Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: Life ~ by Keith Richards



Life ~ by Keith Richards (reviewed by John/JD)

A fascinating, entertaining and surprisingly detailed biography of Keith Richards – the heart of the Rolling Stones.

Iconic is much over-used word in the world of popular music, but Keith Richards is one of the truly iconic figures of the past fifty years. Along with Mick Jagger, the other half of the “Glimmer Twins”, Richards was very much the public face of the Rolling Stones. As well as co-writing virtually all of the Stones’ music, he was the elegantly wasted scoundrel whose image adorned countless bedroom walls and magazines, and who was the role model for a myriad of would-be rock ‘n’ roll stars.

It wasn’t just down to his looks – his lifestyle and his consumption of astonishing amounts of drugs became a thing of folklore. For ten years he topped a list of “people most likely to die”, and it was not unusual for him to be awake for a week at a time, playing music, making records or just enjoying life. He attracted a crowd or like-minded people but it seems that few could keep up with him. As he said of John Lennon:

“I don't think John ever left my house, except horizontally.”

Apart from the fact that he is still here to tell his life story, perhaps the most astonishing thing is his ability to recall all of the details. At well over 500 pages this is a big book and it is crammed full of stories, anecdotes and detailed accounts of people and events. While he’s now approaching 70 his star is still shining bright, and you get a strong sense of his boyish and mischievous character. His deep love of music oozes from every page and for music lovers this book is a veritable treasure trove.

For me there were two highlights of the book. Firstly, the story of the group getting together and their collective obsession for old blues and rhythm and blues music; originally this was not a group seeking fame and fortune, but rather a group that were totally preoccupied with learning to replicate the rare and arcane music that they loved. And secondly, the strange and complex relationship between Richards and Jagger - they started out as the closest of bosom buddies, perfectly in tune with each other and almost joined at the hip; but then they drifted far apart over the decades and ended up as partners but not really friends. Considering they still work together, Richards is incredibly frank in sharing many of his poor opinions about Jagger (who he has nicknamed “Brenda”). As he says, “Sometimes I think: 'I miss my friend. I wonder: 'where did he go?” And at the same time you just know that over the years Richards’ behavior must have driven Jagger to total distraction. While he is a fascinating character, he has led a lifestyle that is abhorrent to many.

This was a great read. If you are a Rolling Stones fan, reading it is a must. If you are a music lover of any ilk, or you are interested or curious about the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, this is very highly recommended. I blew through 500+ pages in no time at all. I’d rate the book 4 stars.

Hardcover: 608 pages: Weidenfeld and Nicholson (2010) US|UK|Canada.

It took awhile being number 33 on the waiting list but this book was borrowed from our local library. We love ours. Please support yours!

As always John will be addressing any comments, so don’t forget to click the follow up box to get his response.

Thanks for reading!


Robin M said...

Great review. My hubby adored the rolling stones. He would probably enjoy this book. Thanks!

John D said...

It would make a nice birthday present for sure.

Some very funny quotes in there too. Whatever you may think about his lifestyle, he's got a great sense of humor and a nice way with words.

T. Frohock said...

Great review. I'm enjoying it right now. Richards has a great voice and I've laughed out loud at parts of it.

John D said...

Hi Teresa,

Thanks for the nice words. He is an instriguing (and very funny) character. I'm just glad he wasn't my dad/son/brother.

Actually - brother might have been ok - but I'd definitely pass on the other two.

Alexia561 said...

Enjoyed your review! I've read a few behind-the-scenes type of book on the Stones by friends and former roadies, but wasn't sure if this one was worth it. You've changed my mind, and now I know I need to read this one!

John D said...

Hi Alexia,
Ah the pressure! I hope you do enjoy it. I'm sure you will. He is such a great character - almost too "good" to be tue.

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