Saturday, 16 October 2010

Ode to Keef

"They forgot the roll and they only kept the rock. The roll's the whole damn thing, dude, the rock is nothing, deal with it, the roll is king. " (Keith Richards on rock music today, NME April 2007).

 You tell 'em, Keef! 

Keith Richards' autobiography, Life (published by Little, Brown & Co), comes out this month and is currently being serialised by The Times. Their exclusive rights are perhaps recognition for the favour done by that newspaper in 1967 when the then-editor, posh toff (now Lord) Rees-Mogg delivered an editorial attack - surprising, to say the least, for a mouthpiece of the Establishment - on the harsh jail sentences handed down to Richards and Jagger for drug offences. Headed 'Who breaks a butterfly (up)on a wheel?' (from Pope's 'Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot' - check out the link there), the piece by Rees-Mogg is credited with getting their sentences quashed and thereby saving the band. 

Rees-Mogg was not even a fan of the Rolling Stones; his musical tastes, he says, were firmly stuck in the 1920s and 30s: "It is a long step from Showboat to Satisfaction. I was not yet 40, but I was already on the far side of the musical generation gap". A long step indeed - his words remind me that people of roughly my parents' generation were so close, yet too far from being able to appreciate the radical shift in popular music that happened in the 1950s as 'black' musical genres of blues and jazz were drawn into the mainstream in a new fusion: they were just (only just!) too old, too weighed down already by the responsibilities of work and raising children to be caught up by rock and roll or to 'get' its significance to the generation right behind them. 

You might fear that Keef could have difficulty remembering much of anything, but no worries, his Life is full of raucous sex & drugs escapades, as well as the ongoing musical and sexual rivalry between him and Jagger (my favourite quote there: 'Marianne [Faithfull] had no fun with Mick’s tiny todger. I know he’s got an enormous pair of balls - but it doesn’t quite fill the gap.’).

Music journalist Neil McCormick calls him 'the world’s most elegantly wasted human being, rock’s ultimate survivor'. I know he looks kind of magnificently wrecked these days, but I prefer to remember him as he was in the pic above. And to remind myself of what the roll in the rock means ...

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