Start Him Up: Keith Richards Spills the Book Beans

By Victoria Looseleaf

A drug-saturated, ego-obsessed, musical and literary roller coaster ride, Keith Richards’ 469-page tome, Life, published by Little, Brown and Company (564 pages counting the index), has been touted as a memoir of Proustian proportions, his madeleines a trove of letters and journals kept for nearly 50 years. One of pop music’s iconic figures, Richards has not only been there, done that, but lived to yak about it, with a lot of help, no doubt, from author James Fox.

Life, which has exploded onto the 24/7 Twitterati culture with the force of a Scud missile (is that oxymoronic or merely outdated?), has received non-stop coverage, from the sacrosanct New York Times to the little peeps’ comments on Amazon. And though the book – the Citizen Kane of rock memoirs – has recently been bumped from its perch atop the NYT bestseller list by another well-known dude (let’s just call said dude an erstwhile war-mongering president), the two tomes have little else in common – aside from the fact that both men reportedly received the non-paltry advance of $7 million and that in their tellings, they also each renounce addictive substances in order to achieve some kind of redemption.

Dealt a winning hand(s): the gnarly, gorgeous guitar-picking appendages of Keith Richards

But I gotta say: I loved Life. By turns frank, hilarious, disarming and astonishing, its narco-induced anecdotes, riffs about the actual music-making and the inevitable inside dish on the Stones, including Richards’ symbiotic/psychologically-charged relationship with Sir Mick Jagger, the book, well, rocks. Indeed, I found myself relating on many levels: “All the good ones die on you,” writes Richards about yet another crony who goes down from drugs, among whom were Billy Preston and Gram Parsons. (Keef, as he refers to himself in letters written to a beloved aunt, did not cotton to original Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones, so there’s no love lost in those tawdry tales.)

The crack guitarist (no pun intended – Keith says he never did crack cocaine, that he didn’t like the smell of it, the ritual behind it…), who certainly has had more lives than any cat in creation, writes about being a junkie for years, but maintains that that was three decades ago. In other words, ‘Goodbye to all that…’

And hello to Richards, he of the volcano-pitted face, who certainly must be the luckiest guy in the world. Sure, he had his run-ins, i.e., drug busts, with the law, including in Arkansas and Canada, but he was like Teflon, man, with no time spent in the Big House. (Curiously, it’s no consolation to the very dead Jim Morrison that Florida’s departing governor, Charlie Crist, wants to posthumously pardon the former Doors frontman for two criminal convictions received after some, er, very bad behavior at a 1969 concert in Miami.)

The beat goes on…

Okay, so not only did Richards not die from drugs, including cigarettes, or at the hand of a disgruntled fan, nor from any of the nasty stuff that’s plagued other rock idols, this guy still rules on guitar, writes killer songs and, well, lives in Connecticut, canyabelieve, with a beautiful wife. Not exactly to the manor born, but to the manner gotten at a very young age.

From the horse’s mouth.

As to Richards’ vast fortune (and it his huge, unlike what he says about the size of Jagger’s manhood, or “tiny todger”), some of the money – he even hawks Louis Vuitton luggage – goes to various worthy causes, with Life now adding exponentially to the piles. While leading and living to write about a most incredible journey befitting a multi-platinum, zillion-selling recording artist, Richards also narrates a brief introduction to Life the Audiobook. Clocking in at 23 – count ‘em – 23 hours – this CD has the one and only Johnny Depp bringing the rock God to, if it’s possible, earthly life. Talk about a pair of post-modern pirates!