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Keith Richards and James Fox

  Little, Brown and Company  
Release Date:


  autobiography; rock history  
Reviewed by:

You have heard of Keith Richards. He was that guy in those pirate movies, right? Well, he also made a lot of music that you have heard on the radio...

Hmmm. Maybe not. Do kids these days even listen to the radio? I know that i stopped doing so years ago, so i can only guess that radio is irrelevant to the next generation. So how do they learn about music? Spotify? YouTube?

Okay, let's step back. Keith Richards is the guitarist in a rock and roll band from the 1960s called The Rolling Stones. They had a LOT of hits over the years. A lot. Among other things they wrote the theme song for Windows 95, as well as the track that rolled in the credits during the movie Interview With a Vampire. They also did the song that plays as the credits role at the end of cult-favorite film The Big Lebowski.

Hmmm..... okay, well, to me, growing up, The Rolling Stones were this big monolithic thing. They were the only band as big as The Beatles. But sitting here in my little bubble looking out at pop culture, i have no idea if the kids growing up these days have even heard of them. I mean, to these kids Run DMC is "classic music"...

Sigh. Okay, this review just isn't working. I don't know how to kick it off. Sometimes writing is hard.

Like, in this book, it really reads like Keith Richards sat there talking to James Fox about his life. And he kind of rambled. Here is an exaggerated example of what the book is like. I am just making this up, but this is what it's like...

In September of 1966 i was hanging out a lot with Roger "Greengrocer" Smith, who we also called "Badger" for some reason. We were smoking a lot of weed, which i had learned about a few years earlier while on tour in America with some black bands. Bobby Mistletoe, who was the bassist in a little band in South Carolina, was always crazy, and one night before the show he comes out of his dressing room and handed me a joint. I was hooked. But don't you do drugs -- i could handle it. And, of course, the drugs i was doing weren't cut with anything. I always like Bobby Mistletoe, especially because he taught me how to play the augmented upper 17th chord in Roll Over Beethoven, you know, the one that happens in the 12th bar of the bridge? Third note? That one. Could never figure it out. But Bobby Mistletoe, he shows me. He says, "You just have to dislocate your finger after laying ritual sacrifice to Ammon-Ra". And i tried it and bingo, there was that note...

That is me riffing on the style of this book. Let me ask you this -- what was that section about?

I dunno. You dunno. No one knows. Keith Richards rambles through these stories that are seemingly connected but that don't always make much sense to the reader (i.e., me). He will go from talking about something in his life, like being on tour, to talking about some musician no one has ever heard of, to suddenly talking really technical guitar stuff that non-guitar players (who make up the majority of the population) will not understand.

Yeah. This whole book is like that. 576 pages of that. I made it about halfway through....

Sometimes real stories do come through the mess. But mostly, you have to slog through the chapters, and then at the end you have a vague narrative sense of what happened.

My point here is this: James Fox apparently asked Keith to talk about his life, recording the winding unfocussed conversations, and then transcribed them into this book.

Ever heard of editing?

Apparently not.

Still, i learned some interesting things, and parts of the text are really enjoyable. There are chapters where Richards is focused on telling an actual story, and those flow much better. But most of the book is him kind of talking and letting his mind flow from one memory to the next, even if they are not always obviously connected.

My verdict -- diehard fans only.

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