Ghostwriter Barry Coleman has revealed the details of the “awful experience” that was working with Rolling Stones’ star Mick Jagger on this autobiography – which remains unpublished.
In an interview with The Guardian, Coleman revealed that he was given a total of two weeks to complete the ambitious project after replacing another ghostwriter who failed to complete the project. Coleman was appointed to the project by publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1983.
Coleman initially remembers being called into an “urgent and disorienting” meeting with publishers to discuss the project. When he was first called in, Coleman recalls thinking that something must have gone “horribly wrong” to justify the publisher’s frantic urgency. In fact, the publishers explained that Mick Jagger had cashed in 1billion pounds for an autobiography that they had failed to produce, According to Coleman, the financial repercussions of failing to complete the project would have proved an “existential threat”: to the company at large. Coleman recalled the pressure he felt when called in to take over the project, explaining: “[the publishers] said, ‘You’re the only person we know who can do this.’ so rather surreally I became Mick Jagger’s ghostwriter’s ghostwriter.”
Coleman travelled to New York to work on the project, though things went south when the original writer stopped returning his calls.
“Two chapters were more or less presentable. The rest was a pile of interview transcripts, and nothing related to recent years. Stitching everything together was an awful experience,” he said.
The interview transcripts allegedly contain rare recollections of Jagger’s first meeting with Keith Richards, the death of Stone’s guitarist Brian Jones in 1969, and the band’s infamous performance at the Altamont festival where audience member Meredith Hunter was killed by a member of Hells Angels. The rare collection of memories makes the transcript one of the most sought-after projects in the publishing industry.
“All the big stuff was in there, there just wasn’t anything interesting said about it,” Coleman added. “There was always this sense in the transcripts that Mick was holding back, or trying not to hurt anybody’s feelings.”
The project was eventually scrapped altogether. Jagger told Matt Everett of BBC 6 Music that he decided to nix the project because, in the end, he “couldn’t be bothered with it”, calling the project a “dull and upsetting” process.
“When I actually started to get into it, I just didn’t enjoy reliving my life. So I just said: ‘I can’t be bothered with this,’ and gave the money back. If you wanna write an autobiography, you can’t do it in a week. It takes a lot out of you. It takes a lot of reliving emotions, reliving friendships, reliving ups and downs … I just didn’t enjoy the process,” Jagger explained.
Coleman tried to encourage the rocker to stay on and complete the project, stating: “We’d talked a lot about whether he still wanted to go ahead, or whether we could do it again, but differently. Mick didn’t blame me. He just didn’t want to do it.”
“I think he respected his audience by not giving them something ordinary about an extraordinary life,” Coleman continued. “I’ve lived with this story for 38 years with a certain frustration, but in a way it tells you more about Mick than anything that could have come out in a mediocre book.”
“It needed Mick to be able to talk to someone like he might a therapist, approach his life from a tangent. Instead we ended up with something that was too pedestrian for Mick Jagger.”