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Life by Keith Richards
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's review
Nov 06, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: autobiography-memoir, pop-culture-music, 1960-s, music-history
Read from November 06 to 24, 2010

The Keef's memoir is a lot more than I expected and better than so many of the Rock n' Roll biographies that have crossed my path lately. More 'narrated' memoir than formal biography, this work is told in a mostly chronological order with the necessary flashback/forwards as required.

Richards and whatever writer(s) and editors aided in the storytelling, spin a yarn that rolls across the decades of his and the Rolling Stones lives like a tour bus on a pot holed local road on the way to some gig. Bumps, bruises, confrontations, breakdowns and for many a lot of fun and for a few not so much festoon the ride of The Keef.

Keith Richards, "The Keef", notorious for his life of excess denoted from his introduction of himself in actual life as "The Keef" because of articulation problems due to substances and circumstance on board that would slow down anyone, weaves stories that are not always consistent but probably as true as any told. Some of the incidents related in this book will seem to many readers 'out there', but one only needs looks at the modern day recollections of those who traveled, even briefly, with the Stones to begin to feel their veracity. Writers and journalists, one after another have twenty or thirty years later revealed that a few weeks or months hanging out with the band resulted in a stay in rehab. But first, the time spent with the Stones got foggy towards the end. So cars, planes, buses and houses full of drugs along side all of the related stories can be tolerated as likely factual as it will ever get.

The arrests and other public incidences as a matter of record are there for any one to find. It is the sheer volume of decades, yes decades, of craziness and the absolute totally disregard for any social norm for many of the crowd in this story that make for such an unbelievable story. After all if you are not going to believe a Boy Scout, who are you going to trust?

Yes, Keith Richards was a Boy Scout! Literally a merit badge wearing, three finger salutin', old lady across the street helpin' follower of Sir Baden-Powell. Even years later, in some twisted moment of irony, at the time of the Boy Scout Centennial celebration Richards finds himself standing at attention (or as much as his condition allowed) in a hotel room somewhere in the world when the festivities come on television saluting once more all that is Scouting. Combined with his childhood it may by his own acknowledgment have contributed to his ability to survive.

From early childhood and his parents survival of the Blitz to the present of a bunch of real survivors still playing out, Life is an unusual ride. From the best unintentional explanations in print of the underlying meanings of Pink Floyd songs (and this is obscure unless you know the lyrics to most of their songs) as a childhood memory, Richards memories not the PF guys, to moments of clarity resulting in one of his children being raised by his mother, to his own son being used as a roadie, to borderline violence page after page, to marital discourse, wife swapping, and every other thing you've ever heard, it is buried somewhere in this book.

As this is a far better written and constructed piece of prose than the typical R'n'R memoir/biostory, it is for me a true 'goodread'. Three stars as a biography as it partially poses as an autobio form and it does have some flaws. Mostly though, it is the best of the genre I've read in many years!
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Reading Progress

11/07/2010 page 149
11/10/2010 page 263
43.0% "Gimme' Shelter"
09/04/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-7)

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James Thane Good review. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

CD Thanks James for the comment. I see a few typos as I reread the review. Need to submit these to my editor first I guess!

James Thane I always blame those mistakes on my keyboard. I know I wouldn't have made them myself!

Cathy Love the review; I started snorting in laughter when Richards reveals he learned the best way to make bangers (of "bangers & mash" whatever that is) from watching a cooking show on TV. Bizarre.

message 3: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Review reads like you liked the book more than the three star rating you gave it.

message 2: by CD (last edited May 04, 2011 02:41PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

CD Ian wrote: "Review reads like you liked the book more than the three star rating you gave it."


Three stars is an "I liked it" which I did! Is it better than that? Maybe some better, but as I mentioned at the end of my review it does have some flaws.

Biographies, of this type certainly, will rarely if ever rise much above 3 stars for me. I like reading good ones, but rarely do I find them among my favorite books or that they are profound works. There are a few books with auto/bio-graphical elements in my favorite/all-time-favorite lists but that is not the primary focus of those books.

This story of Keith Richard is really well done for 'what it is' and is more than just a dry read and recounting of his excess. The book has a lot of character which is why my review probably comes off as more positive than the limited star rating might imply.

Thanks for taking time to read and comment on the review!

Petra Eggs I gave it 7 stars I loved it so much.

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