Mixing Up The Medicine
Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger has brother who is a musician too. Few know this because Chris Jagger has never touched the charts with his records nor has he ever taken advantage of his older brother to advertise. In 1973 while Mick Jagger climbed the charts around the world singing Angie, you're beautiful / But ain't it time we say goodbye, his younger brother, Chris Jagger, released his first album, You Know the Name But Not the Face. His music is an explosive blend of cajun, zydeco, folk, blues and rock'n'roll. Almost fifty years have passed since that day and Chris is still on the crest of the wave, a career inevitably influenced by the bulky aura of his brother, who however also opens several doors to him and in his records we find illustrious guests of the caliber of David Gilmour of Pink Floyd or Kiss's Gene Simmons, plus obviously Mick Jagger. Chris preferred a discreet and secluded career, in love with New Orleans music, with few but excellent records and many forays into various activities: actor, journalist (The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, The Independent on Sunday and Rolling Stone), Radio and TV speaker, music and film and musical instrument producer… and also a fashion designer! He also organized charity concerts: one for Bosnia (Bop for Bosnia) and others for Tibet including one at Alexandra Palace London in the presence of the Dalai Lama, where artists included Dave Gilmour and Sinéad O'Connor. In 2013, forty years after his debut album, Concertina Jack was released, whose title track is an overwhelming duet between the Jagger brothers and tells a mysterious story of the sea that Mick and Jagger had heard several times as children from their uncle Horace. In 2014 a live acoustic disc is released which also introduces many ingredients of traditional Irish music. In recent years Chris has devoted himself to a radio program for the BBC dedicated to Alexis Korner, pioneer of blues and broadcasting. He also made a film for the thematic channel SKY ARTE about the Austin blues scene with the extraordinary contributions of the 90-year-old Pine Top Perkins (pianist of Muddy Waters), Hubert Sumlin (musician of Howlin Wolf) and guitarist Jimmy Vaughan. Pine Top Perkins tells Mick Jagger and Chris the heyday of the Chicago blues backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in Austin. It is difficult to abstract Chris from his relationship with one of the greatest bands in the history of Rock. Hearing Mick's voice intertwining with Chris's on Cajun and Zydeco sounds is like goosebumps. Chris Jagger recently released his new studio album Mixing Up The Medicine. Recorded during the lockdown with a host of friends and fellow musicians, the album was released on the same day as the long-awaited autobiography Talking To Myself was released. The new record was recorded in a studio near the Lewisham home of Charlie Hart, longtime pianist and fellow musician of Jagger, and on Jagger's farm. Mixing Up The Medicine is a large and vibrant collection of songs by Jagger and Hart played by a long list of incredible musicians. The record features old friend Olly Blanchflower on double bass; Dylan Howe on drums and veteran producer John Porter, who has worked with artists such as The Smiths, Roxy Music, Buddy Guy, BB King and Elvis Costello. Porter in turn called guitarist Neil Hubbard (Bryan Ferry, Joe Cocker), along with some of Hart's friends - Nick Payn and Frank Mead - to the horns. Jagger relates: "Then came John Etheridge - who is an old friend and who once played with Soft Machine - to add some jazz guitar, and Jody Linscott, who I've known since the 1970s, on percussion. songs were recorded live in the studio." In this guest list we can also add his brother -Mick Jagger- to the choirs. As for Chris and Charlie's inspiration, the creative couple wandered far and wide: "Charlie is a bit of a jazzman, then I discovered this obscure poet called Thomas Beddoes," he says of the early Nineteenth century writer and doctor "I was reading a book by Ezra Pound, in which he mentions Beddoes. Then I found this book of his called Death's Jest Book. He was a poet from Bristol and his father knew Shelley. He was an alcoholic and committed suicide by poisoning himself in Basel in 1949. He had only 45 years old. I read some of his verses, I took them and I put them to music". Jagger used Beddoes's poems for three songs on the new album: the irresistible ska-pop Madness style Anyone Seen My Heart?, Loves' Horn and Wee Wee Tailor's voodoo soul. In Hart's "jazzer" category we can include Talking To Myself, the New Orleans style sax from Merry Go Round and the vocals and groove of A Love Like This. Honorable mention, moreover, to the comforting blues of Hey Brother, an adorable hymn to brotherly bonds for a lifetime, obviously dedicated to his brother Mick. Mixing Up The Medicine is a joy-filled album made by a man skilled in various musical genres, distilled into 10 tracks. "Then I realized that Mixing Up The Medicine is also a line from Subterranean Homesick Blues," Jagger chuckles. "I forgot that. But I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, so it can't be a bad thing, right?" Jagger has also spent the past two years completing his memoir, the autobiography Talking To Myself. A rich, detailed, hilarious and gossipy story that delves deep into his and older brother Mick's upbringing in Dartford, Kent. The book chronicles the siblings' growth in adulthood and their sharing of a love for the blues. It also recounts the musical adventures of young Jagger from the 1970s onwards, with amusing detours on his travels to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Israel, where he starred in a production of the musical Hair. "I started thinking about writing a book already in the 90s, when I started writing some articles as a journalist", explains this multi-tasker whose CV also includes treading the scenes with Pierce Brosnan and Ciarán Hinds, making blues documentaries for the BBC and Sky Arts, and fleeting additions to lyrics on two Rolling Stones albums, Dirty Work and Steel Wheels. But after decades of gigging - something he did for most of his adult life - he finally got on with writing his book in 2019 and turned the 2020 lockdown into an unexpected occasion. He says: “Writing took longer than I expected. I found that I had to give it my full attention, and it was much more difficult than I thought. It's fine to link a lot of stories together, but what's your style? I wrote it myself - I didn't have a ghost writer - so I had to find my voice."
Talking To Myself may be the only book ever to document the life and growth of the Jagger family in Dartford, Kent. “(Mick and I) share the same influences and our parents were at the heart of that, so I hope readers will find these details interesting. Like, for example, the description of my mother and father. Writing can be quite prosaic and descriptive, it doesn't have to be all poetry. I even included some recipes in there.” he smiles. In 2021, Chris recorded the Anyone Seen My Heart duet with his brother Mick and also made a video of it.
At FolkClub, Chris Jagger is accompanied by a respectable side-man: accordionist and multi-instrumentalist Roberto Bongianino, formerly with Paolo Bonfanti, Animalunga and Enea Leone, often involved in numerous projects spanning folk, blues, jazz and tango.