Keith Richards demands satisfaction after Swedish critic pans his performance

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The Independent Online

It was the British prime minister and noted literary figure Benjamin Disraeli who posed the rhetorical question: "You know who the critics are?" His answer, "the men who have failed in literature and art", has soothed generations of creative types stung by the barbs of their less flattering reviewers.

But Disraeli's famous words appeared lost this week on the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards after the founder member of the self-proclaimed greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world felt obliged to give an uncharacteristically petulant response to criticism of his performance in the Swedish press.

Clearly for someone with a musical pedigree as long and distinguished as Richards, being slated in a country whose greatest musical export was Abba was too much. But though he may be the latest, Richards will certainly not be the last to fail to emulate Kingsley Amis's celebrated sangfroid. The author conceded that while a "bad review may spoil your breakfast, you shouldn't allow it to spoil your lunch".

What was causing Richards such indigestion were notices in the two Swedish tabloids, Expressen and Aftonbladet, that singled him out for particular criticism in their appraisals of the Stones' efforts at the Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg with one claiming the guitar legend appeared "superdrunk" on stage.

To make matters worse, Aftonbladet's music writer Markus Larsson gave the concert a score of just two out of five, suggesting Richards appeared "a bit confused" during the concert.

Of course Richards has spent large parts of his career under the influence of drink and drugs and once claimed to not remember anything at all that happened in the 1970s. Yet he has always prided himself on his ability to turn it on for the Stones' legions of devoted fans.

In a letter published bythe Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter, Richards demanded an apology on their behalf. "This is a first! Never before have I risen to the bait of a bad review.

"You have a duty to wield the power of the press with honesty and integrity. There were 56,000 people in Ullevi stadium who bought a ticket to our concert - and experienced a completely different show than the one you 'reviewed'," the letter said.

"How dare you cheapen the experience for them – and for the hundreds of thousands of other people across Sweden who weren't at Ullevi and have only your 'review' to go on. Write the truth. It was a good show."

Larsson in turn defended his right to criticise the group. "I am not going to apologise for my subjective opinion. It is Keith who should apologise. After all it costs around 1,000 kronor (£72) to see a rock star who can hardly handle the [guitar] riff to 'Brown Sugar' any more," he said.

The Bigger Bang, the world's most lucrative ever live show, wound up in London this week after two years on the road. UK reviewers gave the Stones generally warm reviews though critics will be sharpening their knives in preparation for the guitarist's forthcoming autobiography for which he recently signed a multimillion-pound publishing deal. In light of which, perhaps he should consider the views of Liberace on the subject.

In his 1973 autobiography, the flamboyant entertainer wrote: "When the reviews are bad I tell my staff that they can join me as I cry all the way to the bank."

Harsh words

* A A Gill's scathing reviews of an up-and-coming young chef called Gordon Ramsay would probably have left little lasting impression had the famously hot-tempered Scot not exacted highly public revenge on his tormentor. Gill, below, had dismissed Ramsay as a failed footballer who acted "like an 11-year-old boy". So when Gill arrived to dine at Ramsay's new Chelsea restaurant with Joan Collins in tow, he invited him, politely, to leave, ensuring that Fleet Street had been alerted.

* When the DJ Mike Read, right, penned a musical about Oscar Wilde the critics performed one of their most effective hatchet jobs in years. One described it as "bilge", another called it a "pitiful vanity project" while a third lamented: "In 1895 Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years' hard labour. A more cruel and unusual punishment has been devised by Mike Read – a musical of exquisite awfulness". The show closed after just one night.

* The most damning denunciation of Bob Dylan's experiment with electric guitars at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966 came from a face in the crowd. Keith Butler, then a student at Keele University, screamed "Judas" as Dylan launched into "Like a Rolling Stone". The singer spat straight back "I don't believe you", then urged The Hawks to "play fucking loud".

* Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is now regarded as one of the landmarks in the history of music. To say it didn't go down well on the night of its opening in Paris in 1913 is an understatement. The audience booed and then rioted. Derision spread far beyond France. The Boston Herald devoted its front page to the incident, composing a poem especially for the occasion: "Who wrote this fiendish Rite of Spring/What right had he to write the thing/Against our helpless ears to fling/Its crash, clash, cling, clang, bing, bang, bing."

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