Keith Richards on Keith Richards

keith richards 2013It’s been a very, very big year for the Rolling Stones. After all, not many bands can say they are legitimately 50 years old. So if you’re looking for a little rock history reading let us recommend Keith Richards On Keith Richards, edited by Sean Egan, which is basically a compilation of interviews with Richards throughout his rock & roll career. It’s easy, fun reading, quite enjoyable if you love the guitar player and his no-nonsense vibe. If you try reading this in one big marathon surge, you will find the interviews somewhat monotonous in spots, as Richards shares the same stories over and over about his early days meeting Mick Jagger, coming up with his distinctive guitar sound, his drugged-out days and what it’s like being in one of the biggest rock & roll bands in the history of music.

But with that being said, the revelatory light bulb, if you really hadn’t noticed after fifty years, is that Richards never veers in his statements. The stories he has told all this time are the same whether it’s 1964 or 2011. He is a walking talking uncomplicated man who tells you the truth as he saw it and experienced it. He doesn’t hide his faults, he doesn’t suffer Jagger lightly, not even the late Brian Jones gets sugarcoated in Richards’ memories of the early days when they were fast becoming the main contenders to The Beatles – just on opposite corners of the goody-two-shoes image – and pop stardom became a distracting twinkle in Jones’ eye. No, Richards just tells it like it is, which is why this is an appealing read: Small clumps of the Stones history told in the raggedy whiskey-rotten vocal chords, which you can hear clearly as you read. If you have or have not taken on the task of reading Richards’ own excellent tome, this is a nice little petite four to snack on with coffee or wine.

There are some little shiny nuggets within the 255 pages, culled from interviews that were never published in their entireties or saw only a foreign audience, which is cool for collectors of Stones/Richards babbling. Below, we have gathered a few words of impeccable wisdom from this treasure chest.

On the early days of songwriting when bands had to produce a single about every twelve weeks: “It was an incredibly good school for songwriting, in that you couldn’t piss around for months and months agonizing about the deeper meaning of this or that. It kept you writing all the time. No matter what else you were doing – like touring and recording – you had to make damn sure you didn’t let up on the writing. It made you search around and listen for ideas; it made you very aware of what was going on around you – because you were looking for that song … You become an outsider rather than a participant. You’re listening for it every moment and anything could be a song and if you don’t have one you’re up the creek without a paddle.”

On the influence of his image: “Guys that don’t really know me, they’re more likely to be the child of my image. That’s something I have to think about because I’m not exactly just like that. Chasing an image is a dangerous game.”

On Brian Jones’ decline within the band: “Brian got very fragile. As he went along, he got more and more fragile and delicate. His personality and physically. I think all that touring did a lot to break him. We worked our asses off from ’63 to ’66, right through those three years, non-stop … He was tough but one thing and another he slowly became more fragile. When I first met Brian he was like a little Welsh bull.”

On doing things he’s not known for: “I never get a chance to do this. You don’t understand. I suppose you think it’s all fun being me. Listen, I never get a chance to sing by myself like this – play the piano – without some bastard weirding out and asking me why I wasn’t playing the guitar and looking mean.”

On what he learned from a tour in 1964 with the Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley: “I’d get the best seat in the house. I’d watch from the wings or climb the rafters, even stand out right front, and watch and see how they worked. In those six weeks, we learnt what might have taken us a couple of years to figure out if you hadn’t worked with people like that. It was on that tour that we knew we were going to be successful.”

On life advice: “Life is amusing to me, it always has been. To me, one of the most precious things in this world is sense of humor. A good laugh. To take it too seriously – and the older I get, the more I believe this – you can worry yourself into the grave by taking everything too seriously … A sense of humor to me is one of the most serious things in the world.”

 

 

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