A crusty, drug-damaged caricature or the personification of cool itself? When it comes to Keith Richards, there are essentially two camps. For Rolling Stones fans, the man, his guitar-playing, his (however unintelligible) words, and his wholly droll essence, is tantamount to rock n' roll deity. An effortless talent, the ultimate bad boy and an iconic soul who'll -as it's often said- survive the apocalypse with the cockroaches, Keith is the dude Johnny Depp, Mick Jagger and pretty much any lad who's ever picked up a guitar (or a cigarette), only wishes he could be.
For non-Stones fans -and ageists- he's the punchline to rock n' roll's most ubiquitous dinosaur joke. The new book "Stone Me: The Wit and Wisdom of Keith Richards," though a fun flip-through, probably wont change the minds of misguided music snobs or kids who don't know very much about this enduring legend. Though the paperback's procession of quotes has some classic quips, brutally honest proclamations, and chuckle-worthy ramblings (the infamous statement about snorting his dad's ashes), the collection comes up a bit short, with many of the statements within feeling scattered and out of context. Fervent fans like yours truly will still buy it, though, especially since it's only $12.95. And c'mon, look at that badass cover!
We snatched up our copy Friday night at Echo Park's Stories Book Store and Café, where owner and fellow Stones devotee Liz Garo (known best as head booker at The Echo next door) decided to throw a little soiree to mark the book's in-store arrival.
Appropriately loose and beer-soaked, the party on the patio featured local indie faves The Henry Clay People tackling a handful of Stones gems, a couple of which they apparently learned only two hours prior. Though they sheepishly grasped cheat sheets and filled in na-na-na's for lyrics unknown during the mini-set, it was a treat to hear classics like "Let It Bleed," "Sweet Virginia," "Honky Tonky Woman" and "Beast of Burden" done by a band as rhythmically tight as THCP.
Still, there were feedback problems, the mics weren't turned up enough and it's hard for a hardcore fan not ache for the Jagger swagger, or some semblance of it, on these tunes. With a band this talented, we were hoping for a bit more vocal satisfaction. Richards has never been lauded for his singing abilities and traditionally, the "Keith portion" at Stones concerts is for bathroom/brewsky breaks, but we always stick around. The band wouldn't roll in quite the same way without his woozy harmonies or a few bluesy unaccompanied interludes. The grittier half of the Glimmer Twins' solo ditties, are in general easier to take on, so it's no surprise the Clay People's cover of "Happy" off of Exile On Main Street was their strongest.
With Bruce Duff spinning England's oldest hit makers all night (including Mick & co's Rice Krispies commercial!) and the chill, communal vibe of Stories after dark (see their event schedule here), this gathering was definitely enough to keep us happy.
Fellow Keef freaks should also check out the recently released "What Would Keith Richards Do? Daily Affirmations from a Rock and Roll Survivor" (Bloomsbury Publishing), which offers some of the same quotes in the format of a (satirical) self-help book. Below, a few of our favorite quotes from Wit & Wisdom (which takes about 20 minutes to read cover to cover).
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"Rock n' roll's greatest weapon is humor. If it aint fun, it's nothing."
"There's only one song and Adam and Eve wrote it; the rest is a variation on a theme."
"I've never turned blue in someone else's bathroom. I consider that the height of bad manners."
"It's supposed to be heavy, but it's not supposed to just thunder down some endless runway like a plane that never takes off. I don't know where Metallica's inspiration comes from, but if it's me, than I fucked up. "