Jenny's Reviews > Life

Life by Keith Richards
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's review
Mar 06, 11

bookshelves: music, non-fiction, wml-staff-pick, memoir-biography
Read from November 16, 2010 to March 06, 2011

I got this book as a gift back in November, and read a few pages at a time for a couple months - it's over 500 pages long in hardcover and I didn't want to carry it around everywhere with me (though it IS a conversation-starter). But then I got into it and once I started taking it with me on the commute it was a matter of days from beginning to end. Such a great book; it's like a studio album that has so much energy it sounds live. Hear Keith's intro here:

"I imagined everything. I never thought it would happen." (32)

Half the songs they're listening to, they have no idea of what they are about, and if they did they'd shit themselves. (82)

And then Eric (Clapton) left the Yardbirds and went away on a sabbatical for six months and came back as God, which he's still trying to live down. (126)

It was almost in defiance of pop. 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. (161)

You realized that you were really in the sleaziest businesses there is, without actually being a gangster. It was a business where the only time people laughed was when they'd screwed someone else over. (166)

It's one of those astounding things about working in the theater. Backstage you can be a bunch of bums. And "Ladies and gentlemen" or "I present to you," and you're somebody else. (171)

Shit...OK, there's some things I can't do. (205)

I would say to somebody, I like that shirt, and for some reason they felt obliged to give it to me. I used to dress myself by taking clothes off other people. (224)

I used to walk down Oxford Street with a slab of hash as big as a skateboard. I wouldn't even wrap it up. This was '65, '66 - there was that brief moment of total freedom. We didn't even think that it was illegal, what we were doing. (227)

[On "Jumping Jack Flash"] It's almost Arabic or very old, archaic, classical, the chord setups you could only hear in Gregorian chants or something like that. And it's that weird mixture of your actual rock and roll and at the same time this weird echo of very, very ancient music that you don't even know. It's much older than I am, and that's unbelievable! It's like a recall of something, and I don't know where it came from. (240)

[On Brian] It wouldn't have mattered if the builders were there or not, he was at that point in his life when there wasn't any. (272)

[On Gram Parsons] There was an immediate recognition. What we could have done if we'd known each other earlier. We just sat around one night, and five nights later we were still sitting up talking and catching up on old times, which was five nights ago. And we played music without stopping....Of the musicians I know personally...the two who had an attitude towards music that was the same as mine were Gram Parsons and John Lennon. (248)

You realize, some guys you can spend a day with them and basically you've learned all you're ever going to know about them. Like Mick Jagger in exact reverse. (271)

What is it that makes you want to write songs? In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people's hearts. You want to plant yourself there, or at least get a resonance, where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you're playing. It becomes almost an obsession to touch other people. To write a song that is remembered and taken to heart is a connection, a touching of bases. A thread that runs through all of us. A stab to the heart. Sometimes I think songwriting is about tightening the heartstrings as much as possible without bringing on a heart attack. (277-78)

Friendship is a diminishing of distance between people. (312)

Some of my most outrageous nights I can only believe actually happened because of corroborating evidence. No wonder I'm famous for partying! The ultimate party, if it's any good, you can't remember it. You get these brief vignettes of what you did....The convolutions you go through just not to be you for a few hours. (329)

This is called pushing the envelope. But nobody showed me how big the envelope is. (329-330)

[On Ronnie Wood] "Beast of Burden" is a good example of the two of us twinkling felicitously together. (372)

[On Marlon, age 7] I'd never had a son before, so it was a great thing...

[On the Sex Pistols and punks in general] I love every band that comes along. That's why I'm here, to encourage guys to play and get bands together. But when they're not playing, they're just spitting on people, now come on, we can do better than that. (400)

"Only a crowd can make you feel so alone / And it really hit home" -"Before They Make Me Run," Some Girls (402)

[On manager Jane Rose and heroin withdrawal] She watched me climb the walls, which is why I don't like wallpaper anymore. (410)

Do you know Mick Jagger? Yeah, which one? He's a nice bunch of guys. It's up to him which one you meet. (458)

As I said, some of my friends can really fuck up, but so can I, and so can Mick, so can anybody. If you can't fuck up, where's your halo? My life is full of broken halos. (482)

The grind is never the stage performance. I can play the same song again and again, year after year. When "Jumpin' Jack Flash" comes up again it's never a repetition, always a variation. Always. I would never play a song again once I thought it was dead. We couldn't just churn it out. The real release is getting on stage. Once we're up there doing it, it's sheer fun and joy. (491)

[On camping] I'm a great fire builder. I'm not an arsonist, but I am a pyromaniac. (532)

The opening line of my letter from Tony Blair was "Dear Keith, you've always been one of my heroes..." England's in the hands of somebody who I'm a hero of? It's frightening. (542)

"Do you think Keith Richards has gone too far this time?" What did he mean THIS time?

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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh Great collection of quotes - that was fun.

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