Friday, March 18, 2011

Life, By Keith Richards ( book review)

Life, the autobiography of Keith Richards is good. Put simply, that’s the long and short of it. Written with James Fox, Life provides surprisingly eloquent insight regarding the Keith Richards take on the world around him.

The notion of taking on existence and going along for the ride simultaneously seems the common theme throughout. An unexpected tenderness shares the stage, so to speak, with the given bravado.

Whether or not one will find Life a worthwhile read if not interested in rock and roll, the Rolling Stones or for that matter Keith Richards is hard to say. Objectivity will be left to the reader here.

Slow perusing is recommended in either case in order to pick up on some of the subtleties that are laid out regarding relationships both within the band and otherwise. Subtle in this case is not to be confused with mild as no punches are pulled when discussing perceived shortcomings or praise.

We are afforded a glimpse of what day to day consciousness can be like on the road with the “world’s greatest rock and roll band.” There are obvious times of stress not only between the band members themselves, but with the press and the way the most seemingly minute comments can be taken wildly out of context.

As far as the anticipated revealing sections of the relationship shared between Richards and Jagger, Keith is just as much complimentary as he is critical. While practically disdaining the star factor of Jagger and attributing the singer’s sometimes difficult workability to what he calls ,“lead vocalist syndrome,” or “LVS,” he is quick to point out what a brilliant lyricist he is and the ease with which he pens words.

Any animosity comes off much like that of a grumpy and irritated spouse. That’s not to say it is not interesting. Far from it. Just the term “LVS” is bound to produce a laugh.

Brian Jones does not receive much attention save for being a sad, if not tragic figure in the early days of the Stones’ career. The same goes for Mick Taylor except for being credited with performing on some of the best material recorded.

There are chronicled, of course, numerous drug busts and close calls to that effect. Luck plays a large role throughout the book from an uncanny ability to dodge serious jail time, to cheating death and to the incredibly sudden success of the band.

The entire text reads like a long, candid interview presented in narrative context. Numerous quotes are placed with relevance as to where Richards’ mind might be lurking at the time.

“Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.” Since when?

Of particular intrigue are the revelations discovered musically while experimenting with open tuning and hanging with Rastafarians. On a humorous side it is noted how funny it is to watch a band try to play songs like Start Me Up using regular tuning. Any guitarist who has ever tried this will surely find this tidbit true as well as enlightening.

Love life and child rearing perspective also play their part in attempting to define a delicate balance on an unstable beam.

If all the above sounds somewhat self indulgent, hey, it’s a memoir and makes no bones about it being just that. Ample credit is thrown the way of the Beatles and the likes of Roy Orbison and Gram Parsons. Introspection and candid observation are the keys to making this book a must read. Especially for those who are inclined to harbor an interest in rock and roll, the Rolling Stones, and yes - Keith Richards.

Bodega Train says check it out.




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