I’m currently in the middle of Keith Richards’ memoir Life, and so far it’s pretty awesome. I’ll probably review it when I’m actually done. I’ve always known that good ol’ Keith is an amazing guitarist, and has come up with some of the best riffs in rock, but I had no idea how inventive he actually was in achieving his signature sound. In Life he describes an opening tuning using the G chord, and removing one of the strings. He also reveals that “Street Fighting Man” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” were actually played on an acoustic guitar obtaining the distortion through a cassette player.
I’ve only played a little guitar, so I can’t comment about the technical aspect, but here are what I think are some of Keith’s finest moments (and not necessarily the “big” songs either.)
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
A contender for the most bad-ass riff of all time. It’s loud and dirty, but also leaves a little bit of breathing room to showcase some of Charlie Watt’s best drumming. Mick Taylor make take over the second half of the song with his fluid leads, but the song is probably best remembered for the riff.
The Last Time
The main riff is hypnotic in its repetition. It practically moves the song is constant circles, which may also suit the songs lyrics. “This could be the last time, Baby the last time, I don’t know.”
Some of Keith’s best playing (since he recorded all of the parts for this song and most of Let it Bleed). There’s the chunky blues riff which drives the verses, the buzz-saw riffing during the bridge, and the slide-guitar solo at the end.
The ultimate camp-fire song. Keith has often talked about how if you play guitar, you need to start playing acoustic. The song is a perfect example of that. The slide-guitar gives the song a down-home country feel. Even without the background singers, the feel of the song alone begs for people to come together and just play and sing.
The Stones definitely got a lot inspiration from the Chicago Bluesman, and some of their originals could even be passed for old blues standards. But “Midnight Rambler” is the dark hear of the blues. While a lot of people probably prefer the faster (and more well known) live version, I’m going to go with the album version here. By being slightly slower, tension is created by the spaces left between the notes.