Life by Keith Richards (Book Review)

LifeLife by Keith Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“This mythical bullshit about stereo and high tech and Dolby, it’s just totally against the whole grain of what music should be. Nobody had the balls to dismantle it. And I started to think, what was it that turned me on to doing this? It was these guys that made records in one room with three microphones. They weren’t recording every little snitch of the drums or the bass. They were recording the room. You can’t get these indefinable things by stripping it apart. The enthusiasm, the spirit, the soul, whatever you want to call it, where’s the microphone for that?”

Early one morning I woke up with “She’s a Rainbow” playing in my head for no apparent reason. OK,  cool. The next morning, at two freaking o’clock, I woke hearing  “Gimme Shelter. ” What the frick, Mick, I’m trying to sleep. Some of us have to work in the morning.  I was prepared to be freaked out when it happened a third day, but it didn’t happen. It got me poking around online, though, and I came across this book. How did I not know about this book before?

I haven’t had this much fun reading a memoir in a long time. The casual style – we’re all just sitting around the table, having a few drinks and shooting the shit – seems to be Keith’s real voice, and is highly engaging. “And then there was the time that…” Great stuff. Peppered with everybody from Ronnie Spector to Muddy Waters to John Lennon. Bonus points for having a readable childhood. I usually blip over childhood chapters in auto/biographies, but I actually read this one. More bonus points for all the photos. I love memoirs with tons of photos.

There’s a bit of bagging going on, which I suppose is to be expected. An autobiography is, by definition, told from one person’s viewpoint, which is of course not the only viewpoint, and the dissension was scarcely a secret. I thought it got a wee bit snipey; that was the only thing about the book I didn’t care for. But Richards also sings Mick’s praises often, and well.

It’s all here, from the formation of the Rolling Stones, down through the years, the songs, the record deals, the tours, the drugs and cold turkeys, the drinking, the women, the busts, the feuds, the loves and losses, the globe-trotting, the whole rock star life…but what is here most of all is the music. Weaving throughout the scratched-out beginnings in London and the chaos of success and the changing face of rock and roll and the governments who really did, in retrospect, seem to just be gunning for “one junkie guitarist”…the music is the heartbeat of this Life.

“[Music] was very like a drug. In fact a far bigger drug than smack. I could kick smack; I couldn’t kick music.”

I used to have a sense of Keith Richards, the rock and roll bad boy.  I came away with a sense of Keith Richards, the articulate and expressive lover of music, books, beauty, and his family — not necessarily in that order. Listening to the Stones now, it sounds almost fatter, like there’s one more guitar woven in there. Thanks, Keef.

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Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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