Saturday, December 18, 2010

Life by Keith Richards

Keith Richards' begins his autobiography, Life, with “Believe it or not, I haven’t forgotten any of it.” then goes on for 576 pages (23 hrs - audio version) to prove it.

When in Life, Richards talked about the process of writing the Rolling Stones music, I forgot that he was a horrendous heroin addict. I even forgot that Johnny Depp was reading the audio version (I listened to it on my iPod), and I felt myself falling into the book, comfortably. I’ve seen this same phenomenon in other musicians’ biographies (e.g., Jimi Hendricks and Eric Clapton). They’re adept, exacting and soulful about their music, but complete morons when it comes to managing their lives and relationships. But even the horror of Richards' life was irrationally compelling. I found myself strangely interested in his vivid, albeit macabre, descriptions of his drug use. I know, just stay with me here.

If you’ve any interest in the Rolling Stones, this is an admittedly one-sided yet seemingly thorough and absolutely entertaining chronicle. And you might enjoy Life if you’re simply interested in music history or trivia. For example, the Rolling Stones never wanted to be a rock and roll band; they wanted to play Chicago blues. Or that Veronica Bennett of the 60s hit girl group the Ronettes (Be My Baby) was a major fox and Keith's first serious crush, but she married famous music producer Phil Spector who was apparently a complete a-hole. Or that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would exchange music when one or the other (usually the Stones) got writer’s block. I loved Richards' story about he and Mick Jagger cutting out newspaper and magazine headlines, tossing them on the floor, and then grabbing them randomly for song lyrics. Click on Read More Below…

Speaking of Mick, no biography involving the Rolling Stones would be complete without a little Mick gossip. The book's press has made much about the tension between Keith and Mick, and especially Keith’s comment regarding Mick’s "limited equipment," but their relationship seemed to me like that of a divorced couple. They will always love each other, but won’t share the same oxygen unless forced (like on stage of course). One of Keith’s best quotes was about Mick's only solo record: "It was like Mein Kampf. Everybody had a copy but nobody listened to it."

But Life turns really dark, and Richards nearly looses me when he talks about his relationships with his women and children, and his endless legal battles. He and his children’s mother, Anita Pallenberg, shared a bottomless addiction to heroin, three children (one that dies in a sketchy “crib death”) and a shocking indifference to how their addiction impacted their children. They apparently had nannies to care for the basic needs of their children or none of them would have made out alive. They were incredibly irresponsible parents. Keith’s son Marlon would help his dad shoot up.

These parts were made a little easier to stomach by Johnny Depp’s reading of the audio version. Depp is as charming as Keith Richards as he was as Jack Sparrow imitating Keith Richards in Pirates of the Caribbean!

The Stones are those sexy and dangerous outlaws our mothers warned us about, but Life is a safe walk on the wild side, so read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment