The iconic life and career of the famed guitarist of the Rolling Stones is detailed in this compilation of interviews that spans the last 50 years. Featuring articles from GQ, Melody Maker, and Rolling Stone, as well as interviews that have never previously appeared in print, it charts Keith Richards’s journey from gauche, young pretender and swaggering epitome of the zeitgeist to beloved elder statesman of rock. Initially overshadowed by band mates Mick Jagger and Brian Jones, Richards gained popularity as half of the second-most important songwriting team of the 1960s, and in 1967 the drug bust at his house and his subsequent trial and imprisonment made him a household name. His interviews match his outlaw image: free of banality and euphemism, they revel in frank stories of drugs and debauchery. Yet they also reveal an unexpectedly warm, unpretentious, articulate, and honest man. This collection amply illustrates the magic and charm of Keith Richards.
About the Author
Sean Egan is an author and journalist who has interviewed members of the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Kinks, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, the Velvet Underground, the Who, and many others. He is the author of The Guys Who Wrote 'Em, Jimi Hendrix and the Making of Are You Experienced, The Mammoth Book of the Beatles, and The Rough Guide to the Rolling Stones.
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Keith Richards on Keith Richards
Interviews and Encounters
By Sean Egan
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2013 Sean Egan
All rights reserved.
I'D LIKE TO FORGET ABOUT JUKE BOX JURY SAYS KEITH RICHARD
KEITH RICHARDS | 1964
This ghostwritten Richards column from Britain's now-defunct music weekly Melody Maker is an interesting snapshot of the Stones in mid-July 1964, a year and one month after the release of their debut single. The guitarist uses his turn in the spotlight to praise some fellow "beat" groups, bang the drum for R&B, and comment on the Stones' first number one in any of the four competing British charts. The bulk of the column, though, is understandably dedicated to a very controversial appearance the Stones had made a week before on record review TV show Juke Box Jury, where they had the temerity to be sniffy about almost every new release they were played, including the latest by the exalted Elvis Presley. Richards — as straight-talking then as he is now — shrugs his shoulders at the furor. Such exhibitions of sullen indifference to public opinion were then uncommon and only bolstered the group's burgeoning image as champions of the younger generation's rebellious ideals.
All right, so Juke Box Jury wasn't a knockout. Now everybody's had a go at us, I'd like the chance to reply.
I think the whole programme's very limited for a start. We all sat, consciously, knowing there were five of us, and we had a few seconds each after each record.
We weren't great, and that's a fact. But the records they played us! They were NOTHING! Don't misunderstand — they weren't bad records, but there didn't seem anything to say about them. It wasn't that the singing or guitars were out of tune on any particular record, but they were all records with nothing much about them. We were lost. And I think it came across.
We were all lost, except for Charlie and maybe Mick. I agree we didn't come over well, but it wouldn't be much different if we did it again, quite honestly.
It's the way the show's run that restricts you. Juke Box Jury doesn't suit the Stones.
I'll say one thing for our show on Juke Box, though. I'm sure that's what helped us reach number one. If nothing else, it kept our image up!
People thought the worst of us before they saw us. When they finally looked at Juke Box Jury, it was the confirmation that we were a bunch of idiots.
We don't care that much what people think. But I can tell you this: it's difficult to say anything sensible in a few seconds, especially with unspectacular records. But I could tell things were not going well on the show.
We don't particularly care about whether we go back on the Jury. It was an experience I personally would rather forget.
Having a number one hit's a good feeling, but we're not all mad about it.
I'd hate everybody to think that just because we've made the top spot this time, we'll have to do it every time we have a single out. All the Stones agree that as long as we get in the top ten, we'll be very happy.
As it happens, I think "It's All Over Now" is the best single we've done, and I'm glad to say the group improves every time it makes a single. At least, we think so.
I like the overall sound on this new one more than I did on anything before.
Glad Mick wrote a bit last week about the Paramounts. We all think they're good and deserve to make it.
Wayne Fontana has a very good group, though. Give them the right material and they'll be there.
It's all very well people having a go at the rhythm-and-blues thing and saying it's not authentic.
But there's a lot more good come out of the scene than many people allow.
For instance, the trad boom didn't do much good for the real thing, did it? People only got interested in British copies of the real thing.
Now, in R&B, people are digging British groups — and if you look at the chart you get big names like Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Tommy Tucker.
That's what's really pleased me about it all. If our stuff has got people interested in R&B by some of the great American stars, we'll have done some good.
I personally reckon that this can be built up. The next step for groups like ours could be to do more gospel. Pop music tastes are changing, and I don't see why we can't get people interested in such people as Solomon Burke.
I don't think he's selling very big, but I'd like him to, because he's great.
People who knock the R&B scene don't give it enough credit for interesting people in something they'd never have heard of.
I'm fed up of people calling us non-authentic. Why can't we play what we like?
Who's laying down the rules?CHAPTER 2
KEITH TALKS ABOUT SONGWRITING
KEITH RICHARDS | 1964
The Rolling Stones Book was a monthly from Beat Publications released to cash in on the success of the group in the same way that the same stable's The Beatles Book had already capitalized on the ascendency of the Fab Four. During its lifetime from June 1964 to November 1966, the fact that The Rolling Stones Book had three dozen or so pages to fill on a regular basis with purely Stones material meant that every member received exposure. Though the boast that the "boys" edited it themselves can be taken with a pinch of salt, the monthly often saw the band speaking more frankly and indeed caustically than they did in the music press (although to be fair, the music press in those days would probably have toned down any controversial remarks on the grounds that they might upset their readers).
This feature from the third issue of the magazine, dated August 10, 1964, captures Richards at a point where he, with Jagger, was just dipping his toes into the forbidding pool that was songwriting.
Note: for "Marion Faithful" read "Marianne Faithfull."
Mick and I have been writing songs together for about a year now. We didn't make a lot of fuss about it when we started, we just began working at it, because it was something that we both like doing.
In fact, very few people realised that we did write songs until Gene Pitney recorded "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday." Gene's a big mate of ours and has helped us terrifically by turning that particular number into a big hit.
You never know how things are going to turn out in this business, but being a professional songwriter would suit me fine.
Two other numbers of ours are out now. "As Tears Go By" has been recorded by the new girl singer, Marion Faithful, and our version of "Tell Me" has been released as a single in the States, and I understand it's doing very well over there.
At the moment, we've got about a dozen songs sort of half finished. Most of them are intended for our next L.P. but we've got a lot of work to do on them yet and it gets more and more difficult to find time every week. Sometimes, we can finish a song in ten minutes, but others hang around for months on end.
I usually write the music with a title in mind, then Mick adds the words. I can't write a note of music, of course, but then neither could most of the best songwriters of the last fifty years. I don't find any difficulty as I've got a very good memory and can easily complete a song after I've been keeping the bits in my head for several weeks.
If I suddenly get what I think is a good idea, I do sometimes put it on tape but not very often. Mick's just the same — how he remembers words which he first thought of a month or so back, I just don't know.
Every songwriter has a number of songs which he wished he'd written. All of Dionne Warwick's stuff — in fact, anything by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Those two are really brilliant. Their ideas are so original.
The great thing about songwriting is that despite the thousands and thousands of songs which have been written there are still so many melodies yet to be discovered. But, one thing I still have not been able to do — that's write a number good enough for the Stones to use as an "A" side in England. Most of the numbers that Mick and I write are pretty complicated whilst the Stones need relatively simple ones with very few chord changes in them. But, it does sound crazy saying that we can't write stuff for the Stones when we're part of them.
Of course, my big ambition is to have lots of hits but, also, I would like to have our songs recorded by lots of different artistes. I'd love to see what someone like Dionne Warwick would do with some of our numbers. No, that's daft, ANYTHING she did with them would please me. I like the music business so much that if I didn't make it with song writing I think I'd have a bash at being a record producer aiming at selling my discs in both the British and American markets. Trouble in this country is that practically every British artiste is established in his or her own style and it gets more and more difficult to create anything new. In the States, on the other hand, they are forever experimenting and getting new sounds. Often nowadays, the Americans only put a rhythm section on records but it comes out sounding like a full orchestra. It's fantastic!
Being a record producer is a tough job but I think I could handle it. Andrew Oldham takes our sessions now, but all of the Stones have a say in what goes on and it's terrific experience. Really I wouldn't like to do the whole job on my own, I'd rather have someone working with me, like Mick for example. I don't think that any one person can possibly get all the ideas.
In my opinion, many record producers are in a rut. There are so many new sounds floating around just waiting to be discovered, and only people like Phil Spector and Andrew Oldham, are brave enough to experiment with them. I'd like to try and get a variation on the American group sound, with the singers sounding like part of the orchestration. The 4 Seasons, who are very big in the States, are one of the best examples of this.
I don't think that there's any other form of recording I'd like to tackle, simply because you can't express yourself if you have to keep to a style that has been fixed already. Apart from songwriting and record-producing, the only other ambition I've got is to buy a huge house on a small tropical island where it's always about 100°. I'd just sit in the sun all day and have some servants (including Mick Jagger) looking after me! That would be my idea of heaven!CHAPTER 3
SUE MAUTNER TAKES YOU ROUND KEITH'S HOUSE
SUE MAUTNER | 1966
Keith Richards's picturesque thatched, moated West Sussex house Redlands looms large in his legend, not least because it was the location of a drug bust in 1967; the trial that resulted underlined the Stones' anti-establishment credentials. A series of mysterious fires at the property that generated nudge-nudge, wink-wink public discussion of their causes is another reason for Redlands's high-profile. Though published only the year before the famous bust, Sue Mautner's article for issue 25 of The Rolling Stones Book captures Richards's occupation of Redlands at a far more innocent and carefree time.
A couple of the staff mentioned in passing also play a part in Richards's legend. The chauffer — Patrick — is the man Richards has long suspected tipped off the police about the Redlands drug party they raided. The gardener may well be horticulturist-with-a-large-tread Jack Dyer, inspiration for "Jumpin' Jack Flash."
Fortunately it was a beautiful sunny day when I drove down to Keith's fifteenth century house in Sussex, because "Mr Richard hasn't arrived yet," said the old gardener as I approached the drive.
Fortunate for me because after driving for two-and-a-half hours I had become somewhat stuck to the seat of my car, so it was a good opportunity to stretch my legs and generally nose around the beautiful thatched-roofed house, which is surrounded by a moat on which float some very talkative ducks — obviously they were talking about the weather, what else!
I walked round the back of the house to find a horse grazing in the next field, which later on I found out belonged to Keith — not the horse but the field (he just happened to loan the field to its owner). Lying on the beautifully mowed lawn was a rather old-looking paddle boat — obviously that would also be explained later. As I wandered towards the back of the house there was a dartboard hanging up on the stone wall, and I guessed that someone had been there before — quite a clever piece of detection, because the darts had been left in. Much to my surprise (and only because I was being so nosy) I found the porch door open, so I took the liberty of entering.
The first room I found myself in was the lounge — no furniture, just a massive oak-panelled room with parquet flooring, wooden beams, two enormous stone pillars and a huge stone fireplace with a gigantic flute coming down the chimney. Keith had already moved some of his belongings because there was a white fur rug on the floor, an electric piano, a harpsichord and a guitar plus his record and book collection and of course his hi-fi.
I was very interested and surprised to learn that his books consisted of "The Great War," "Dictionary of Slang," "Guns," "Great Sea Battles," "Drawings of Rembrandt" and books on England, and even more surprised with his record collection. Amongst the Beatles, Otis Redding, Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, the Everlys, the Temptations and Elvis were albums of "Chopin's Nineteen Waltzes," Rossini and Segovia.
Half an hour had gone by and still no sign of Keith, so I picked up the phone and dialled his office. "Sorry Sue, tried to get you before but you'd left. Keith's been held up at a meeting but he shouldn't be very long," came the reply. So I decided the best thing to do was to look over the rest of the house. But before I ventured upstairs I placed a record on the player.
The upstairs consisted of five bedrooms and a bathroom, I knew which was Keith's room, because the bed was unmade, and there was a pair of shoes and a Dennis Wheatley book lying on the floor. All the rooms were unfurnished and like the downstairs it was all wooden beams and floors. One bedroom had half the floor missing so I could see immediately into the kitchen.
One side of an L.P. later I came downstairs through the large dining room and into the kitchen to find some dirty dishes, a burnt sausage in the frying pan on the cooker, a rifle on the wall, a spur hanging on the other wall and a clock on the door, not to mention a truncheon hanging from the ceiling (Keith pinched it off of a gendarme in Paris). Being a female my immediate reaction was to put the kettle on for a cuppa. Whilst selecting my next record the kettle began to whistle furiously, I remembered spotting a bottle of milk in the passage between the garage and the house, so I left the kettle whistling and went out to fetch the milk which a stray cat had got to before me, nevertheless he wasn't clever enough to open it.
As I was pouring out my tea Keith drove up in his Bentley Continental plus L plates and Patrick.
"Sorry I'm late, how did you get in?" Keith was very annoyed with the builders for leaving the house unlocked, so it was just as well I arrived early.
"Hope you don't mind me making myself at home," I said, "have a cup of tea."
"What do you think of the place?", said Keith, "of course it's not furnished yet, I want to do it bit by bit. I'm going to mix the furniture and have modern and Tudor.
"As you can see," said Keith pointing to some old chests, "I've bought some pieces off of the people who lived here before. I'm going to have mauve paint in the dining room and probably the lounge and spotlights on the walls. I've got this interior decorator who did the Queen Mary as it is today.
"Come and take a look outside. I'm having a wall built round the front of the house, which will now be the back if you see what I mean, because I'm extending the path round to the back and making it the front. Anyway I think this should be the front because it's got a porch, and the only reason you think the other side is the front, is because of the drive."
"Who's boat is that?" I enquired. "Oh, that belonged to the owner, I bought it off him, you can paddle round the moat in it, but at the moment it's got a hole in the side!"
"See that cottage over there," said Keith pointing to just outside the grounds. "As it's so cheap I'm going to buy it and have a couple of staff living there. A husband and wife preferably, so she can cook and clean the house, and he can do all the odd jobs. At the moment the gardener comes in everyday except Thursday."
Excerpted from Keith Richards on Keith Richards by Sean Egan. Copyright © 2013 Sean Egan. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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Table of Contents
1 I'd Like to Forget about Juke Box Jury Says Keith Richard 1964 Keith Richards 1
2 Keith Talks about Songwriting 1964 Keith Richards 5
3 Sue Mautner Takes You Round Keith's House 1966 Sue Mautner 9
4 The Rolling Stone Interview: Keith Richard 1971 Robert Greenfield 13
5 And Sitteth at the Right Hand… 1976 John Ingham 91
6 No One Shot KR: Keith Richards 1980 1980 Kris Needs 99
7 Tattoo Me 1981 Gil Markle 123
8 The Rock Survivor 1983 Robin Eggar 137
9 Glimmerings of Immortality 1986 Bruce Pollock 141
10 Keith on Keeping On 1986 Chris Spedding 149
11 The Great Lost Keith Richards Interview 1988 Ira Robbins 159
12 Keith Looks Back 1989 Martin Aston 179
13 Stone Wino Rhythm Guitar God Keith Richards Can Still Rip It Up 1992 Ira Robbins 193
14 Filthy, Filthy, Filthy! Keith Richards Comes Clean on Distortion and the Meaning of Music 1992 Jas Obrecht 203
15 Stones Keep Rolling 2002 Roy Trakin 219
16 Keef 2005 James McNair 229
17 Keith Richards and the Making of Exile on Main St. 2010 Pierre Perrone 237
18 Keith's Life 2011 Dylan Jones 249