Published: 05:00, 06 October 2021
| Updated: 16:20, 06 October 2021
"I'm just giving the dogs some breakfast and cooking some beans," declares a voice on the end of the phone that sounds vaguely familiar.
It could be a line from a slow country-blues number, but the vaguely familiar voice isn't singing just now - Chris Jagger is simply describing what he's up to.
And curiously enough, it turns out that simply describing what he's been up to is something Chris - the younger brother of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger - is pretty good at.
His new memoir and autobiography Talking to Myself is a fascinating and detailed account of his life, from growing up in the Jagger household in Dartford in the 1950s, through to the London music scene of the swinging 1960s, and onto a rollercoaster of self-discovery that took Chris on his own path around the world and - to cut a long story short - eventually to a farmhouse in Somerset, where we find the 73-year-old Jagger now, cooking some beans.
That might sound like a relatively sedate scenario, but it would be misleading to suggest the rollercoaster has ended - in between looking after chickens and sheep and writing his book, the singer-songwriter has managed to put together a new album, play a few gigs and generally keep in a state of perpetual motion.
His mind seems to keep in a similar state too, and a question about the farmhouse draws an answer that soon veers into a mini lecture on agriculture in England throughout the last few centuries.
"All the farms have gone these days," says Chris, "People live in places that are called 'farm' but they don't have any land. The problem was in England there was never enough land to farm. In the old days when people had a few geese and a couple of cows they managed. As soon as they got large scale machinery you need a large acreage. Now people are coming back to small-scale farming."
These might sound like random musings, but strangely enough they take us right back to the start of Chris' story.
"In the book I do a running diary from the time I started writing it, interspersed with childhood memories," he continues. "I write about why I'm in Somerset, and one comparison I did draw was because of apples.
"My childhood in Kent was idyllic. There were orchards everywhere and we used to go scrumping for apples at this time of year. What is now the M2 between Wilmington and Dartford, that was all orchards, and we used to go around there. It was all open country. That's the similarity with Somerset."
Just like his conversation, Jagger's book contains the kind of in depth detail you might not expect from the average rock star memoir.
And perhaps that's because he's never really been a 'rock star'. Despite finding a successful career in music, Chris' path has also taken him on diversions into alternative fields such as journalism, theatre and film - and maybe it's that which gives his writing a true story-teller's touch, with observation, humour and description you'd be less likely to find from those who've remained tied to the merry-go-round of touring and recording.
"The earliest memory I have is of lying in my pram outside Denver Road," he writes in Talking to Myself, "as in those days you would be left out in the sun when it appeared, at the front of the house, presumably on the assumption that nobody would want to steal a baby, no matter how beautiful. When the wind blew from the east, the washing had to be taken in, or else it would be covered with a fine layer of cement dust from the cement factory on the river at Northfleet. Rumour has it that I was quite a handsome lad, arriving at a difficult time – that is, a few days before Christmas. While everyone was goo-gooing over my funny face, my brother apparently appeared and remarked: ‘Is this what all the fuss is about?’ Perhaps it was the combination of not being the new one and boyish pique; he was, after all, coming up to five. Whatever, four-and-a-half-years isn’t an easy span to bridge at that age. He was born a Leo in the warm summer and I a Sagittarius in the dark mid-winter..."
Detailed accounts of life in Dartford follow - of bonfire night, bomb sites, cycling over the A2 and Dartford Heath in the dark, of climbing over the fence to watch races at Brands Hatch, and of school days spent at Wentworth School in Dartford, Merton Court School in Sidcup and Eltham College.
There's also fascinating detail on family history, with his parents Basil and Eva, and relatives such as Uncle Horace, falling into relief as full and strong characters.
"He loved coming to see my band too, and was buried in his Rolling Stones tie aged 97," writes Chris about Horace - who he says was a repository of family history. "I had arrived to see Horace in his hospital bed just a few minutes too late and told the nurse that he had gone. He was still looking forward to being 100 and visiting Mick in the West Indies. His last words were: ‘Is that it then?’"
Clearly there's an irrepressible streak that runs through the family, and perhaps like Uncle Horace, or a Mick Jagger dance move, Chris' narrative skips on with relentless momentum, always looking for the next hook.
There's plenty too for musical historians too, with Chris offering a unique perspective on early Rolling Stones gigs, and encounters with the glitterati of rock and pop - from the Beatles to Bob Dylan and even Jimi Hendrix, who was among the clients Chris and his friend Jay made clothes for during one early business venture.
But while he experienced life at the heart of the 1960s music scene, there's occasionally a sense of detachment - none more so than when he recalls watching the Beatles close the first-ever worldwide live broadcast TV show with ‘All You Need Is Love’.
Of course, a little remoteness is no bad thing for a writer, and the book recounts the moment eloquently... "I sat down to watch it on my own (along with 350 million others around the globe) in the South Kensington flat, thinking, ‘This must be the peak of the scene, the pinnacle of the flower power era.’
"It was a crowded studio, the black and white dress of the string and horn players contrasting with the multi-coloured clothes of The Beatles, all relaxed and perching on stools. On the floor in front of them sat Mick and Marianne, and the camera panned off from the back of the jacket that Jay and I had made for him. The event was a culmination of all that the Sixties stood for, yet I felt a chill isolation myself, detached from the whole spectacle."
After that the narrative takes a new turn as Chris decides to travel the world, before returning and going on to launch his recording career with a string of albums in the 1970s.
From there, twists and turns take us through Jagger's fascinating life and career, until his discovery in 2000 of "an old farmhouse, lodged beneath the hill, with a view across the Levels towards Glastonbury Tor. An ancient yew tree stood outside the front door, guardian and sentinel against malevolent spirits."
Speaking on the phone from the same place in 2021, it sounds like that yew tree has done a decent job, and the future looks bright.
The new album was recorded with in collaboration with long term friend and musician Charlie Hart, and brings a guest appearance from brother Mick on the track 'Anyone Seen My Heart?' - the vocals being recorded remotely before the Jagger brothers came together for the video in the wake of lockdown.
"We wanted him to sing on a track, and he managed to do it, when he was in Italy," says Chris. "Then we did the video - that was the first time we've been together singing on a video. It's the first music video of the two brothers that's been done."
Gigs are set to follow, although he notes touring further afield has been made more complicated by Brexit - a subject he's not shy to hold back on.
"I'm going to Holland next week to play a few dates," he adds. "The problem is not only have you got Covid, you've got Brexit, which is a pain. It's affected things a lot - you're not free to travel and work and play.
"Not only have we left the EU, we've left the single market. In theory you can't import and export things, so if you take a box of CDs they might want to charge you.
"Nobody really knows how it will work. I read the paperwork alone is costing £7.5 billion, and one of the reasons we left the EU was supposed to be bureaucracy."
Those that voted leave - whether they be high profile rock n roll contemporaries or a bloke down the local cider barn who voted because he couldn't get the right motorbike parts - are given short shrift.
But perhaps that's all for another book. For now it's clear the younger Jagger isn't afraid to speak his mind - which is just as well for readers of Talking to Myself.
"It's not War and Peace but I've been pleased with the reception," he adds. "There's a lot of detail in there. I've tried to bring things alive. I took the approach that I would write in the morning and I only ever wrote when I felt good. I wasn't going to write because it was a chore or it had to be done. I wanted to make it a pleasant experience. I felt like I was representing not just myself but my family."
Well he's done just that, and Uncle Horace - not to mention, mum, dad and the older brother - would no doubt be proud.