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Keith Richards’ “Life”

I just finished reading Keith Richards’ memoir, Life.  All of the fabled stories are there – the drug busts, the flair-ups with Mick, taking Anita Pallenberg from Brian Jones.  And when Richards can’t quite remember the details he has guests come in and fill in the details.  When I first heard that Richards was calling his book Life, I wondered if he should come up with a better title.  While Life portrays an extraordinary life – it’s also  hilarious, heartbreaking, and honest.  Basically, life in general.

Of course Richards, being Richards he’s unapologetic for most things.  He finds it hilarious that he was on the most likely die list for 10 years.  And when it comes to heroin he suggests he never over-dosed because he wasn’t greedy – he only got enough to get him high.  Take those comments as you will.  But if you go into Life thinking this is all you’re getting than it’s your loss – Richards dedication to his craft shines through every heroin and alcohol-fueled moment. Rarely has such enthusiasm for simply playing music come through in a book.

Many musicians have suggested that being in a band is like being in a gang – you can’t leave unless you die.  Richards takes this view to heart – Mick Taylor never fit in because he left.  And Richards’ fights with Mick Jagger are famous at this point.  In Richards’ world you can fuck each other girlfriends, but don’t ever abandon your post.  That’s the ultimate betrayal.  Richards is pretty vicious towards Jagger throughout Life.  Some journalists and rock critics have wondered whether The Rolling Stones will tour after Life’s publication.  I’m willing to bet yes – because I’m willing all of the criticisms and jabs aren’t anything new to Jagger.  And Richards has probably said worse to him in his face.

Which brings me to my point about the love of simply playing.  The core of The Rolling Stones love their craft, and believe in their songs and what they have to offer the public.  Sure, sometimes it can sometimes be over the top.  They’re not the same band they were in the late 60s and early 70s.  I suggested a while ago that Mick Jagger could gracefully if he put out more songs like “Old Habits Die Hard”.  It’s a great song, but I might have been wrong in my assessment.  Would you really want Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to age gracefully?  They were not graceful in the first place – that’s what made them The Rolling Stones in the first place.

Life proves that Richards doesn’t plan on aging gracefully.  He’s ready to give two middle fingers to those that think otherwise.  But more than that he’s proving that passion for rock and roll doesn’t go away with age.

 

 

 

 

 

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Keith Richards’ Best Guitar Songs

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.”

Monkey Man

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.

Sweet Virgina

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.

Midnight Rambler

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.

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