Talkin' To Myself
Release Date: September 10, 2021
Chris Jagger always seems to be busy with one project or another. So, it’s not surprising that he kept himself quite busy finishing his memoir, which he’d begun the year before, during the pandemic, and the fruits of his labor can be enjoyed on September 10, 2021, when BMG releases his latest album, Mixing Up the Medicine, and publishes his autobiography, Talking to Myself.
With Mixing Up the Medicine, Jagger has made a joyful, life-enhancing album that distils his affinity for a wide range of musical styles into ten tight tracks. To create these songs, Jagger again teamed up with his long-standing musical wingman, multi-instrumentalist Charlie Hart (Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, Wreckless Eric); however, they also had an unusual, and unexpected, collaborator for three songs: the obscure 19th-century poet Thomas Beddoes. As Jagger explains it: “I was reading this book by Ezra Pound, and he mentioned Beddoes. I found this book of his called Death’s Jest Book, in which he wrote these kind of weird plays. I read some of his verse and took them and put them to music.”
The Beddoes-bred songs include the irresistible Madness-like ska-pop opening track, “Anyone Seen My Heart?,” the sea shanty-ish “Loves’ Horn,” and the voodoo soul-infused Wee Wee Tailor.” The Jagger/Hart numbers, meanwhile, draw upon Jagger’s rootsy interest and Hart’s being something of a “jazzer,” as Jagger described his pal. This loose, lively mix surfaces sublimely in the New Orleans sass of “Merry Go Round” (also the album’s first single), the in-the-wee-small-hours croon and groove of “A Love Like This,” Jagger’s autobiography-inspired “Talking to Myself,” and the comforting bluesy lament of “Hey Brother,” a lovely ode to lifelong fraternal bonds.
One thing, however, unites all the songs: a relaxed, raw quality that conveys the warm sense of a band of brothers having a ball. “Let’s face it, we’re coming to the end of our careers,” Jaggar concedes. “You never know if it’s gonna be your last record. So, with all the players I got the feeling that they were going out to show that they still had it, and they would put more into this than if this was just a regular session. They were totally committed.”
Jagger’s backing band of brothers not only featured old pals of his, but highly talented and experienced musicians as well. He reveals that “mostly the tracks were cut live in the studio as that’s what I know.” Contributors include guitarist John Etheridge (Soft Machine, Stéphane Grappelli); double bassist Olly Blanchflower, percussionist Jody Linscott (The Who, Billy Bragg) and drummer Dylan Howe (Ian Dury, Yes). The veteran producer John Porter (The Smiths, Buddy Guy, Elvis Costello) brought in guitarist Neil Hubbard (Bryan Ferry, Joe Cocker), alongside a couple horn players Nick Payn and Frank Mead (both Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings vets) who were South London mates of Hart’s. This musical brotherhood also included Jagger’s older brother Mick, who contributed some backing vocals.
Working out of a studio in South London near Hart’s Lewisham home, at Jagger’s farmhouse, and down the line to each other when lockdown restrictions were being enforced, Jagger and Hart worked intensely. The result is, in Jagger’s words, “the most collaborative record we’ve done.”
Jagger’s debut album, an eponymous effort, came out in 1973 and a second, Adventures of Valentine Vox the Ventriloquist, followed in 1974. While both were well received, he didn’t record another album until 1994’s Atcha, which Hart also played on. Jagger, as is his wont, stayed busy during those in-between years and the time since. He has been a journalist, worked in theater, designed clothes, acted in movies, made blues documentaries for the BBC, was a partner in a guitar company, and wrote songs, including contributing to several Stones tunes.
He has chronicled his many life adventures in his new memoir, Talking to Myself. It’s a rich, detailed, hilarious and gossipy tale that digs deep into he and his older brother Mick’s upbringing in Dartford, Kent. The book plots the siblings’ emergence into adulthood and shared lifelong appreciation for the blues. It also chronicles the younger Jagger’s musical adventures from the 1970s onwards with entertaining detours into his travels to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Israel, where he acted in a production of the musical Hair.
“I thought about starting a book in the 1990s, because I began writing some journalism pieces,” Jagger explains. He returned to this project in 2019, and really concentrated on it during the pandemic. “Writing took longer than I anticipated. I did find I had to give it my full attention, and it was a lot harder than I thought. It’s all very well linking 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 is the only book — so far — to document the life of growing up in the Jagger family in Dartford, Kent. “I said to (Mick), ‘I’ve almost finished my book, now let’s do yours’ and he laughed,” Jagger shares. “He’d do a fantastic book.” Jagger also admits that “writing can be quite prosaic and descriptive. It doesn’t have to be all poetry. I have even included some recipes in [my book] too.”
If Talking to Myself finds Jagger reflecting on his past with warm memories and witty anecdotes, Mixing Up the Medicine reveals him to be an inspired artist making dynamic, high-spirited music for people to enjoy today, tomorrow, and many days ahead.