Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm done with Life.

Seriously, I am listening to music with whole new ears thanks to this book.  I don't know how you did it Keith, but damn, can you put the passion of music into someone.  Thank you.   I might've learned more about music and music history from Keith Richards in these 550 pages than I have in a lifetime of listening to it.  I finished the book the other day, and have been thinking about it constantly ever since.  Part of me wants to start reading it again right now, but a bigger part of me wants to spend a little more time really getting into some of the artists that he talks a lot about, and even a little more familiar with the Stones whole catalogue, and then I want to read it again.

It's funny, it's revealing, it's insightful, it's bitchy, it's unbelievable at times.  Keith has this opinion of himself that is just so skewed - he's in some ways amazingly humble, but in some ways, just so sure of himself and so positive that he is levitating above it all, it's unbelievable.  Arrested again?  Just pull some of that merchandise and a few of those albums out of the trunk, sign it all, pose for some pictures with the cops, and be on your way.  No worries.  It's hilarious at times, just how out of touch with everyone else's reality he seems to be, and in some ways has been, for 40+ years of his life.  But then he'll talk about his family, or his feelings on friendship, or his belief of what heaven and hell are like, and he comes drifting back down to earth.  Never more so than when he talks about playing in to the image that he created for himself back in the 60s - with both a sort of regret that maybe he lost a little of himself to the image, while at the same talking about himself as a latter-day folk hero :

"They imagined me, they made me, the folks out there created this folk hero.  Bless their hearts.  And I'll do the best I can to fulfill their needs.  They're wishing me to do things that they can't.  They've got to do this job, they've got this life, they're an insurance salesman ... but at the same time, inside of them is a raging Keith Richards."
Everybody's got a little Keith in them, then?  The messed up thing is how you find yourself agreeing with him.  Yes, Keith, yes, I believe everyone does have a little of you in them, and thank you sir, for allowing us all to live vicariously through you for all these years.  It's all very tongue-in-cheek, I think.  The whole of the book comes across as this wink and a nudge, stream of consciousness sort of diatribe.  It's really conversational, like you're just hanging out listening to Keith Richards tell you stories.  And in that way, it was really hard to put down - he has some amazing stories.  And he's really quite funny.  But at the same time, there really is a strong and serious sense of humility about him.  He's humbled to his core by his whole life and his whole career, it seems, although he would never come right out and say that.  But you get the feeling that through four decades of the Stones just getting bigger and bigger and bigger, Keith has never ceased to be amazed by what he was actually getting paid to do, and the doors that it all opened for him.  He talks endlessly about getting to play with some of his heroes, and how awestruck he still gets with the fact that some of them want to play with him, and it's that sort of insight that make this book such a great read.

What really had me well and truly hooked on this book so hard, though, is his passion for music.  Through and through, music is in his soul, and it shows.  From start to finish, his passion for music is bleeding off every page.  Learning some of these neat little details about the origins of some of these songs was really interesting for me too - Keith wrote the beginnings of "Satisfaction" in his sleep; "Happy" took 4 hours from when it didn't exist to when it was recorded and done, and KR was the only actual member of the band playing on it.  At the same time, it's also just a hilarious collection of Keith sitting around shooting the shit kind of stories.  His humor is great - dry, witty - I was laughing out loud a lot.  A few of my favorite lines:

On the Stones' decision to put out a cover of Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster": "In our arrogance at the time, we wanted to make a statement.  'I am the little red rooster/Too lazy to crow for day.' See if you can get that to the top of the charts, motherfucker.  Song about a chicken."

In the midst of a multiple-page rant about Mick, on the topic of Mick's dance lessons:  "We know the minute he's going plastic.  Shit, Charlie and I have been watching that ass for forty-odd years; we know when the moneymaker's shaking and when it's being told what to do."

You can feel the real brotherly love between Keith and Mick, though.  Despite all of the badmouthing, there's still a deep-seeded sense of respect and love when Keith talks about Mick, and you get the feeling that they are very much like brothers - the seem to be so, so, so alike in so many ways that keep them together forever, but at the same time, they have really unique goals and drives and interests that push them apart.  It's almost sweet.

Like I said, reading this has really expanded my choices of music, lately.  I had heard of a lot of the old stuff that Keith cites as influences, but I hadn't really listened to a lot of it, if you know what I mean.  Chuck Berry, for example.  Everyone knows Chuck Berry, Johnnie B Goode and all of that, but I never really paid much attention to his music, you know?   I've always had a really healthy respect for BB King and John Lee Hooker, as another example, but again, I've never seriously listened to all their stuff.  But lately I have been, and I feel like I'm making up for years and years of not listening to it.   And I've looked into a lot of the stuff that I wasn't familiar with, and I'm really enjoying most of that too.  Seriously, it's been like a little bit of a music education for me, and I love that.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I really and truly loved this book.  I'm adding it to my list of favorites, and I will forever recommend it to pretty much anyone who will listen.

** If you're interested, here's the link to my 1/2 way through book review of Life.

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