Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Life by Keith Richards

Today, Jennifer treats us to our first book review after a wild ride with Keith “Have fun deducing how much of what I say is fact and how much is drug-addled hallucination” Richards.


My first reaction, on turning the final page, was my god, this man is exhausting. And also to be amazed, again, that he’s still alive to co-write his autobiography. Yes, co-write; his assistant in this massive undertaking is James Fox, whom the jacket copy informs me is an old friend of Richards’, author of White Mischief and former journalist for the Sunday Times in London.
What they have produced together is a complex and fascinating portrait of Keith Richards, which reads like you’re sitting at the kitchen table with him while he tells you fabulous tales of sex, drugs (lots and LOTS of drugs) and rock and roll. (He also, unsurprisingly, has a lot of feelings about Mick Jagger.) I could almost see his hands waving and the smoke curling above his head. A good many of the stories cover territory that long-time and/or devoted Rolling Stones fans will already be familiar with; more recent, or more casual fans, on the other hand, may feel a little bit lost in the sea of names and partial descriptions of past events.

But the inside scoop on the scandalous behavior is really not the best part. Richards is most interesting when he digresses into a guitar lesson, and explains the secrets to the Stones’ disctinctive sound, or wanders off on an extended tangent about the mechanics of constructing songs.

The book is a big book, dense and sometimes rambling, and by turns hilarious, horrifying and mind-blowing, in a You did what? With whom? kind of way. I was left with a variety of things to chew over, about music and fame and rockstars in general, if not Keith Richards in particular, most notably the isolating nature of fame.

I was also left with the desire to read all the rest of the Stones’ memoirs, to get more views on the story.

Which brings me to: Please Allow Me To Correct a Few Things an review of the book in Slate by Bill Wyman (journalist, NOT rockstar) which is written as Mick Jagger’s response to the book. Just to be clear: Mick Jagger did not write the article. It’s a parody, a literary put-on, but it’s a very sharply observed parody. There’s also a postscript to the piece on Wyman’s blog. I mention it because it’s easy to get caught up in Richards’ story, and get to a point where all of the madness seems perfectly normal.

In summary: A big book, but not a dull one. Rating: \m/\m/ (two sets of metalfingers out of two)

— Jennifer

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