What do you do about your four-year-old who is totally transformed when he hears The Rolling Stones? The moves he does… the most uninhibited and free-spirited, the way he feels the sound… pure instinct, the joy… total abandon. You learn from him. To hear the music. To gravitate towards it. To live it. And then you go and read Keith Richards’ autobiography.
Life. The highs, the lows and the death-defying excesses of the coolest rock ‘n’ roller. He’s got some tales to tell, alright. Living on the edge, friendship and fame, family and women, the music and Mick. And he tells them without pretense, caution or self-consciousness, with no-holds-barred and no false contrition. With black humour and brutal honesty, willing to show grief or that hint of demon in him (“there is a demon in everybody else”).
It’s the story of the ultimate rebel, outsider, adventurer, authentic rock ‘n’ roller, for whom “music is the best thing I do, and it’s worth a listen”, for whom playing a song over and over and over again is never a repetition, but always a variation. Because what most reverberates from this book is Keith Richards’ love of music, his joy for making music and the pure spirit of rock ‘n’ roll he captures. Music that rouses the world, speaking your mind, taking the chances you want. Music that turned the whole world on to the blues. Music that freed a generation and generations to come. Music that is not about technicality, but about feeling. Music that is not about what sounds right, but about what hits the ear. Music that feeds the audience whose energy, in turn, keeps them going and dreaming. Music that fills the stadiums because people want to hear the music, not because of the show put on the stage. Music that connects a whole world.
Life* is about the heart and soul of rock ‘n’ roll, from the heart and soul of The Rolling Stones.
“I was basically a musical sponge. And I was just fascinated by watching people play music. If they were in the street I’d gravitate towards it, a piano player in the pub, whatever it was. My ears were picking it up note for note.”
“But the one that really turned me on, like an explosion one night, listening to radio Luxembourg on my little radio when I was supposed to be in bed and asleep was Heartbreak Hotel. That was a stunner. I’d never heard it before, or anything like it. I’d never heard of Elvis before. It was almost as if I’d been waiting for it to happen. When I woke up the next day I was a different guy.”
“I was looking for the core of it – the expression. You would have no jazz without blues out of slavery – that most recent and particular version of slavery, not us poor Celts for example, under the Roman boot.”
“And slowly this whole other world opens up, because now you’re not just a player, or trying to play like somebody else. It isn’t just other people’s expression, I can start to express myself, I can write my own music. It’s almost like a bolt of lightning.”
“The most bizarre part of the whole story is that having done what we intended to do in our narrow, purist teenage brains at the time, which was to turn people on to the blues, what actually happened was we turned American people back on to their own music. And that’s probably our greatest contribution to music. We turned white America’s brain and ears around.”
“Mick and I may not be friends – too much wear and tear for that – but we’re the closest of brothers, and that can’t be severed.”
* For an easily accessible, official synopsis of the book, I have linked to the publishing house. However, in these trying times, our intention is to support artists and small businesses of any kind, especially bookstores, therefore we will not link to global online book chains or corporations, leaving you to make the choice of helping your favourite independent bookshop and placing your order with them. If you don’t have a favourite indie bookstore, here is how to find one you can support.
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