What can I say about Keith Richards that hasn’t already been said?
The man is an icon. Along with Mick Jagger, he’s the heart of the Rolling Stones and one of the most important figures in rock ‘n’ roll history. Without Keef, popular music would be a very different place.
So, rather than waxing lyrical about the man, I thought I’d let Keef speak for himself. Not just a great guitar player, Richards gives a damn good interview. He’s provided plenty of memorable, absurd and truly insightful quotes over the years.
Seeing as the Stones have announced dates for rescheduled “No Filter” tour, I decided to collect some of my favorite Keef quotes. Whether talking about the blues, making music, life with Mick or his own mortality, the man’s always got something good to say.
On making music:
“Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it. You have to sweat over it and bug it to death. You can’t do it by pushing buttons and watching a TV screen.”
“Give me a guitar, give me a piano, give me a broom and string. I wouldn’t get bored anywhere.”
“About myself I have no great illusions. I know what I am. I know what I’m good at. I know what I ain’t. I’m always hoping to surprise myself. But I do have a love of music and I do love to communicate it, and that’s the best I can do, really. And I can raise a good family, too.”
“I look for ambiguity when I’m writing because life is ambiguous”
“Songwriting’s a weird game. I never intended to become one – I fell into this by mistake, and I can’t get out of it. It fascinates me. I like to point out the rawer points of life.”
“There’s no substitute for live work to keep a band together.”
“The only things Mick and I disagree about is the band, the music and what we do.”
On guitar playing:
“You don’t start playing your guitar thinking you’re going to be running an organization that will maybe generate millions.”
“If you say I’m great, thank you very much. But I know what I am. I could be better, man, you know?”
On rock and the blues:
“If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.”
“Rock n’ roll: music for the neck downwards.”
“This is the rock ‘n’ roll life, and you had to invent it as you went along. There was no textbook to say how you operate this machinery.”
“Everyone talks about rock these days; the problem is they forget about the roll.”
“To make a rock ‘n’ roll record, technology is the least important thing.”
“Another thing to do with the blues is how they were recorded. They were done on the quick, and some of that stuff was made on wire, not even tape, let alone digital.”
“I mean, some doctor told me I had six months to live and I went to their funeral.”
What’s your favorite Keith Richards quote? Are you seeing the Stones this summer? Share your stories in the comments.
“I'm sick to death of people saying we've made 11 albums that sound exactly the same, In fact, we've made 12 albums that sound exactly the same.”
“I honestly believe that you have to be able to play the guitar hard if you want to be able to get the whole spectrum of tones out of it. Since I normally play so hard, when I start picking a bit softer my tone changes completely, and that's really useful sometimes for creating a more laid-back feel.”
As a young guitarist, I completely rejected any notion that music theory would help me in my journey. At the time, I justified this as a “punk rock/music is freedom” attitude to playing. If I learned my theory, I told myself, I’m just putting myself in a box. “[Insert guitar hero of the week] didn’t need theory, and they were a genius. Why do I?”