roger noehren, November 17, 2010
(view all comments by roger noehren)
I am I suppose in the demographic that is most likely to embrace this terrific memoir by the legendary Keith Richards (or Richard as he was confusingly known for a number of years). There was only one television at my school and that was in the rather small library into which we all crammed to watch Top of the Pops on Thursday evenings between supper and prep. The Stones were a favorite and were frequently on the show. It wasn't until "Their Satanic Majesties Request" was released when I was 16 that I really took note and the follow up "Beggar's Banquet" is still my favorite Stones album (and sadly coincided with the untimely death of Brian Jones - which Richards shockingly dismisses with a slur...) but I wasn't disappointed by the subsequent albums especially "Exile on Main street". After that I was pretty indifferent until I saw Martin Scorsese's excellent concert film "Shine a Light" a few years ago. Since I never really cared for their hits I was put off by Mick Jagger's self parodying prancing about, but was captivated by Keith Richards who was clearly really enjoying himself. I particularly liked the songs - especially "You got the Silver" - that he sang with Mick off the stage.
After reading several favorable reviews, I picked up a copy and started reading at the point where I pretty much tuned them out -1977, when Richards was busted in Toronto with 22 grams of heroin. I was drawn in immediately by the natural way he lays out the ins and outs of life with and without the Stones and his love/love not so much relationship with Jagger over the years. He gets slammed more than a couple of the other band members (Charlie Watts and just about all the sidemen get lauded repeatedly). After he quit heroin, Richards began to reestablish his influence on the band (which Jagger had usurped to the point where they were billed as "Mick Jagger & the Rolling Stones" and their record contract included a secret side deal for Jagger to release four solo albums, which caused a major rift in the band). Fascinating stuff. Richards recounts (with considerable help from co-writer James Fox) the trials and tribulations of the ensuing years. We meet a huge cast of characters - many of them American musicians who Richards holds in high regard and played with when the Stones were inactive and many of the behind the scenes people (his guitar valet, cooks, gardeners, managers, engineers, costume and make up people...who pretty much all receive kind words). He portrays himself as a mellow guy unless you piss him off (over a trifle in some instances), in which case run for cover! While there are numerous extended quotes from members of the cast, it is Richards who relates the most outrageous behavior on his part.
We're treated to many anecdotes about his jet setting life and a peek into his life at "home" in Connecticut with "the wife" & kids plus a menagerie of animals and a nature preserve next door. We're given a cautionary tale about keeping ones heaviest books on a high up shelf in ones library (this is the country gentleman/book worm speaking) and recipes for Bangers & Mash and Shepherds Pie, his two favorites.
One of the more interesting revelations is the rules written and unwritten, such as Richards only being permitted to sing lead vocal on a maximum of two songs per album, with a similar restriction in concert. Of course Richards doesn't mention the almost total lock he and Jagger had on song writing credit - not acknowledging the significant contributions of Bryan Jones and Mick Taylor especially.
The biggest surprise is that reading his descriptions of his contributions to the later albums makes me want to give them a listen, since they may have some gems which I'm missing out on. Also his pick up band the X Pensive Winos sounds great and has somehow been off my radar.
I'm a couple of pages from the end (listening to the remastered version of "Beggars Banquet"). As soon as I'm done, I'll start at the beginning...