There is an amusing tale about the fan who once confessed that his devotion to Bob Dylan was so limitless he would happily listen to an album of the great man heavy-breathing – yet who still admitted he felt let down by Dylan's middle-of-the-road covers collection Self Portrait. This is brought vividly to mind while listening to The Complete Honeymoon Tapes, a Keith Richards bootleg freely available online, in which Keef sets about some of his favourite songs armed only with an acoustic guitar and that Woodbine croak of a voice. It's not a pretty contest, to be frank, and one from which music does not emerge the winner.
The mere fact of Richards singing standards such as "Sweet Dreams" and "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" has led some excitable listeners to conclude that the Stones' creative mainspring is planning an album of old favourites, along the lines of Rod Stewart's Great American Songbook series. But these are clearly not serious recordings, nor even demos for planned recordings, just the sounds of an off-duty star relaxing in his hotel room, cracking open a bottle of Jack, firing up a fat one, and strumming a few childhood memories to pass the time.
The hotel room in question, it transpires, was in the Finisterra Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where Richards had just married Patti Hansen. That was in December 1983, which makes the "news" of Keith's putative covers album a mere quarter-century old. In any case, the potential market for such an album would be somewhat limited, given the indifferent reception accorded the guitarist's official, properly recorded, solo albums Talk Is Cheap and Main Offender.
The tapes do, however, give a vivid impression of what the world's leading hellraiser was raised on. It's a high-protein diet of old R&B, rock and country music, with substantial courses of Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers accompanied by side-orders of familiar rock classics by Elvis, Chuck, Bo, Little Richard, and country numbers by Hank Williams, Don Gibson and Merle Haggard. They're garnished with a few of Keith's personal favourites from the Stones' own back catalogue, the most agreeable being "Wild Horses", the weary, weatherbeaten tone of which is best suited to his ragamuffin hobo stylings here, and "Time Is On My Side", on which his small, frail voice is actually quite engaging. Otherwise, "Let It Be Me" is the most pleasingly rendered song of those I've heard, one of the few whose secure structure suggests he's played it more than once: the guitar break in particular is quite lovely.
But as with most bootlegs, these recordings are most interesting for the stuff that happens in between the songs. Here, apart from Keef's sudden outburst at an accomplice who interrupts him as he's trying to work out the structure of "So Sad" ("Shaddup, Stroker! Bloody hell! Go south for the winter!"), the only such example of note is the guitarist's jocular introduction of "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" as "Concerto for five strings, three notes, two fingers and one asshole, in G major". The song is then delivered in much the same frail transatlantic croon-croak as he employs throughout the "session", which in some cases may be a pastiche of Dylan's wheezing mumble.
It's not exactly must-hear stuff; in fact, it's barely worth the visit to the website (captainsdead.com). Though if you really can't wait to hear Keith fluffing the intro to "Heartbeat", it could be just what you're looking for. Andy Gill
Man in Body Shop's mirror
Michael Jackson, the self-proclaimed King of Pop, may become the Chief Recessionista. Recent allegations he spent £4.6m of Sheik Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa's money turned up an interesting footnote: Jackson blew £200 at The Body Shop. Not much for a man who used to pick up Faberge Eggs like some of us would Crème Eggs, but still, that's a lot of perfume sticks. As Christmas approaches it's a useful reminder: if a brazil nut body butter coffret is good enough for La Toya, it's good enough for the woman in your life too. Harriet Walker
Quakin' all over – just like the Obamas
Barack Obama's decision to send his children to a prestigious Quaker school will not be as controversial as a similar decision by a British prime minister would be. The Quakers' links with education in the US are far more deeply rooted than they are in Britain – the first faith school established in the US was set up by Quakers in Pennsylvania in the late 17th century. There are now 19 such higher-education establishments and universities in the US.
By choosing Sidwell Friends private school, Obama is following in the footsteps of several former US presidents: the Clintons sent Chelsea there and Richard Nixon sent his daughter, Trisha. As, by happy coincidence, did the Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward. Imagine the reunion.
In the UK, the Quakers have a more modest influence on education – but your children can still be schooled like the Obamas. The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, heads seven schools in the UK – educating 4,000 children in total. They are fairly small, private schools – so small that they are often ignored in the debate over whether we should have more or fewer faith-based schools in the UK. Most of their pupils are not Quakers – 85 per cent of their intake comes from outside the faith. They tend to be big on openness and student councils. Does that make them more valued? It seems so. But British Quaker schools don't attract quite the same elite as Sidwell Friends. Richard Garner
Can I have that gift-rapped?
"It's time for the power player males of the world to step up their game to live – and smell – like a king. Only Sean "Diddy" Combs, self-made entrepreneur extraordinaire, could debut I AM KING, a scent designed to inspire those who dream big and want to live large. I AM KING gives men a glimpse into a Combs' exclusive world: jet-setting holidays, superyachts, palatial estates, luxury cars, beautiful women... I AM KING makes the ultimate statement for today's ambitious go-getter: Here I am, in all my glory. Smell the power. Feel the success..." Press release from Sean John Fragrances (I AM KING is available from 1 December for £48/100ml)Reuse content