers. You can buy it used for a penny and draw your own conclusions.

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