This is Keith’s story and what a story it is — an absolutely incredible ride.
I’ve been a huge fan Stones fan since childhood and as a guitarist, Keith was always my favourite. I’ve always thought of ‘Exile on main street‘ as the best rock album ever recorded and ‘Get yer ya ya’s out’ as the best live one. This music was the soundtrack to my teenage years as I refused to listen to the crap that came out in the late 80s.
In most of his interviews Keith is delightfully shambolic coming across as either stoned, drunk or a combination of the two. So with this in mind I really had no idea how he would go about putting together a 600-page memoir.
Thankfully this is hugely entertaining read. There’s so much to enjoy here for a stones fan. He gives you everything — holds nothing back. Disarmingly honest in his recollections, it seems that nothing at all is off limits. The guy has no filter! His recall seems good which is in itself a remarkable thing all things considered — and interesting inserts from friends, musicians and family tie his narrative together.
Drugs make up a huge part of the story. Keith was a die-hard junkie for many years — not an easy thing to do it turns out. He came close to dying so many times that he sort of stops noticing. His ability to survive his own addiction seems like some sort of medical miracle. Through the 70s he was reckless, irresponsible and probably caused considerable harm to those around him and you sort of wonder what the millions of dollars of drugs he injected into his arse might have been better used for. Keith was always a little uncomfortable about being a rock star and perhaps drugs were his insulation.
So the push and pull of a drug life feature heavily but what also comes through is a true love of music. Hearing him talk to about music and the way it moves him was the highlight for me. Reading about how the open-G tuning came about and seeing him refashion his instrument in a way that would become the sound of the band — gold. I spend time looking up and listening to some of the older tracks he mentioned as well and even gave the newer albums a bit of a spin (Bridges to Babylon and A Bigger Bang). He has a beautifully pure take on music and this reverence flows through his book.
So this is Keith’s story — full of drugs, guns, drugs, police, intrigue, inspiration, heartache, relationships, survival and MUSIC. Lots of music. It was probably ghost-written and tidied up but the book feels completely real and authentically Keith. I was smiling through a lot of it. I especially enjoyed the later chapters where he was able to clean up, slow down and enjoy his family and fame.
I feel I should quote something from the book to finish so… here’s Keith’s recipe for ‘Bangers and Mash’…which I’ll never use cause I hate sausages but it did make me laugh:
MY RECIPE FOR BANGERS AND MASH
First off, find a butcher who makes his sausages fresh.
Fry up a mixture of onions and bacon and seasoning.
Get the spuds on the boil with a dash of vinegar, some chopped onions and salt (seasoning to taste).
Chuck in some peas with the spuds. (Throw in some chopped carrots too, if you like.) Now we’re talking.
Now, you have a choice of grilling or broiling your bangers or frying.
Throw them on low heat with the simmering bacon and onions (or in the cold pan, as the TV lady said, and add the onions and bacon in a bit) and let the fuckers rock gently, turning every few minutes.
Mash yer spuds and whatever.
Bangers are now fat free (as possible!).
Gravy if desired. HP sauce, every man to his own.Keith Richards, ‘Life’
If you’re a Stones fan this is an immediate, urgent purchase. If you’re a music fan, get it as well. If you’re neither of these things…you won’t have gotten through this review…but I would have also recommended ‘Life’ to you, if you had.