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40 Hours with Keith Richards (Read 3,459 times)
GotToRollMe
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40 Hours with Keith Richards
Feb 27th, 2010 at 2:18pm
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Nick Kent, the music writer whose rock'n'roll lifestyle almost destroyed him
Times Online

40 hours with Keith Richards
An exclusive extract from Apathy for the Devil by Nick Kent


I was invited to follow Keith Richards around London for what turned out to be something in the region of 40 hours. He’d flown in from Switzerland without his family and was at a loose end. His new best pal Ronnie Wood was somewhere in Europe playing with the Faces and he was on his own looking for any like-minded druggie to share his time with. I’d always wanted to see up close what his life was really like – and then nail it in print. But his moment-to-moment existence back then was so mind-bogglingly X-rated and fraught with libellous content that I’d have to wait 20 years to do the story justice. The mid-section of Twilight in Babylon from my first book The Dark Stuff is a detailed account of the first 20 hours of our encounter. It starts with us taking humongous amounts of drugs in Central London, rises to a crescendo with the guitarist falling into a coma in Ronnie Wood’s Richmond guest house and ends with me vomiting all over his welcome mat. But I’ve never documented the second half – the 20 hours spent after my unfortunate Technicolor yawn incident. Until now.

One thing about Keith during his junkie years – he was a remarkably non-judgmental host. Vomit on his premises and he wouldn’t throw you out. He was definitely a live-and-let-live kind of guy. Instead he offered me more drugs, or “the real breakfast of champions” as he called them. He laid out a six-inch line of heroin and cocaine mixed together, snorted it, laid out another and handed me a rolled-up pound note with a conspiratorial nudge. It was still 7am and a bit early in the day for me but nonetheless I honked the whole thing back without further thought. Hey, when in Rome…

The next few hours were somewhat hazy but around midday Keith proposed we drive into London because he fancied something to eat. While clambering into the passenger seat of his Ferrari, I offered up a silent prayer to the god of all London-bound motor vehicle occupants that the man to my right would be more safety code-conscious in daylight than I’d seen him be once night came a-falling. No such luck, of course. The highway was just one big racetrack for him. There was no conversation. Keith just fixed the landscape in his windscreen with a withering glare and ram-rodded into the bugger at full wheel-screeching velocity. He drove with the single-minded intensity of a tattooed man wading into a bar-room fight. It was a way of relieving some of his considerable inner aggression and frustrations.

We were only two streets away from our destination – a swanky restaurant nestling between Chelsea and Earls Court – when Keith noticed an old man in a shed selling copies of the Evening Standard. The cover of the paper featured a photo of the leader of T.Rex and alongside it the headline, “Marc Bolan says ‘I am still the greatest’.” The headline had then been copied onto a makeshift poster that stood in a grille. Keith saw the thing and brought his car to a juddering standstill. He leapt out on to the pavement and started kicking the sign with intimidating gusto. The old bloke peered out of his shed and started remonstrating with Richards for damaging his property. Keith stood his ground and started jabbing a finger in his wizened direction. “Listen, old man – you should be ashamed of yourself selling bulls*** like that. Marc Bolan never has been the f*****’ greatest. He’s just a mouthy little poof whose 15 minutes of fame are all used up. You’re misleading the public.” Then he got back in the car and drove off in a silent fury.

Keith – it has to be said – was not a fan of early-Seventies rock. He couldn’t abide glam rock. Couldn’t stomach David Bowie’s music and was extremely sniffy about Bowie’s whole transsexual shtick. One time in a London club I saw Gary Glitter tentatively approach Keith. Before he could introduce himself, Richards had fixed him with such a disapproving scowl that Gary practically wet himself on the spot. Like the Fall’s Mark E. Smith, Keith maintained a zero-tolerance policy when it came to “soft lads” trying to make their bones in rock’n’roll. But Marc Bolan was by far and away the softest lad of them all.

Five minutes later, he’d parked his car and we located the restaurant. There’s a great scene in John Ford’s classic Western, 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' when the hellion gunslinger Valance – played to perfection by Lee Marvin – enters a saloon bar with his giggling accomplice at his side and all the action in the room suddenly grinds to a halt. All conversation ceases. Everyone stares at the intruders in stark terror. That’s what it was like when Keith sauntered into the dining room. The place was packed with lunching yuppies – only they weren’t called that then – who looked like they’d just dropped a gallstone when they saw him arriving. The only sound to be heard was that of cutlery dropping to the floor in shock. Every eye there was warily fixed on him as though Vlad the Impaler had just stepped into the big room.

Not that the reaction he was eliciting fazed the guitarist in the slightest. I doubt if he even noticed. He just strode to a corner table, sat down and proceeded to disappear behind a fog of cigarette smoke. I suppose he’d long grown accustomed to the supernatural effect he set in motion whenever he chose to step out in public. Both he and Jagger shared a lucid grasp of the charisma they could radiate. That’s why they’d lately started calling themselves the “Glimmer Twins”: “glimmer” was the word they used to define their personal auras. “A glimmer is more addictive than heroin,” Keith once told a journalist. He vividly understood the power he possessed.



© Nick Kent. Extracted from Apathy for the Devil by Nick Kent, to be published by Faber and Faber on Thursday. It is available from BooksFirst priced £10.99 (RRP £12.99), free p&p, on 0845 2712134; timesonline.co.uk/booksfirst
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« Last Edit: Feb 27th, 2010 at 2:29pm by GotToRollMe »  

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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #1 - Feb 27th, 2010 at 4:44pm
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...all the action in the room suddenly grinds to a halt. All conversation ceases. Everyone stares at the intruders in stark terror. That’s what it was like when Keith sauntered into the dining room. The place was packed with lunching yuppies – only they weren’t called that then – who looked like they’d just dropped a gallstone when they saw him arriving. The only sound to be heard was that of cutlery dropping to the floor in shock. Every eye there was warily fixed on him as though Vlad the Impaler had just stepped into the big room.


Fantastically descriptive.

Great read...thanks, M.
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #2 - Feb 27th, 2010 at 5:38pm
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Thanks for posting, GTRM!!
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #3 - Feb 27th, 2010 at 5:41pm
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thanks - i look forward to this coming out

this comment caught my attention



GotToRollMe wrote on Feb 27th, 2010 at 2:18pm:


It was a way of relieving some of his considerable inner aggression and frustrations.




be interested to know what these "frustrations" were
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #4 - Feb 27th, 2010 at 6:09pm
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Thanks. Pity he hadnt beheaded Glitter on the spot. Never mind a knighthood, he would be elevated to sainthood by now.
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #5 - Feb 27th, 2010 at 6:18pm
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Great read.
Thanks for posting, GTRM.

Speaking of Keef's "junkie years", his Toronto bust happened 33 years ago today.

Interesting stuff Ronnie!
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #6 - Feb 27th, 2010 at 6:20pm
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Really cool read, but I gotta disagree with his opinion on Bolan. His rhythm guitar playing is second ONLY to Keith. And his songs are very nice.
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #7 - Feb 27th, 2010 at 6:49pm
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thanks buddy
really enjoyed that read on a Sunday morning

Are you fucking serious?
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #8 - Feb 28th, 2010 at 3:51am
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'He’s just a mouthy little poof whose 15 minutes of fame are all used up'

Sounds like something Johnny Rotten would come out with - love it!  Fuck you Gazza, Will ya?
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #9 - Feb 28th, 2010 at 5:29am
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Nice story for a rainy sunday !
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #10 - Feb 28th, 2010 at 6:48am
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First time I've heard Keith Richards compared to Mark E. Smith.

Thanks for posting!
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“What rap did that was impressive was to show there are so many tone-deaf people out there,” he says. “All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it and they’re happy. There’s an enormous market for people who can’t tell one note from another.” - Keef
 
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #11 - Feb 28th, 2010 at 7:19am
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Honky Tonk Man wrote on Feb 28th, 2010 at 3:51am:
'He’s just a mouthy little poof whose 15 minutes of fame are all used up'

Sounds like something Johnny Rotten would come out with - love it!  Fuck you Gazza, Will ya?


Funny Johnny Rotten is mentioned, it was Sid Vicious who attacked Nick Kent for writing a bad review of the Pistols, or maybe I'm thinking of another reporter.
I don't agree with Keith about the glam rock period, I think it produced a lot of great artists, & changed Rock in a big way, look at Bowie, how many of the next artists were influenced by him, not so much by the Ziggy stuff, but what came later, he created music that was ahead of his time, I sometimes think Keith is stuck in the 12 bar blues & Chuck Berry mode, if it's not like that then he doesn't like it.
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« Last Edit: Feb 28th, 2010 at 7:25am by Heart Of Stone »  

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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #12 - Feb 28th, 2010 at 7:29am
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Heart Of Stone wrote on Feb 28th, 2010 at 7:19am:
Honky Tonk Man wrote on Feb 28th, 2010 at 3:51am:
'He’s just a mouthy little poof whose 15 minutes of fame are all used up'

Sounds like something Johnny Rotten would come out with - love it!  Fuck you Gazza, Will ya?


Funny Johnny Rotten is mentioned, it was Sid Vicious who attacked Nick Kent for writing a bad review of the Pistols, or maybe I'm thinking of another reporter.
I don't agree with Keith about the glam rock period, I think it produced a lot of great artists, & changed Rock in a big way, look at Bowie, how many of the next artists were influenced by him, not so much by the Ziggy stuff, but what came later, he created music that was ahead of his time, I sometimes think Keith is stuck in the blues & Chuck Berry mode, if it's not like that then he doesn't like it.


I agree, but perhaps it was the "image" of glam that Keith despised.

Keith seems to be all about putting up this "macho" or "tough guy" image, and the gender-bending image of glam just flies in the face of Keith.
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“What rap did that was impressive was to show there are so many tone-deaf people out there,” he says. “All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it and they’re happy. There’s an enormous market for people who can’t tell one note from another.” - Keef
 
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #13 - Mar 2nd, 2010 at 7:59am
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Speakin of.. when's keef's book coming out?
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #14 - Mar 2nd, 2010 at 8:11am
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Egon wrote on Mar 2nd, 2010 at 7:59am:
Speakin of.. when's keef's book coming out?


He's having trouble faxing 4500 hand scribbled pages in to the printer.
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #15 - Mar 2nd, 2010 at 8:25am
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Some Guy wrote on Mar 2nd, 2010 at 8:21am:
can someone give me the gist of this, I am a very busy man.


Snow day SG!.....maybe there will be a Cliff Notes available.
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #16 - Mar 2nd, 2010 at 8:28am
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Gazza wrote on Feb 27th, 2010 at 6:09pm:
Thanks. Pity he hadnt beheaded Glitter on the spot. Never mind a knighthood, he would be elevated to sainthood by now.


Amen!
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #17 - Mar 2nd, 2010 at 8:46am
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gimmekeef wrote on Mar 2nd, 2010 at 8:25am:
Some Guy wrote on Mar 2nd, 2010 at 8:21am:
can someone give me the gist of this, I am a very busy man.


Snow day SG!.....maybe there will be a Cliff Notes available.

all these northerners down here are trying to fuck up a good snow day with work.
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Re: 40 Hours with Keith Richards
Reply #18 - Mar 3rd, 2010 at 3:54pm
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Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed reading it.
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