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A Game Of Two Halves,
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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.