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Monday, May 6, 2013

Rock Book Short Reviews Number Two: Keith Richards

Keith: can't buy a friend? Au contraire...

Keith Richards’ Life was without a doubt one of the most highly-anticipated rock music accounts ever published.

Like most of the books covering the lives of the second wave of rock musicians - those who ascended the charts in the mid-to-late Sixties - Life finds our Stone growing up under the seismic influence of World War Two. It’s hard for many of us relate to that experience for, while the United States has been involved in multiple conflicts, U.S. fighting has taken place elsewhere, like a perpetual “away game.” But as in the books of Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, and scores of others, Keith readily admits being shaped at a fundamental level by the difficult early environment of his life.

Much has been made of the book’s occasionally dismissive attitude toward Mick Jagger, and there are passages that are downright insulting to the Stones’ front man. But there’s little that’s any more shocking than the intense war of words the two waged in the mid-1980s, when each issue of prominent music magazines bore a new tirade by one Glimmer Twin against the other - and those words rang like they were playing for keeps.

More revelatory in Life is Keith simply talking about music. Not surprisingly, Richards is consumed by his role in the Stones and offers some fascinating glimpses into the band’s constantly evolving creative process over the decades.

In the end, though, despite all the tales of drugs and crazed behavior, the overall sense in the air as one closes Life is a bittersweet aura. As you make your way through the pages, especially in the book’s second half, you find that rarely does Keith mention anyone with affection who isn’t directly employed by him or at the very least dependent upon the Rolling Stones generating huge sums of money. Like they’re doing right now…

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