I just completed reading “Life”, the auto biography of Keith Richards. This was not the book I expected. I thought it would be a sensational tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll. And it is all of that, but there is so much more to this book than S,D, and R&R.
From the very first chapter this book will grab you. The book opens with Keith getting arrested in Arkansas during the 1975 U.S. tour. I almost died laughing when I read this! The number of times that Keith has cheated death or life in prison is unbelievable. He tells tales of groupies, and drug dealers, and musicians. He shares his version of the birth of the Rolling Stones and how Mick Jagger picked there name off a Muddy Waters record on the spur of the moment while he was talking to a booking agent on the telephone. He writes “Satisfaction” in his sleep. He steals Anita Pallenberg from Brian Jones. Brian drowns in his swimming pool. He shares his story of heroin addiction and cleaning up. Keith is always very open and honest. He never pulls and punches, even when it comes to his relationship with Mick Jagger. If you are interested in all the sorted details of Keith’s life the book will not disappoint. But, if you are interested in the music, that is really the reward of reading the book.
I came away with a much deeper respect for Keith Richards, the Musician. He spends a lot of time talking about writing songs, recording music, arranging music, producing music, etc… He tells the amazing story of learning about “open tuning” the guitar from Don Everly of The Everly Brothers. His insights into how to record music is very interesting. He talks about recording the sound of a group in a room. Not overdubbing everything and using 30 different microphones to create a very sterile homogenized sound. He wants it to sound real, to be pure, to have a live edge to the sound. He talked about 3 microphones in a room and the entire band in there together. Capture the sound of the band in a specific place. A place like the basement of the house he rented in the south of France when The Rolling Stones recorded “Exlie on Main Street”; one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever recorded.
So read this book. Read it especially if you want to know more about how great rock music is created, recorded, and performed. Read this book because it is a rare opportunity to look into the mind of a true musical genius who is still around to explain why and how they get things done. Then listen to the music of the Stones and hear Keith paint his masterpieces on to the canvas of silence. Hear him create drama with the silence between the notes. The rest of the book is just a nice bonus.
What do you think? Let me hear from you.