Saturday 18 December 2010
Dylan Jones: 'It’s all here, in Keith Richards’ new book - sex, violence and the truth about weaving'
One of the most annoying things I've had to do this year was finish Keith Richards' autobiography. Once it was gone, I simply didn't know what to do with myself. Life is probably the best rock'n'roll memoir ever written, easily as good as Bob Dylan's Chronicles, but much longer.
I took the galleys on a trip to New York the week before publication and I barely left my hotel room. While it is written chronologically, it pinballs all over the place just when you least expect it to, painting a totally believable and colourful picture.
At the back of the book, Keith (and his brilliant ghost James Fox) thank 140 or so people, including journalists Stanley Booth, David Dalton and Nick Kent, as well as producers, musicians, friends, family and fellow travellers. Some of these are the people Fox had to interview to fill in the many gaps in Keith's memory, and when I interviewed Kent at the Hay-on-Wye festival in the spring, he was full of stories that he had told him.
It's all here: sex, violence, myth-making, the character traits of some of the world's most famous people, and – of course – the truth about the ancient art of weaving. Oh, and there's the drugs, too.
In the same way that there are a lot of tall buildings in Chicago, a lot of notches on Mick Jagger's bedposts and a lot of salt in the sea, there is obviously a fair amount about narcotics in the book – fascinating descriptions of what it's like to exist on heroin, extraordinary passages outlining his various motivations for being under the influence (not as obvious as one might think), and wonderful accounts of Keef using drugs as though they were gears – but while his portrait of the rock'n'roll existence is extremely evocative, and at times very seductive, he manages to make the reader rather glad that they weren't there with him.
Life is quite simply the default Christmas present of the year, the best rock book of this or any other year. Although I warn you, if anyone buys it for you, you'll have finished it by Boxing Day, and none of your family will be talking to you.
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