Old People We Love: Keith Richards By Jason Sheftell
How do you write a new and different lead for a story about Keith Richards? You don’t. You just do like Keith and tell it like it is. So those of you who think Tommy Lee, that untalented, wife-beating, cock-heavy drummer boy, is rock’s bad boy, read and weep. Here’s why we love rock’s most bacchanalian, good-hearted, sum’ bitch:
Because Keith wrote the guitar riff for “Satisfaction” after waking up in the middle of the night in a Clearwater, Florida, motel room. When he got up the next morning, he forgot he’d written the song until he played the tape and heard himself picking the tune and muttering. Because Keith met Mick Jagger in a sandbox when they were both five years old. Mick remembers Keith saying he wanted to be “a cowboy like Roy Rodgers and play a guitar.” Because Keith got expelled in 1959 at the age of 16 from Dartford Tech for many incidents, including fighting. Because he’s been married for the past 17 years to former model and ageless beauty Patti Hansen (and because she’s from Staten Island). Because he let me step in front of him in a Soho Korean market. I had beer; he was waiting for Patti, who was looking for ice cream. He just smiled and said, “Forget the women and children. Liquor first.”
Because when he picked up the guitar, all he wanted to do was play like Chuck Berry. Hail, Hail, Rock n’ Roll. Because this past April, after spotting a sign on a Manhattan sidewalk that read, “Hard Rock Cafe: Proud to feature fried items — chicken, onion ... Keith Richards,” Keith wrote a personal letter to the chain asking them to remove the signs because he had spent “years building his reputation.” Because he said, “I never had a problem with drugs, only with cops.” Because yesterday, when I went to do a search for Keith on Yahoo! I was led to the Yahoo! bulletin boards. The one and only post listed: “Keith Richards is God!”
Because Keith admits that he cries often. Because the most intriguing, detailed information about Keith is on this incredible fan Web site started by this person named Blue Lena. She calls it a shrine, and it is. Because Keith named his personal touring band the X-pensive Winos. Because there is someone out there who drinks and smokes like a 20-year-old and is still very much alive and kicking. Because Keith has dimples as deep as marbles. Because he speaks his mind and kisses nary an arse. Because Mick isn’t Keith’s favorite Rolling Stone. Charlie Watts is.
Because he had a house in Weston, Connecticut, near where I grew up. His brother, the caretaker up at Keith’s house, was the spitting image of Keith, only about a full foot shorter. Anyway, the guy would get piss drunk and tell Keith tour stories. Then he would jump on the bar and do air guitar imitations of Keith with one leg up. I shit you not.
Because at the memorial service of a former Rolling Stones security guard, Joe Seabrook, Keith teamed with fellow Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood to sing an acoustic version of the Hendrix anthem, “Hey Joe.” Because Keith is the fans’ favorite Rolling Stone, according to an unofficial fan site that shows Keith with a 9 percent edge over Mick (40 to 31 percent, for those of you keeping score). Because he’s sexy as hell, according to Cosmopolitan, which voted him number 78 in the 100 Sexiest Men Poll in November 1999.
Because, in 1967, after he and Mick were convicted in the U.K. of possession of cannibis, the public and national press made such a fuss the Court rushed an appeal case and overturned the verdict, which would have left Richards in a jail cell for up to six months. Because after he let me in front of him at the grocery, I asked him if he wanted a beer, and he took one and drank it with me at the counter. The storeowner didn’t object. Patti did, though. She glared at me and said to Keith, “Not now, love, it’s three in the morning.”
Because at the Altamont Speedway on December 6, 1969, Keith told a band of Hell’s Angels to “Cool it” or the band would stop playing. When the biker clan surrounded the band and grew angry, Keith pointed his ax at the biggest of the bunch and said, “Fuck off.” Probably more out of respect than fear, the bikers backed off. Because it is Keith who sings “Little T&A.”
Because, in August 1983, Keith and Mick reportedly signed a $28-million four-record deal with CBS records at 3:00 a.m. in Paris’ Ritz Hotel. Because on my way home, Keith and Patti were walking a few feet behind me. When I got to the door of the Greene Street building where my friend was house-sitting, I realized they were coming inside as well. For a second, I thought he was going to mug me for the last few beers.
Because, in 1986, Keith became the first presenter at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. On national television, he jerked off his tux, gave his idol Chuck Berry the award and then told the audience he “ripped off” every riff he knew from Berry. Because when Keith got arrested for possession of heroin in Toronto in February 1977, he did his community service in the form of a benefit concert. Because at the elevator door, Keith asked me for another beer. Patti said, “He’ll drink them all.” I said, “It’s OK. We have some bourbon.” Keith snickered.
Because, according to super-fan Blue Lena’s site, Keith plays two early 1950s Fender Telecaster guitars that he calls Micawber and Malcolm. Because Keith gets along well with all four of his children: the two he had with Hansen and the two he had with his common-law ex-spouse, Anita Pallenberg. Because he told a writer for Reuters in 1997, “It’s the hanging together that makes the band — that delicate, fragile thing, the personality, the chemistry of everybody being actually able to tolerate each other. Because you wear yourself pretty ragged on the road. ‘I hate you forever,’ we’ll say it one day, but forever lasts 24 hours.”
Because Keith thanked me for the beer and told me to stop by anytime and bring the bourbon. I took him up on the offer a few days later, but he and Patti were gone to London, or so the housekeeper said. I didn’t leave the bourbon. Then I went back to school. The closest I’ve been to him since was a mosh pit during a Stones concert at Parc du Prince in Paris ... 10 feet and a thousand swaying fans. I was treading air. I thought I was gonna fucking die.
Because Keith thinks more about life than death. “I’ve lived my life in my own way,” he said. “And I am here because I’ve taken the trouble to find out who I am.”
Lessons for us all. I’ll bring that bourbon by real soon, Keith. Oh, and you’re not really old, man. We just wanted to pay some homage.
Happy 60th Birthday Keith!
Jason Sheftell is Ironminds’ living editor, story taken from www.ironminds.com copyright August 2000
Return to the Shrine...The Keith Shrine by Blue Lena: Established 1997