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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What A LIFE
Life is the best rock biography I have ever read (though it is not a genre I often indulge since it is mostly moderate talents with big heads blowing their predictable trumpets). The quality of the writing is actually poor, sort of speech rhythms, but that's fine since you just hear Keef's voice drawling at you in its charming, amiable way.

His life is full of...
Published on 14 Dec 2011 by Julius Seize-Her!

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Game Of Two Halves
The much anticipated and talked about Keith book was heralded in a blaze of publicity linked primarily to the Jagger bashing; specifically the "Brenda" tag and comments about Michaels manhood. In reality, the Brenda incident takes up just one page whilst the manhood comment comes from a third party and is again incidental to the real tale.

Was it worth the...
Published 20 months ago by Brian Jones


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What A LIFE, 14 Dec 2011
Life is the best rock biography I have ever read (though it is not a genre I often indulge since it is mostly moderate talents with big heads blowing their predictable trumpets). The quality of the writing is actually poor, sort of speech rhythms, but that's fine since you just hear Keef's voice drawling at you in its charming, amiable way.

His life is full of surprises; being unwittingly used as getaway driver for a jewellery heist when the Stones were already big, delicate and understanding about the women who mattered, badly bullied at school, great, bizarre drug stories (which could so easily have been a tedious staple in lesser hands) and always the wry observer of the wild world he moved through.

Perhaps predictably, what endears the most is the artist in the man. He loves the music. He is as big a fan as any hormonal teenager. It even starts to seem odd that the (brilliant, wonderful) Stones should be such a success since what we have here is a man who adores other musicians.

Despite his laconic swagger on stage, there is none of the expected arrogance. He spent days on end learning tiny little variations on chords just to play London pubs - that was the horizon of his initial vision of the Stones.

In the end this is a life-affirming book, brimming with artistic passion and never taking the pop world seriously. Like all great artists, Keef comes across as a true one-off, and a pleasure to listen to.
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239 of 261 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keith Richards - Caught in a cross fire hurricane, 27 Oct 2010
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Hardcover)
Keith Richards is in danger of becoming respectable, what with starring interviews on the Andrew Marr show, bit parts in Disney's "the Pirates of Caribbean" and an emerging status as national treasure. He has even received the ultimate accolade this week namely a vicious attack from the increasingly insane ex Trot and current bigot Peter Hitchens who blamed him for causing more damage than the Iraq War and described him as "a debauched, capering streak of living gristle who ought to be exhibited as a warning to the young of what drugs can do to you". As usual Hitchens couldn't be more wrong since after reading "Life" a electrifying autobiography ghost written with James Fox someone ought to work out the physiology of Richards since the man is clearly indestructible despite the most astounding chemical intake and even more remarkable he appears to going as strong as ever. The life of this man who founded the Rolling Stones, invented rock guitar, gave us "Honky Tonk Women", "Brown Sugar", the seminal "Exile on Main Street" and a host of other treasures is something we should warmly celebrate and not carp about.

Great rock autobiographies are a rare species but this book by Richards amounting 547 pages ranging from a drug bust in Fordyce, Arkansas to a quick final explanation that he did indeed snort his Dad's ashes (but in a very affectionate way!) and ending in the death of his dear old mum Doris is a very intimate, revealing, warts an all account of a fascinating life packed with brilliant photographs and stories to spare. Fox has captured his subject well and you can hear Richards voice loud and clear with its colourful language of "cats", his love of Shepherd's pie ("don't bust the crust") and roguish charm. You will not be surprised that a large part of the book deals with Richards copious pharmaceutical use. Indeed with parts of his memory wiped out sections of the text are given over to the first hand remembrances of family members and friends like Waddy Watchel, Don Was and his great mate Bobby Keys which are often very harrowing. The legendary Freddie Sessler "Keith's second dad" is a key figure here. This is a man who described himself as "the worlds oldest groupie", got Keith out of "scrapes" and supplied his drugs including pharmaceutical cocaine graphically described in a passage on page 373. Richards knows that he was lucky to survive all this hedonism and the poignancy of his remarks when he tells us stories about the deaths of fellow travellers like Billy Preston and Gram Parsons are all the more pronounced and sad for it. The fact that his co-conspirator Ronnie Wood navigated this madness particularly with a his own "freebasing" crack cocaine indulgences which Richards highlights from 1980 onwards is another example of the "get out of jail" philosophy of life employed by the two most colourful members of the Stones.

At the core of the book is the Jagger/Richards relationship which has gone through phases of almost tender brotherly love to intense visceral hatred (listen to "Had it with you" on Dirty Work which charts the nadir of this phase). The cleaned up Richards circa 1980s "Emotional Rescue" cannot today forgive Jagger's attitude on "his return" who had "fallen in love with power" and whose constant put downs of him are still very raw. As he states "the phrase which rings in my ears all these years later is "Oh, shut up Keith". Things gradually improved over the years and despite Jagger's Knighthood ("the Mick I grew up was a guy who'd say shove your little honours up your ar*e") by 2004 Richards and Jagger were working a closely as ever and he accepts "you've got to go through the bulls**t; its like a marriage"

The book charts all the great Richards myths, the blood changing, the skull ring, the tax exile in France, the falling out of the tree incident and the Toronto drug bust in huge detail which finally led to him giving up heroin. The part however which I especially enjoyed was his early years around Dartford and Sidcup and his passion for the blues particularly Jack Elliot and the impact of Elvis. The generosity throughout to the great Charlie Watts who clearly is the glue that holds the Stones together, and a great loss to the United Nations Peace Keeping Corps, is genuine and full of love. Watts survival from cancer is emotionally charted by Richards and his relief tangible that Watts came back. And then there is the music not just with the Stones but Keith's side projects like the X-pensive Wino's which is a tale well told; while his relationship with Anita Pallenberg and its impact on the construction of the Stones greatest song "Gimme Shelter" is fascinatingly unveiled.

The life of Keith Richards is a chronicle of the ultimate rock survivor and icon. Frankly he should not be here and the fact that he never sleeps means he has been here "longer" than the average 66 year old. Despite yourself you can't help but be absorbed by the myth and legend of the man, his bluntness and his often outspoken nonsense. Let us be frank anyone who calls his dog "Syphilis" must have something going for him. Consequently when in a hundred years time someone sits down and writes the definitive history of rock music it should start with the sentence that "In the beginning was the riff and the riff was with Keith".
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superstardom Sarf London Style, 29 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Hardcover)
It's hard to judge this book. When I was thirteen my sister and I gravitated from Elvis and Cliff to the Beatles and the Stones, buying every LP as it was released. Later at University Beggars Banquet was played more than anything. Many years later I played Exile on Main Street solid for ten years, so much I can hardly listen to it now.

So I can't be objective, its like reading a book by my cousin. It's very very frank about relationships, about drugs, about occasional violence. There's a lot of stuff about musical technique, just like Miles Davis's autobiography, which it reminds me of. I don't understand most of this not being a guitarist, but the feel of these sections is great. It makes you want to get out all your John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed records.

The section about Brian Jones is revealing. This is actually the first book about the Stones I have read, so in comparison with the general familiarity from newspaper stories and rumours I had this is great, and Richards has an aura of telling the truth, by and large I would mostly buy what he's saying. There is also a very moving section about Gram Parsons, who seems to have been one of his closest musical associates and friends.

Earlier, all the stuff about his family is fabulous. Its worth tracking down the full length version of the Andrew Marr interview on BBCi incidentally, where Marr and Keith say his childhood was Dickensian which was exactly what was going through my head when I was reading about his wonderful family. His mother and his maternal grandfather were something else.

Some of the stuff about about the early sixties blues scene echoes what you can read in, say, a Pete Townshend biography I've read. Incidentally, Richards has almost nothing to say about any of his contemporaries musically, except to some extent the Beatles. But mostly that's about how the Beatles were marketed and about the scene they created. No opinions are expressed about say Clapton, the Who, or Hendrix. But then Richards isn't into judging much, unless someone steps on his blue suede shoes (or gets to the cottage pie before he does - read the book).

Mostly the book is about the folks he meets as he navigates his way through life which was always a struggle for one reason or another until the end of the seventies when he emerges from heroin and then meets his current wife Patti.

And of course there's some fascinating stuff about Jagger. I started to skip a little towards the end as I am less interested in their later music. But this is great for Stones fans and also it's a fascinating social record. If you want to know about superstardom south London style go for it.
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64 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sympathy for the old devil, 28 Oct 2010
By 
Amazon Customer "Boo62" (Ilkeston Derbyshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Hardcover)
There are bound to be many glowing reports from lifelong 'Stones fans who won't put up with any criticism or doubt. I'm no huge fan but you'd have to be pretty obtuse to deny the huge influence of the Rolling Stones and there are plenty of their tracks that I like and have done for years.
To be honest I didn't hold out much hope for this but must admit to being surprised at how well the reader is led along and at the candid way everything is laid bare including no few moments that don't exactly cover Mr. Richards in glory.
All the famous myths about him that have almost become urban legends are spoken about and quite a few lesser/ unknown ones too. He is very open about his myriad substances of choice and how they have influenced so much of his life. But these anecdotes aren't really what set this autobiography apart from any other. Rather it's the fascinating insights into his dynamic with the rest of the band, (often destructive and bitter but ultimately artistically productive and mellowed with age),.
There have been a lot of reviews that have tried to set this up as some sort of 'Keef against the world' type thing which frankly is rubbish. He has done pretty much whatever he wanted and although has nearly killed himself off all in all it seems to have been a bit of a blast. In all fairness he himself doesn't come across as someone either feeling hard done by nor as some sort of hero, (although many fans and peers would argue strongly that he is), but neither does he pretend to be 'just one of the lads'. His life has been well out of the ordinary and the events described in this book show just what a rollercoaster ride this man has chosen to be on and a sad look at those who left too early.
Never dull, never self important or big headed, this is an interesting and page turning read that really has appeal for both the fan and casual follower alike.
Straight, witty and as mad as a hatter, Keith Richards life was always going to be a read to keep you glued and he hasn't messed it up.
Not for the faint hearted but nothing gratuitous or bragging either. One of the best releases of the autobiography season.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Game Of Two Halves, 22 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Paperback)
The much anticipated and talked about Keith book was heralded in a blaze of publicity linked primarily to the Jagger bashing; specifically the "Brenda" tag and comments about Michaels manhood. In reality, the Brenda incident takes up just one page whilst the manhood comment comes from a third party and is again incidental to the real tale.

Was it worth the wait? Well, yes and no. Strangely the book is a game of two halves with the early years up to and including Exile being riveting stuff. Keith doesn't dwell too much on the records, in fact some albums don't get a mention at all. Instead we get the ins and outs of life in the worlds second most important rock band. The treatise on Brian is particularly good. OK, it's a well trodden path but here you get the tale from one of the corners of that infamous love triangle. It would be interesting though to know why Keith didn't go to Brian's funeral, leaving just Bill and Charlie to pick up the slack.

The Exile story is likewise a tale worth telling and Keith does it very well indeed. After that though, the tale starts to take on the shape of somebody who maybe believes his own press reports too much. We get the drug tales; Keith says he gave up when it started to make him an idiot in 1978. Readers of the book may think that the idiot tag was already well in place by that stage having been well and truly earned when Keith turned John Phillips onto Heroin. Or maybe it was earlier when he started to take his young son Marlon on the road while Keith mainlines. There seems to be some pride in the fact that Marlon had just one set of clothes and shoes that were dropping to pieces. That's not good no matter which way you look at it.

The Mick thing is quite interesting. According to KR, by the early 80's Sir Jagger had become overbearing and a control freak. I've got a bit of sympathy with old Michael - lets face it, with Ronnie Wood and Keith in the band it needed someone to take control otherwise the whole shebang would have come off the rails around the time of Black and Blue. Saying that, the infamous tale of Charlie sticking one on the nose of the Knight of the Realm never fails to amuse.

Some of Keiths bravado comes across as unintentionally funny; Keith carries knives and guns (unlicensed naturally...) and he recalls various occasions on which the weapons are used. For instance, we're regaled with a story where KR throws a knife between the feet of an unfortunate Record Executive who has the temerity to suggest some changes to a track. The whole episode just sounds pathetic - less rock rebel, more spoilt child. Also Keiths somewhat unconvincing defence of the large stadium shows doesn't really hold water. I've no objection to people making more money from less effort - and lets face it, why play 20 gigs when you can earn the same cash by playing just one - but please don't dress it up like it's being done for the benefit of the long sufferring fan. And Keith trying to explain away his gladhanding of the large corporate sponsers really doesn't fit with the rock outlaw image. It's not exactly manning the barricades is it, more like him being part of the machine itself.

One particularly objectionable aspect of the book is Keiths frequent reference to women as "bitches" or "bitch". These are phrases that have never been acceptable and never will be. Look at it this way, how would Keith feel if someone referred to his wife, his daughter, as a bitch? I know how I'd feel and I'd punch his lights out a la Charlie.

There are also some bits that leave questions; why hardly any mention of Bill? He's discussed when joining the band and when he helps Keith out following a drug bust but that's about it. Also the spat with Elton when Keith delivered a sure fire put down, "All he does is write songs about dead blondes". That's a pearler and should be in the book.

So, in all it's not the classic it's touted to be. The earlier years are excellent, the rest of it a mix of pathos and self indulgence. You take it or you leave it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He doesn't need my help..., 11 Oct 2011
By 
Keith Randall (Isle of Man, U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Hardcover)
We're told that this book has sold over a million copies, so the subject doesn't need my help.

However, I would like to say that I have read this book six times this year, and I've enjoyed every minute of doing so. I shall dock one star for various inaccurate statements regarding records, musicians and so forth. For example 2120 South Michigan Avenue was not the place where ALL of the stuff (as Keef alleges) that the Stones had been listening to came from. Chess label music - including two Keef favourites, all of the music which became the first-rate albums 'The Best of Little Walter' and 'The Best of Muddy Waters' was recorded at Universal Studios by the legendary recording visionary Bill Putnam for many years before Leonard and Phil Chess acquired '2120' in 1957 - and then there's the output from other labels like Sun, Vee-Jay, Fire, Stax, Excello and others.

Also, I really would like to but I cannot agree that Mick Jagger is a world-class harmonica player when compared to the likes of Kim Wilson, Rod Piazza and Curtis Salgado - and surely (in reference to the song ' Down Home Girl') "Leiber and Butler" should be Leiber and Stoller - but that may be down to error by someone other than Our Man.

The very good news for me is that this book fires me with enthusiam for something which the estimable Mr Richards and I have in common: we love music, particularly blues and its related stuff. That's maybe all we have in common apart from being English and having the same initials and perhaps that's one of the reasons I enjoy the book, as I marvel at how very close to the edge a person can get and how often he and saxophonist Bobby Keys and several others do...

In reference to a fellow reviewer's comment about Eric Clapton only being mentioned in passing, I find it far stranger that another Eric, Eric Easton, who was The Rolling Stones' co-manager with Andrew Oldham in the crucial, formative years, is relegated to a couple of mentions. Then again, Easton was not particularly scrupulous, it is alleged in other publications.

I find this book fascinating, entertaining, informative (there's some wonderful insights into his and Mick's songwriting methodology) and many occasionally horrifying and often very funny anecdotes; I particularly enjoyed the pithy comments (Keef is of course a master of such comments as anyone who has seen or read an interview with him will already know..although he is strangely and disappointingly quiet on the subject of 'Stella Street') regarding Bill Wyman's decision to leave the Stones.

There's no doubt that I shall read the book again and again and it will be just as enjoyable and fascinating. Thanks Keef - well done!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And still alive, 9 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Hardcover)
It is a great surprise that Keith remains with us. He has lived about 10 peoples' lives and is happy to share some of the most intimate details of those lives. Such a talent - as a musician and as a writer. It is clearly not fair that someone should have so much talent and so much fun (and so much luck with his health) - I feel like throwing my tv out the window just for the hell of it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A let down, 12 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Hardcover)
The first part of the book is the most interesting and informative; Keiths childhood, meeting Mick, the formation of the band and the early days in London gigging. The middle section is just an overlong set of drug related vignettes that are self indulgent around his capacity for drug consumption and need for little sleep. The final stretch is episodic, with no real structure apart from a lot of name dropping of other musical greats. Disappointingly I was left with a feeling the KR was a bit too smug, self important and in his latter years rebelling for the sake of it, as the book never really scratches beneath the surface of the man to show what makes him tick.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The new Thomas de Quincey, 28 May 2011
By 
William Konarzewski (Colchester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Hardcover)
My previous experience of pop biographies gave me low expectations of this genre of literature. I began reading with the intention of giving up as soon as I got bored. However I managed to finish the book which proved to be quite readable and well written on the whole apart from the last couple of hundred pages which were mainly lists of names of all the amazing wonderful people KR has met. But the first two thirds of this bio was much better with lots of information about the early days of the Rolling Stones. To be critical I would have liked to know what KR thought about the music of the other great bands of the 60s and 70s but there was very little on this. It would also have been interesting to read some self-criticism of his parenting skills - he took his son Marlon on tour with him at the age of 7 and Marlon witnessed the whole drug scenario. Was that a good upbringing? How did Marlon turn out in the end? Those questions don't really get answers. On the whole it's a good read but not worth more than 3 stars.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More Stones stuff. Chuck it on the pile..., 6 May 2011
By 
Robert Machin (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Life: Keith Richards (Hardcover)
It's another Rolling Stones product, just like every other Rolling Stones product since around, let's say (as I'm feeling generous) 1975. Promises much, only to ultimately disappoint. Flashes of brilliance and real interest drowning in a fog of self-regarding, self-aggrandizing cliche and adolescent fantasy. Lauded to the skies on release but doomed to be added to the pile and forgotten, just like all the other latter-day albums, films, books and collateral. More Stones stuff, in other words.

Shame (as usual) because this could have been so much more, not least by being much less. A lot of the Keith life, it has to be said, is really not that interesting - it is after all, a life lived largely in hotels and studios, punctuated by occasional gigs and cocooned in drugs and not-very-thrilling hedonism. We get loads of this of course. What we get less of are the flashes of insight, as Keith tries to get under the skin of what he plays and how he plays it and reminds you that as a musician he really was a force of nature, a man who harnessed and more or less defined the art of rock rhythm guitar and created a template to which most guitarists have subsequently adhered. These moments come and go all too quickly however, and soon enough we're back to the gunplay (yawn) and the knifeplay (zzz...) and the drugs and, and... What we get practically none of is any real feel for what it must have been like to have been part of the Stones circus, to be in those dressing rooms, to be tuning up with Brian, or Mick Taylor... it simply never comes alive in that way, but surely there must be stories to be told. Virtually none of the book is devoted to the other Stones, with the exception of Mick, about whom you'll read nothing that couldn't have come out of a cuttings pile. Charlie gets a page or so, out of 500, Bill practically nothing... it's a very ungenerous book.

Keith is like the ultimate unreliable witness to the Stones story. That wouldn't be such a problem if he wasn't also such an uninteresting witness. Maybe he just can't remember. As with all the Stones stuff from the last 30 years or so though, you start to conclude that maybe, actually, he just doesn't really care.
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