Keith Richards, Guardian Angel: The Novel

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Even John Lennon, no stranger to excess, tried and failed miserably to keep up with Keef, ending up, as the latter puts it, "in my john, hugging the porcelain".


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Keeping up with Keef became a deadly game in the early s, when heroin — usually mixed with cocaine and injected as a "speedball" — became Richards and his partner, Anita Pallenberg's, drug of choice. Pallenberg, alone, seems to have kept up with Keef by being both more ruthless and more reckless. She was originally the girlfriend of Brian Jones about whose death Richards is cold-blooded.

Jones, a desolate individual, temperamentally unsuited to fame, drowned in his swimming pool in July , a few weeks after being fired by Jagger and Richards. He is described here as a "whining son of a bitch" whose death occurred "at that point in his life when there wasn't any".

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Life by Keith Richards: review

Richards is cavalier about death — his own and others' — seeing it as a kind of occupational hazard best avoided by "pacing yourself". This from a man who scored cocaine and heroin by the pound. It was, he insists, the very best heroin and the purest cocaine, which undoubtedly helped, as did the array of top-class lawyers who were on call every time he ran foul of the law.

DAWN x MUMDANCE - Guardian Angel

The main problem with Life , though, is that too many of these tales have been told before, most evocatively in two classic on-the-road-with-the-Stones chronicles: For me, the writing comes alive when Richards broaches the subject of the great music he once made and the heroes that inspired him to do so. He is surprisingly illuminating on chord structures and the like, the kind of thing that in most rock memoirs has me skipping pages to get to the next drug bust or wrecked hotel room. He brilliantly summons up the suffocating drabness of postwar English suburbia and the cathartic effect of hearing raw blues and rock'n'roll on imported albums.

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With Jones and Mick Jagger, he listened to those records over and over, then tried to replicate their sound with the fierce dedication of the true religious devotee. Benedictines had nothing on us. You were supposed to spend all your waking hours studying Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Little Walter … Every moment taken away from it was a sin. From time to time, you sense that Richards loved his guitars even more than he loved his "chicks".

He sometimes writes about the lure of the Gibson and the Fender with undisguised eroticism. In this, he is the polar opposite of his musical partner, Jagger, with whom he maintains what might in therapy-speak be called a long-term dysfunctional relationship. He has not, he confesses, visited Jagger's dressing room in 20 years. For Richards, one senses, old wounds are slow to heal.


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One of the most extraordinary passages in Life describes the writing of "Gimme Shelter" in It is perhaps the Stones' darkest, most apocalyptic song, but it was spawned, not by the spiralling political turbulence of the times, but Richards's intuition — correct as it turned out — that Jagger was bedding Pallenberg on the set of Donald Cammell's film, Performance. Richards's relationship with Jagger, though, has outlasted every other relationship either of them has ever had.

How the hell do I know? There is also a devastating passage when he describes the cot death of his second son Tara, who died while Richards was on tour. Tara lives inside me. But how good it is that this hugely endearing rock and roll legend, with his wheezing laugh and face like a battered walnut, is still with us, and able to describe his extraordinary life with such honesty and panache.

Life by Keith Richards: review - Telegraph

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