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.
Cal Jam doesn’t get the same love as festivals like Monterey Pop or Woodstock. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have the late ‘60s countercultural cred, happening a full five years after the summer of love reached its peak. Maybe it’s because it was staged to be filmed for television (as part of ABC’s legendary “In Concert” series). Why do I love California Jam so much? It is because it established the record for the largest concert sound system ever assembled? Was it because it featured the first ever appearance of the Good Year blimp at a music festival?
Guitar lessons eventually followed. But, classical guitar didn’t grab me in the same way that my own freeform compositions had. Firstly, I didn’t know any of the songs I was supposed to be learning. Secondly, it required the kind of co-ordination and finger dexterity that I was – at that time at least – far too impatient to master. “I read somewhere that there are these things you can use to hit the strings so you don’t have to use your fingers. I think they began with a P,” I once told my guitar teacher. “The thing that begins with a P is called practice,” he replied. He was right, of course, but that didn’t mean I wanted to hear it.
This week, to satisfy my yearning for live music, I’ve taken a deep dive into my record collection and rediscovered some live favourites. Given how much joy I’ve got out of these records, I thought I’d share them with you today. Putting together this list, I’ve tried to take the road less travelled. I didn’t want to put together a list of classic live albums that everyone already knows like the back of their hand. Instead, my three picks serve as alternatives to some of those classic albums, offering a new look at some legendary bands.