Keith Richards: The Biography
By Victor Bockris, Da Capo Press
“To the Japanese, Richards was the face and soul of rock and roll,” writes Victor Bockris in Keith Richards: The Biography (note the definite article; this isn’t just any old biography; this is, so it seems, it, other books on the subject notwithstanding), which has been updated to 2003. For many of us even here in the West, that’s the case as well. That visage with wrinkles that could rip through titanium and dark-rimmed eyes that the chemists at Revlon could never duplicate is certainly an image of rock and roll that has endured longer than anyone would have expected possible, jokes about embalming put aside. Bockris presents Richards with all of his flaws—although given the fact that he makes it very clear in the material that he’s appended to this new volume that Richards is first and foremost the first and foremost among the Stones, I can only wonder whether there are things that are even more outlandish in the life and times of Richards that the bowing author decided to be discrete with.
What is perhaps the most valuable part of this book are the multitudinous quotes from Richards. They’re the silver, they’re the gold. Consider this sampling:
“This music, it’s certainly not Beethoven or Mozart. It’s got nothing to do with intricacy. It’s got to do with a bunch of guys making accidents together, spontaneity and an immediate form of communication.” (Steel Wheels)
“Look around and you’ll see that there’s very little out there with our feel for the music. Nobody cooks. Today everything is computerized. The kids think it’s OK to sit in a little room by themselves and push buttons to get Boom-pah, Boom-boom pah/Boom-pah, Boom-boom pah, but their music’s not going to go anywhere except for that.” (circa 1990)
“We’re still looking for the ultimate Rolling Stones. We’re never going to find it, but it’s like the Holy Grail. It’s the quest that’s important, not finding it.”
“I played with Muddy Waters six months before he died, and the cat was just as vital as he was in his youth. And he did it until the day he died. To me, that is the important thing. I’ll do this until I drop.”
“I really feel for new bands that are coming up because these days you need a quarter of a million dollars before you can start. And with that big money, the marketing men want to play it safe. And when you play it safe, the best you’re going to come up with is something that’s not bad. We’re here because it is Fucking Great! Playing it safe is not what it’s all about. This music is about beautiful fuckups. And beautiful recoveries.”
If there’s one thing that Richards hasn’t done, particularly, is play it safe. And we can expect no more from the man with the soul of rock and roll.