Life by Keith Richards

71FtIHI5jKL Sex. Drugs. Rock. Roll. Other musicians did all these before Keith Richards. But by any measure, using those four words as a template, he has done a bit. Frank Sinatra once said of Dean Martin: ‘I spill more than he drinks.’ Martin’s drunk act (he pops up, amusingly, in the early stages of the Rolling Stones’ US incursions) was just that – an act. But Keef: he lived it. In fact – and there’s no polite way of putting this – Keef was a full-on, proper smackhead for a decade. Yet even during the heroin years, Life is always saved from being the ramblings of a disconnected ego by the fact that the Dartford boy seems to exist more or less without rancour and pettiness – and actually loves music. At times some of his activities (involving knives, guns, fists, even spring onions) seem less devil-may-care piratical and more yobbish. But there’s a lot to enjoy: the Mars bar incident apparently never happened as it was reported. Given his, ah…turbulent relationship with ‘the Valkyrie’ Anita Pallenberg, their children now seem remarkably well-adjusted although son Marlon admits: ‘It was exhausting with Anita and Keith’. There was also a mind-bendingly expensive, extraordinarily wide-ranging legal machine that was mobilised more or less with the sole purpose of keeping Keef out of jail while on the road. As with Morrissey’s autobiography, Life performs that invaluable service of directing you back to the actual music again. Unlike Morrissey’s book, Life also gives you a proper look at how some of those wonderful tunes were created, with Mick Jagger (despite everything between them: ‘It’s not all going to be plain sailing, is it?’) given fulsome credit. The opening of Jumping Jack Flash is just a demo really, recorded on multiple acoustic guitars by Richards on a bedside cassette recorder, with the resultant distortion on the record created by feeding that recording through an extension speaker in the studio and putting a microphone in front of it. Which is why it doesn’t really sound like anything else. Now that’s worth knowing. Also, Mick has a small penis and big testicles, apparently. I suppose one might have surmised that from his general demeanour, but it’s rewarding to have it confirmed.

 

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