Life by Keith Richards

Life

With the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the riffs, the lyrics and the songs that roused the world, and over four decades he lived the original rock and roll life. Now, at last, the man himself tells us the story of life in the crossfire hurricane....

Title:Life
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Life Reviews

  • Steve

    I started listening to the Rolling Stones back in the early 1970s. “Hot Rocks” (an early “greatest hits collection – and still one of the best by any band), “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main Street,” “It’s Only Rock and Roll,” etc. In terms of the group and its history, I caught them in their second wave, the one where they had morphed into the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.” I saw the band once, during their “Tour of the Americas” tour (the one where Ron Wood joined the band). I hung with

    I started listening to the Rolling Stones back in the early 1970s. “Hot Rocks” (an early “greatest hits collection – and still one of the best by any band), “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main Street,” “It’s Only Rock and Roll,” etc. In terms of the group and its history, I caught them in their second wave, the one where they had morphed into the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.” I saw the band once, during their “Tour of the Americas” tour (the one where Ron Wood joined the band). I hung with them up through “Emotional Rescue” – and I might of even had a cassette copy of “Dirty Work” (the agreed upon low point for the band) lying around on the floor of my car. Only recently have I been listening to a number of their late period albums (which are better than I would have thought, but a bit more on that later). In other words, I’m a fan. I have followed the group for quite a while, know (or thought I did) the old war stories, the fights, the music, on a level that was probably beyond that of a casual fan. Which is why I hesitated at first reading Richards’ autobiography. I figured I would be sentencing myself to over 500 pages of stories I had largely read about before.

    Well, on the long Memorial Day weekend I saw that the book was out in paperback, and thus no longer the size of a phone book. Richards’ kohl rimmed eye (beyond the skull ring and lit cigarette) stared back at me. I had too much time invested with this group. I had to read it. I’m glad I did. I’m not a big fan of rock bios, but Richards (along with his writer pal, James Fox), has crafted the best book of its kind that I have ever read. The only other rock memoir that I would put on the same shelf would be Dylan’s “Chronicles.” But that effort is still uncompleted, and due to Dylan’s own cryptic approach, less revealing. Richards, on the other hand, will tell you everything, from drugs, music, and sex, to how to cook “bargers.”

    Does he wander a bit? Sure, especially toward the end. But part of what makes this book so interesting is that it does capture Richards’ voice. As a reader, you feel as if you’re listening to a long, fascinating conversation. It can disgust you at times, but also surprise you. Outside of a silly near drug bust beginning in Arkansas (which for me underscored just how lucky Richards has been over the years), the book is told in a chronological way. The early chapters, focusing on Richards’ childhood, hooked me right away. These were very well done, painting a post World War II picture of Britain that seemed more a cultural history than a rocker’s bio. Richards’ exposure to music came early, in large part due to the bohemian lifestyle of one set of grandparents. One surprise was Richards singing in a school choir – and being pretty good at it, at least until his voice broke.

    Then come the Stones years. Mick (an old childhood friend), Brian, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and others, parade by on a quickly accelerating train to fame. One thing that struck me was how hard these guys worked at their music. Even then, Richards was surprised when fame came. As he tells it, “something happened.” One moment they were the opening act for the Everly Brothers, the next moment the screams were for them. He sensed the musical shift coming, but when it happened it was still a surprise. No doubt that other group down the road, the Beatles, noticed it even sooner.

    And it’s the Beatles, and their success, that make the Stones. The Stones, up to a certain point, were a cover band doing old blues numbers, and loving it. But their manager at the time, Andrew Lloyd Oldham, knew they had to do more, become original, in order to survive. At this point Richards and Jagger were shoved into a room and told to write a song. The chemistry was instant, probably already there due to a long established friendship that included a love of the same music. The songs, the hits, started coming, and at an amazing pace. The band was now a Jagger – Richards band.

    I may have enjoyed this part of the book the best, since Richards’ telling seems fresh. In addition, Richards takes occasional musical pauses, explaining how he learned to play this or that, and how it worked in X or Y song. I’m not a musician, so I don’t really know what he’s talking about, but taking a step back, you can see the man’s love of music on display.

    And then there are the drugs and the women. For Richards the perfect storm is Anita Pallenberg. Clearly he loved – and to some extent, still loves her (Richards is devoted to his women). But together they are also two addicts in love with heroin. Their relationship would produce three children. Two have grown up to be (against all odds) fairly normal, and one would die, sadly, from crib death (or neglect, it gets kind of fuzzy here). Pallenberg, a free (insane?) spirit, would film a movie with Mick, called “Performance.” There’s a brief affair between the two (rumored to be captured on film) that Keith finds out about later. In the book, Richards downplays this, saying he knew what Anita was like, but then childishly points out how he “had” Marianne Faithful (Jagger’s girlfriend), and then jumped out the window as Mick arrived. It’s a story that’s meant to wound. One personal trait that strikes you about Richards as you read on is that Richards is big on Loyalty. For those who want to find a fracture point with the Stones, I suggest that this, Jagger’s dalliance with Pallenberg, is it. I take Richards on his word regarding Anita, but it’s Jagger, his childhood friend, and what he did, that started the downward spiral between the two bandmates.

    I could go and on and on about this book. It’s a long book, a long history, and Richards tells it all. But the heart of the book is the relationship between Jagger and Richards. Throughout the book there is withering fire from Richards directed at Jagger. It’s not a black or white criticism however, since Richards often praises Jagger for his performances, his work ethic, his friendship. It’s an honest attempt to be honest. Less honest is Richards' treatment of his drug abuse problem. He pats himself on the back for beating smack, but does it in such a way that suggests he was always in control. This is junkie-speak. At one point he says, jaw droppingly, “I never really overdid it.” Even if Richards did beat his addiction, he merely substituted it for another: booze.

    In the late 70s and 80s, as Richards sunk more and more into drugs, Jagger began to exert more control of the band. He also started to look for an exit – via his own solo career. This is probably fracture point No. 2. Richards’ loyalty to the idea of the band, the Rolling Stones, is total (whatever that now means). Jagger’s attempt to start up his own career around the time “Dirty Work” came out, nearly ended the band. However, Jagger’s failure to get traction in his own career (his solo albums sucked), would lead to his return to the Stones. Interestingly, Richards’ solo efforts gathered some critical praise.

    Jagger’s return would also insure that the Rolling Stones would become very rich due to the new economics of touring (and Jagger's sharp eye). But for Richards, it’s not (so he says) about the money, but the music. Jagger would try and push the band into whatever (Richards says) Mick heard the previous night at the disco. Richards was/is the rocker who wanted to stay that way. Most critics would agree when actually looking at the later Stones albums (excepting possibly the last one, “Bigger Bang,” which strangely felt like a true band effort). These albums are hodge-podge affairs, with Jagger and Richards going to their separate corners, doing “their” songs, and then slapping a Stones tongue on it. I would argue that these are not really band efforts anymore. Oh, both Jagger and Richards are professional enough to crank out some good songs, but the album “feel” seems gone. Richards’ insistence regarding the band being true to it, seems anymore hollow – unnecessary. He’s probably doing more interesting things musically on his own. (Check out (on Youtube) his duet with George Jones on "Say It's Not You." He really should try doing a country album.) On the home front, Richards is happily married, a family man. He falls out of trees. He snorts his dad’s ashes. He likes dogs. Reads history. I just wish he would pick up the phone and call his “friend” a friend again. He still calls Jagger his brother (and I believe him – this is not an empty statement from Richards). Well, that’s what a brother should do.

    Note: If you decide to read this book, I highly recommend that you read rock critic Bill Wyman’s (not the Stone) mock Jagger reply letter to the Richards’ book that appeared in Slate. It serves as an excellent counterpoint to many of Richards’ claims (and it’s also a piece of brilliant writing). I’m not taking sides, which is why I suggest that you read it. I love them both, and I’m thankful for all the good music.

  • Velvetink

    Growing up in Dartford for Keith – was somewhere to get out of. After WWII it was pungent with horse manure & desperation and he never forgot the story that he was born in an air raid shelter. It wasn’t London. It wasn’t hip or cool - it was the backside of the wrong side of the tracks. But when his father Gus gave him an old wooden guitar and showed him a few chords and licks, London loomed closer. Especially after he could play “Malaguena” and managed to escape National Service – that grea

    Growing up in Dartford for Keith – was somewhere to get out of. After WWII it was pungent with horse manure & desperation and he never forgot the story that he was born in an air raid shelter. It wasn’t London. It wasn’t hip or cool - it was the backside of the wrong side of the tracks. But when his father Gus gave him an old wooden guitar and showed him a few chords and licks, London loomed closer. Especially after he could play “Malaguena” and managed to escape National Service – that great cloud hanging over a whole generation of English teenagers and Dartford Technical College.

    This autobiography is really massive, too many decades to cover in a review & many have already so I will only mention a few things that stood out for me. I’ve not read any other Stones biographies before although know they are out there & which document many of the tensions and dramas the band has had over the decades.

    Keith met Jagger in 1961. They would hang out in seedy record stores waiting for the next consignment of Blues and Jazz records to arrive from Chicago, listen to them and try to work out how to play them & learn how to write songs like that. For Richards, the Blues is the core and basis of his Life. He talks eloquently about the blues. I was enthralled. I had a totally different idea of Keith, certainly not one so articulate (even if the book is co-written by James Fox).

    Keith knows how to talk about music – he’s not unable to express what music means to him or how he arrived at a certain tune and I know many who can’t. He exists not in the light blues spectrum but that very dank swamp kind of blues. He loves John Lee Hooker, Muddy and Lee & Berry.

    He talks about many early English bands that influenced him such as the likes of Alexis Korners’ Blues Band, who had Cyril Davis playing blues harp & his later R&B “All Stars”. Jamming at the Earling Club (a traditional jazz club) is where he met Brian Jones . Rather than focus on all the drug fecked times Keith had (and the book contains a testament of his usage), it was the many small things he mentioned that impressed me and made me smile, like his memories of his first amp that he re-wired from his mother’s radio and his description of his De Armond pickup that always needed soldering during gigs. Things like that made me realise how easy it is these days to learn to play a song – with the internet for lyrics and chords and software programs like “Garage Band” where you don’t even have to own an instrument and everyone thinks they can become a rock star. He recounts the Stones first record deal with Decca and the first recording studio at Olympic Studios with the then state of the art equipment (walls with egg cartons and a fairly basic Grundig tape recorder). Wannabee’s should take note. It takes perseverance, a lot of love and dedication & invention. Keith heard and played with a lot of awesome jazz musicians at the Earling and T-Bone Walker (of Chuck Berry’s 50’s band) was one of those. T-Bone was one of the first to use the double string thing and Keith found it worked for him and became something of a signature to his playing. You can’t play some of the Stones’ music without that double guitar string. It just does not sound right.

    A lot has been said about Keith’s addictions and his relationship with Anita Pallenberg before this (and he’s fairly candid about most of it in "Life".) The journalist Bill Wyman (not the Stones Bill Wyman)

    has his bitch about “Life” with a few decidedly cutting remarks regarding the death of Keith’s 3rd child (cot death) and blaming Keith for it – which I felt beyond the pale when at the time Keith was on tour with the Stones and the death occurred under Pallenberg’s care.

    Anita was perhaps more an addict than Keith and while I cannot say what her demons were, I don’t think that Keith used drugs in the same way – he didn’t have any of the same kind of mental tortures & childhood regrets that fuel the usual addict. He does go into the reasons he used and for the most part were either for endurance or to sleep. Like a tool which I believe. And he was honest about his efforts at rehab. He doesn’t gloss over any of it. He admits getting clean was hell and he did it at home with just the help of his manager Jane Rose – the two of them locked in a room till he dried out. Warning more than once to kids not to do drugs.

    I felt he had a phenomenal memory until I realised co-writer James Fox must have also done a lot of research and hung around with Keith just talking for hours to unearth so much material. But also Keith kept journals all throughout his life something I find admirable considering his years of addiction. In all I found him a really likable and open guy. For all the so-called dissent and rifts between Keith & Mick and Brian, Keith always gives them their due praises all through the book. He loves Mick, and loves playing with the Stones after all these years. That’s saying something.

    “Life” documents much of the Stone’s history I’ll not repeat here for brevity, and his meeting and marrying Patti and their life together now. Throughout the book there are cameo stories by many people associated with Keith and they reinforce my impression that essentially despite Keith’s typical drug ravaged face he’s an ok good guy & someone I could sit down with and chat and not feel demeaned by.

    I think it telling he’s been able to continually collaborate on other endeavours besides the Stones. In films and with other musicians including getting other touring bands like the X-pensive Winos together and working with Norah Jones etc.. He’s nowhere near washed up as some like to portray. He’s survived major brain surgery as well…he has some beautiful kids & family he’s dedicated to and a library to die for (in which he fell off a ladder looking for a book) that resulted in an intracranial haemorrhage).

    Well just go read the book. There is much I left out. Includes some great photos too.

    “I’m good at pulling a bunch of guys together. If I can pull a bunch of useless Rastas into a viable band and also the Winos, a decidedly unruly band of men, I’ve got something……….it’s not a matter of cracking the whip, it’s a matter of just sticking around and doing it. So they know you’re in there……..it’s not a matter of who’s No.1. It’s what works”. - KR

  • Kp

    It was fascinating! If you have always loved The Rolling Stones and rock and roll and have a lot of nostalgia about the 60's... then I think you'd find Keith Richards memoir fascinating, too. It is long, but most of the time, well, I was just blown away hearing about all the stuff Keith Richards did. He has a great conversational style; listening was fun - kind of like sitting in the living room hearing him tell about his life (with help from Johnny Depp and one other reader.) What really shines

    It was fascinating! If you have always loved The Rolling Stones and rock and roll and have a lot of nostalgia about the 60's... then I think you'd find Keith Richards memoir fascinating, too. It is long, but most of the time, well, I was just blown away hearing about all the stuff Keith Richards did. He has a great conversational style; listening was fun - kind of like sitting in the living room hearing him tell about his life (with help from Johnny Depp and one other reader.) What really shines through is his absolute love of music as well as his totally undisciplined and wild, wild life style. I liked it toward the end when he tells about how Tony Blair wrote him a get well letter (after an accident) and said, "Dear Keith, You've always been one of my heroes..." Then Keith says, "England's in the hands of someone I'm the hero of? That's frightening." I also liked the ending when he sits on the end of his dying mom's bed and plays Malaguena for her. That was one of the first songs he learned at the beginning of the book, so it seemed to be a good frame for the ending... and kind of touching.

  • Tosh

    Bob Dylan's memoir is a classic. Patti Smith's memoir "Just Kids" a classic. "Life" by Keith Richards not a classic but a really really OK book. But me writing that I really wanted it to be a great rock n' roll classic book and "Life" maybe grand, but great it isn't.

    It's obvious that Richards is writing (or co-writing) this for the fans out there. Every question and thought regarding the Rolling Stones long history is answered or dealt with - yet for that reason it strikes me as a book done in n

    Bob Dylan's memoir is a classic. Patti Smith's memoir "Just Kids" a classic. "Life" by Keith Richards not a classic but a really really OK book. But me writing that I really wanted it to be a great rock n' roll classic book and "Life" maybe grand, but great it isn't.

    It's obvious that Richards is writing (or co-writing) this for the fans out there. Every question and thought regarding the Rolling Stones long history is answered or dealt with - yet for that reason it strikes me as a book done in numbers and not passion or through the enjoyment of putting a book together.

    Also to be honest there is some major flaws in Keith Richards' character. For one he has this gang mentality in keeping the band together and having people loyal around him - yet if it doesn't serve his purpose (or in his eyes the band) then it is tossed off the train that is his life. His drug taking for sure caused major headaches for the band - so it is kind of a shug when you hear him complain about Brian Jones' problems with the chemicals.

    For one, Keith likes to believe that he was the worst enemy of the establishment, but that is his ego talking. From day one he was part of the pop machinery that churns out pop as in a factory. The Stones were brilliant - but I think that has a lot to do with the talents of their first manager and record producer Andrew Loog Oldham, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Jones, Phil Spector and the original blues singers that inspired them. When Keith got into Heroin he lost the pilot. And for good with respect to consistent music making. The mid-70's Stones had a few good groove songs, but in the 60's they were really on fire. The 80's, 90's and the 21st Century? Not even worth mentioning.

    Also reading this book I sort of feel sorry for Mick Jagger. Which is weird to me. For someone who was totally devoted to the band, Keith for sure lost the desire to make interesting music in the late 70's. Right now he sort of positioned himself as a rebel, but he's a rebel that has been part of the conservative establishment for awhile now. So when we admire Keith Richards it is not really the man, but more what we as a culture think he is. And for me this memoir blows a big hole in that myth.

    Nevertheless it is an interesting document and a great importance to the Rolling Stones library - but ironically enough there are better Stones' books out there and in print as well.

  • Allyson

    What can I say?

    I am a fervent Stones fan, more of a Mick than Keith although Andrew loves Keef and has shown me the "way." But it is the combination of the group that makes the band, and the times they have lived through. KR makes this abundantly clear throughout Life and is at times all possible sides of a character: arrogant, nasty, mean, kind, loving, fun, crazy, menacing, clueless, dangerous, and incredibly talented while still being very modest. This book is amazing, sounds just like him wi

    What can I say?

    I am a fervent Stones fan, more of a Mick than Keith although Andrew loves Keef and has shown me the "way." But it is the combination of the group that makes the band, and the times they have lived through. KR makes this abundantly clear throughout Life and is at times all possible sides of a character: arrogant, nasty, mean, kind, loving, fun, crazy, menacing, clueless, dangerous, and incredibly talented while still being very modest. This book is amazing, sounds just like him with some tidying up no doubt by James Fox, but what an incredible feat. For anyone to write about their life, let alone someone like KR with the life he has led is an acheivement worth applauding, and in this case enjoying.

    It is so thrilling that Janet Maslin, Liz Phair, and Michiko Kakutani all so favorably reviewed and loved this book. The snippiness of David Remnick in The New Yorker reflects more on Remnick than it does on KR.

    I believe this book appeals to anyone interested in music, a musical life, and reverance for the art of making music. Being a Stones fan seals the deal.

    Just great!

  • Madeline

    "It was 1975, a time of brutality and confrontation. Open season had been declared since our last tour, the tour of '72, known as the STP. The State Department had noted riots (true), civil disobedience (also true), illicit sex (whatever that is), and violence across the United States. All the fault of us, mere minstrels. We had been inciting the youth to rebellion, we were corrupting America, and they had ruled never to let us travel in the United States again. It had become, in the time of Nix

    "It was 1975, a time of brutality and confrontation. Open season had been declared since our last tour, the tour of '72, known as the STP. The State Department had noted riots (true), civil disobedience (also true), illicit sex (whatever that is), and violence across the United States. All the fault of us, mere minstrels. We had been inciting the youth to rebellion, we were corrupting America, and they had ruled never to let us travel in the United States again. It had become, in the time of Nixon, a serious political matter. He had personally deployed his dogs and dirty tricks against John Lennon, who he thought might cost him an election. We, in turn, they told our lawyer officially, were the most dangerous rock-and-roll band in the world."

    I am definitely not the intended audience for this book. I like the Rolling Stones, certainly, and I knew their music before I could identify the band (I have a distinct memory of my dad singing "Paint It Black" to me when I was much too young to have any idea who the Rolling Stones were), but I wouldn't describe myself as a hardcore fan. I didn't see the Stones in their prime - my generation knows them mostly as a group of awesome, elderly rockers who simply refuse to pack it in and retire. Keith Richards himself came onto my radar very late - in fact, and here I will preemptively duck from the objects that are about to be thrown at me by anyone born before 1980 - I think the first time I heard about Keith Richards was when I learned that he was the person Johnny Depp had based Jack Sparrow on.

    So obviously, this book was not written for me and I probably had no business reading it in the first place. However, driven by curiosity and armed with a superficial knowledge of the Stones and an earnest love of

    , I plunged in. I mean, how can you resist an opening like the one I quoted above?

    In a purely technical sense, this book is very badly written. The narrative wanders from one subject to another, events aren't kept in chronological order, and Richards uses fragment sentences like they're going out of style. But the thing is, it

    . I got the sense that the writing process for this book was just Keith Richards free-associating into a recorder for several hours, and the resulting tapes were written down verbatim. Richards' voice comes through clearly in every word, and it's a great experience. Reading the book is like listening to your foul-mouthed, slightly confused grandfather tell you stories - they don't always make sense, and sometimes you have no idea what he's saying, but your grandfather happens to be the most awesome person alive, so you're going to shut up and pay attention to everything he says.

    The book is full of dirt on the Rolling Stones, the tours, and lots of helpful advice about buying drugs and then concealing them on your person. Random bits are tossed in, like Richards' recipe for bangers and mash ("I only just found out from this lady on TV that you have to put bangers in a cold pan") and instructions on winning a knife fight ("The big rules of knife fighting are (a) do not try it at home, and (b) the whole point is

    use the blade. It is there to distract your opponent. While he stares at the gleaming steel, you kick his balls to kingdom come - he's all yours. Just a tip!"). He also lets other people tell stories, too - every now and then he'll break off and include a few paragraphs written by someone else (like his manager, his son, and once Kate Moss) describing their perspective on whatever Richards is talking about.

    But the best part, the very best, is when Richards is talking about music. He might be crazy, he might be a recovering junkie, he might be sexist (oh, we'll get there), but this man

    . He loves playing music, listening to music, and talking about music. While I was reading this I started wishing that I knew how to play the guitar, because the detail he goes into about chords and playing techniques is incredible and went right over my head. Reading about how Keith Richards feels about music is what makes this book worth reading - when he stops talking about Mick drama and drugs and chicks, and just focuses on the music.

    Here's him talking about the first time he heard "Heartbreak Hotel":

    "Then - 'Since my baby left me' - it was just the sound. It was the last trigger. That was the first rock and roll I heard. It was a totally different way of delivering a song, a totally different sound, stripped down, burnt, no bullshit, no violins and ladies' choruses and schmaltz, totally different. It was bare, right to the roots that you had a feeling were there but hadn't yet heard. I've got to take my hat off to Elvis for that. The silence is your canvas, that's your frame, that's what you work on; don't try to deafen it out. That's what 'Hearbreak Hotel' did to me. It was the first time I'd heard something so stark."

    In fact, the only time this book

    awesome reading is when Keith Richards talks about women, and worse, attempts to address the misogyny in rock and roll.

    "...many of the songs we wrote around this time had what you might call anti-girl lyrics - anti-girl titles too. 'Stupid Girl,' 'Under My Thumb,' 'Out of Time,' 'That Girl Belongs to Yesterday'...Maybe we were winding them up. And maybe some of the songs opened their hearts a little, or their minds, to the idea of we're women, we're strong. But I think the Beatles and the Stones particularly did release chicks from the fact of 'I'm just a little chick.'"

    Okay, Grandpa Keith, that's very nice, but you need to sit down now. Have a caramel square and shut up for a minute.

    Keith Richards, I learned from this book, only likes women when they do everything for him. All the women who get described favorably in this book have one thing in common: they would follow the Rolling Stones around and literally take care of them. Richards' first love, a girl named Haleema, is well-regarded because she and her friends would come to the apartment where the Stones lived and clean the place up and cook for them. Keith's favorite past chicks, including his current wife, are the ones who cooked breakfast for him. Richards wants women to take care of him (Mommy issues ahoy!), but does not appreciate having to do the same for them. Here he is discussing Mick Jagger's many infidelities and having to deal with the stupid whores who came crying to poor Keith about it:

    "They end up crying on my shoulder because they've found out that he has once again philandered. What am I gonna do? Well, it's a long ride to the airport, honey; let me think about it. The tears that have been on this shoulder, from Jerry Hall, from Bianca, from Marianne, Chrissie Shrimpton...They're ruined so many shirt of mine. And they ask

    what to do! How the hell do I know? I don't fuck him!"

    Grandpa Keith, I said sit down. Do you need another caramel square?

    Women aren't very present in this book, but that's expected: this is about rock and roll, and the love of music, and the rise (and continued rise) of a truly great group that revolutionized music. Some of it doesn't make any sense, some of it is ugly and sad, but all of it is incredible, and ultimately worth the read.

  • F.R.

    Keith Richards’ autobiography starts really well and holds that momentum for a long time; although when it reaches the period covering the Eighties it does fall somewhat into score settling, and after that becomes somewhat bland and without spark. As such you have to hand it to this book, it really does mirror The Rolling Stones’ career.

    Ghost writer James Fox does a fantastic job of catching his master’s voice. No doubt Keef was sat down in front of a microphone and told to talk about his life i

    Keith Richards’ autobiography starts really well and holds that momentum for a long time; although when it reaches the period covering the Eighties it does fall somewhat into score settling, and after that becomes somewhat bland and without spark. As such you have to hand it to this book, it really does mirror The Rolling Stones’ career.

    Ghost writer James Fox does a fantastic job of catching his master’s voice. No doubt Keef was sat down in front of a microphone and told to talk about his life into tape after tape after tape, but from there Fox has managed to create a seamless narrative whilst rendering the subject’s personality. It really does seem as if Keith Richards is talking to you, sharing all his best anecdotes in his avuncular growl – all the time throwing around such terms as ‘cat’, ‘babe’, ‘bitch’ and so on. (I imagine the audiobook of this would be a real treat.) There are some odd points: for example, the book never addresses the fact that for the first fifteen years of his career Keith Richards was known as Keith Richard. I always assumed that Andrew Loog Oldman (their then manager) tipping his cap to the far softer British rock’n’roll icon Cliff Richard. But there is no real tackling of The Peter Pan of Pop, apart from Keith seeming to take glee in Cliff’s run of British hits ending when he decided to record a Jagger/Richards track.

    Part of the problem with this book losing steam is that I think Richards appreciates that after ‘Start Me Up’, the Stones never produced another great song. As such those later sessions do not have the attention to detail that he gives to ‘Exile on Main Street’ or ‘Let It Bleed’. He does however give a spirited defence against charges of the band selling out with their mega-tours, just saying that they want to play music and this is the best way to do it. And after spending six hundred pages with the man, it’s hard to begrudge him that love of performing. Particularly as the majority of people who buy this book will certainly consider buying a ticket the next time the Stones hit the road.

  • Petra Eggs

    A GR friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) has sent me a really good story about Keith's son Marlon, whom my friend knew well. I've posted it in the comments, msg. 67.

    ***

    7 star book!

    One of the best books I've read this year. Keith Richards was a clever kid, a talented artist, a choirboy who sang for the Queen and became an outstanding musician in one of the world's best bands. What is most on display in this book is his tremendous interest in music and musicians, not in rock, bands, mone

    A GR friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) has sent me a really good story about Keith's son Marlon, whom my friend knew well. I've posted it in the comments, msg. 67.

    ***

    7 star book!

    One of the best books I've read this year. Keith Richards was a clever kid, a talented artist, a choirboy who sang for the Queen and became an outstanding musician in one of the world's best bands. What is most on display in this book is his tremendous interest in music and musicians, not in rock, bands, money and fame - a lot of which he finds a bit of a pain but to be endured because that goes with the job. If you aren't fairly knowledgeable about music, blues in particular, there is going to be a lot of this book you are going to want to skip.

    What is also interesting is his drug use. We never hear the ins and outs of being a tremendously successful heroin junkie. No, the spin is always on those poor street people who will steal their own mother's wedding ring for the next fix as they are quite beyond work. Richards enjoys his drugs a lot and tells us exactly what it feels like to be high on them and how it helped his work. His main supplier is his best friend and partner in crime, the very flamboyant Freddie Sessler, a holocaust survivor and (handily) owner of pharmacies so he could supply medical grade cocaine and heroin, who travelled along with the Stones. There were other dealers to ensure that when the band arrived at their tour date, the drugs would be ready and waiting, always a difficult time for a junkie.

    The antics of the UK and especially US law enforcement officers to catch, entrap, imprison and get the Stones banned are hilarious as are the stories of Richards escaping them (most of the time). This is where money and being a big name helps! The story about Richards and Bobby Keys being got off a rap they had no defence against by the owner of Dole Pineapples is classic.

    Richards also went cold turkey fairly often, not because he wanted to give up drugs but because he had to be clean and without the desperate need for drugs so he could enter various countries and tour with the band. These parts of the story are fairly harrowing to read, I really had no idea what cold turkey was really like but how it is very limited in time and can be endured. (Dr. Phil's Celebrity Rehab is more about Dr. Phil and the Celebrities than the rehab). When he actually decided to give up drugs, he made two attempts and that was it, gave them up thirty years ago.

    His sex life was a great deal less interesting than, say, Mick Jagger's,as he was the sort of man who fell passionately in love, and then did whatever he could to keep the relationship alive. Not that groupies were totally unknown to him but that sort of sex wasn't anything he ever sought out. His first marriage to the actress Anita Pallenberg fell apart due to his wife's uncontrolled (as opposed to his controlled) use of drugs, and he has been married for decades to his second wife, the model Patty Hansen, who has never used them.

    Essentially Keith is a man who questioned the system at every turn, but take away the surface and what you have left is a family man. His mother, a tremendously musical person herself, is in the story pretty constantly. For some years he raised his son, Marlon, alone (rather unconventionally taking him on tour), although he quite obviously cherishes all his children and has never, ever got over the loss of his baby son Tara, who died of cot death.

    But this man, this clever, sensitive, man, this lover of books, this chronicler of arguably the best rock band ever, this musician's musician had that other side too,

    the drug-taking, alcohol-sodden, irreverant, authority-bucking wild side, the man who took a lot of drugs and lived exactly as he pleased because he had the money to do so and continues to entertain us with his really great guitar licks.

    Rock on Keith, rock on.

    Although the book is ghost-written, it retains more of the voice of the author than it does of the ghost-writer which isn't always the case. But I don't recommend the audiobook. Johnny Depp, Keith's friend, reads well, but he can't sustain the right accent for long and it sounds somewhat fake with an American undertone. This might not annoy you, but it did me and I preferred the written word.

  • Ana

    Probably the best audiobook I've ever listened to. Actually this is the first and only audiobook I've listened to. It's narrated by Johnny Depp. A Keith Richards biography narrated by Johnny Depp. How cool is that!

    Mr Keef is no mystery to me. Victor Bockris's celebrated Keith Richards biography and The Rolling Stones : In The Beginning photograph coll

    Probably the best audiobook I've ever listened to. Actually this is the first and only audiobook I've listened to. It's narrated by Johnny Depp. A Keith Richards biography narrated by Johnny Depp. How cool is that!

    Mr Keef is no mystery to me. Victor Bockris's celebrated Keith Richards biography and The Rolling Stones : In The Beginning photograph collection by Bent Rej have a special place on my parent's bookshelf.

    So, the age old question... who is better, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The answer is, of course,

    To say Keith Richards has lived an interesting life would be an understatement. He puts the R in rock star.

    I can't think of anyone cooler than Keith Richards. Can you?

    I had to write this down. It's... oh just read it.

    There's only one more thing I really want to say. Keith Richards will outlive us all.

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  • Jennifer

    A no-holds-barred autobiography from one of the original bad boys of rock & roll.

    Keith Richards jokes are legion, but after listning to this audio book, it's no joke acknowleding that this guy has more lives than a darn cat. Car crashes, knife fights, gun skirmishes, not to mention all the drugs, booze and jail stints -- any one of these might have put an end to any one else, but this guy just keeps on rolling.

    This is a long book -- and will be made longer still because if you're anything li

    A no-holds-barred autobiography from one of the original bad boys of rock & roll.

    Keith Richards jokes are legion, but after listning to this audio book, it's no joke acknowleding that this guy has more lives than a darn cat. Car crashes, knife fights, gun skirmishes, not to mention all the drugs, booze and jail stints -- any one of these might have put an end to any one else, but this guy just keeps on rolling.

    This is a long book -- and will be made longer still because if you're anything like me you'll want to pause the audio or set down the book to queue up all those great Stones songs mentioned, or to look up some of the crazy characters mentioned along the way (just who the heck is Uschi Obermaier and was she really that beautiful??) Personally, I found the book a bit too rambling at times, and much too detailed about the actual musical techniques (muscians might appreciate this; however, the specifics were lost on me).

    What is clear, and where I gained a new appreciation for the man, is how committed Richard is to music. He's loved it since the first time he picked up a guitar and it's his life's passion. He seems to know as much about Mozart concertos as he does about Otis Redding. Despite the fame and fortune brought on by the success of The Rolling Stones, one definitely gets the sense in this book that if Richards had found a way to make a living simply playing music in the clubs without having a "day job" he would have been just as happy. For him it's always been about the music.

    3.5 stars rounded up.


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