Saturday, November 6, 2010

Before They Make Me Write

During the rock and roll era, few guitarists played to the acclaim Keith Richards did, with his popular group The Rolling Stones. Below, part of a recently recovered article about the musician. Textual references date it to 2010. The author is unknown.

I am standing at baggage claim with Keith Richards, and he is fuming.

"Fucking unbelievable,” Richards mutters, pulling out his fifth smoke of the morning. “Another fucking greyhound dead at LAX.”

Richards is referring to his dog Boy—named after “the old Muddy Waters tune”—who has passed away on the flight from Heathrow to LAX. Another of Richards’ prized greyhounds, King, died en route to Los Angeles in 1977. The guitarist—then Keith Richard—tells me that the dog’s death led to his decision to quit heroin in 1978.

While we wait for the local animal control to appear, I point out that this account is at odds with his book, “Life,” written with the journalist James Fox, but Richards seems unperturbed. “Right. The book.” He heads towards the door.

On the taxi ride to his hotel, we chat about the project. Richards admits that words—“mostly talking and writing”—aren’t his forte, and that he quit work on the book on several occasions. But he was guided by the conviction that if former Stones bassist Bill Wyman could write a book, Richards could write an equally long one. The book collects the wisdom that the guitarist has gained since starting rock’s most iconic band in 1962, the moss that this Rolling Stone has gathered, all 576 pages of it.

As Richards checks in, the concierge gives him a fax. It look like a child’s drawing, but turns out to be a goof from Mick Jagger. Richards crumples it up and tosses it into a trashcan—an assistant removes it and finds the recycling—and begins to speak about the member of his writing partner of nearly fifty years. These facts are in line with what appears in the book. They are not flattering.

We head immediately for the bar, and Richards has a scotch. Unprodded, he tells me that he wishes his band mates were better drinkers. “Ronnie, he used to be fun, and sometimes he still is, but the rest of them, I don’t know. I’d rather have a pint with the Exchequer than Jazzman,” he says, in an apparent reference to Charlie Watts. His thought is broken by the sight of a coconut above the bar. He allows his left index finger--the index finger that gave us “Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Rough Justice”--to sink into one of the deep crevices that line his face.

“You know, I’m proud of this book. I’ve been through hell, believe me, but I'm still here. Just wish Gram was too."

Life is a book marked by loss. Few people have lost as much as Richards has: friends, lovers, freedom, habits, Rolling Stones guitarists, and great chord progressions conceived while asleep.

At this moment, Richards seems to have lost his energy. He heads up to his suite for a nap--one of the "three or four" he takes on a typical day. He asks an assistant to text Johnny Depp and cancel their dinner plans as he walks away. He leaves me with the tab.

The rest of the article is lost, but the new information about Richards gives a fascinating look into the artist best known for popularizing the bandana.


  1. i should note that the thing about keef's dog dying at lax is true, at least according to my dad, who says he witnessed it.

    also, far more essential false reading about the stones can be found here

    and bill wyman (the journalist NOT the bassist) wrote a postscript to the last link, which he also wrote, that gives some helpful context:

  2. Is the title of this post meant to suggest that you identify with Richards (as he is represented here)? One can only hope that his book is as delightfully ironic as your overdue and very welcome return to the world of words!

    Is this an appropriate place to request that you burn me the Thermals and Let's Wrestle albums sometime? And/or review them here so thoroughly that I no longer need to hear them?