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on 12 July 2014
This book seems to have divided opinion massively. I would say that if you're looking for a juice tell-all about the Rolling Stones or Keith Richards himself, you might be a bit disappointed. Although he does cover everything you'd expect him to (the sex, drugs and rock and roll), this book is mostly a memoir and he talks about his love of music, his influences and experiences which may not be interesting to everyone, although personally I loved it. I thought it was fascinating to learn about how he became who he is today and where he found his talent and inspiration.

While reading the book I started making a list of other things to research, such as musicians I'd never heard of, books I'd never read and people I'd never heard of. I found myself stopping every now and again to research something I'd never heard of, and I really enjoyed it.

This book isn't just for Stones/Keith Richards fans - it's a musical education.
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on 30 January 2016
Forget the drugs, the touring and the in-band bickering, this book is, first and foremost, about Keith Richards’ passion for music. He’s steeped in it. It’s in his bones and DNA. He lives for music, for playing with many, many other musicians outside of the Rolling Stones. In fact, I got the distinct impression that his life away from the Stones is his real life.

Some reviewers on this site are disgruntled because Keith doesn’t ooze love for his band members: Bill Wyman and Ronnie Wood barely get a mention; and a measure of disdain is reserved for Brian Jones, although his relationship with Mick Jagger is put under closer scrutiny, leaving Charlie Watts the recipient of his fulsome praise. There’s nothing intrinsically “wrong” with this: how many of us, writing these reviews, play in a rock band or can begin to understand the dynamics of a rock band that had been together, at the time the book was published, for 40-odd years?

Putting aside the prodigious amounts of drugs that he’s ingested, Keith has some other habits that are tediously rock ‘n’ roll. He’s almost always late, and he has this childish “thing” about shepherd’s pie. If one is delivered to his dressing room, heaven help the person who fancies a piece and break the crust. If this happens, the show’s put on hold until another shepherd’s pie is made and delivered. Of course, Keith doesn’t eat any of it: he just wants to demonstrate who’s boss, who gets to cut the crust.

As Keith himself says, why is such a fuss made about the Stones still gigging at their age (now in their 70s) when most of the well-known black musicians, e.g. Muddy Waters and B. B. King did it and no-one said boo?

The last five lines of the book (when he talks about his mother, Doris, giving him his first review) bring the story of Keith’s hectic, extraordinary life to a delightful end.

Rock on, Keith!
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on 25 September 2015
This book surprised me. I didn't expect all that much, not being particularly a Rolling Stones fan, and not being that mad keen on what I'd seen of Keith's life from the outside. It just shows you how wrong you can be about preconceptions through a media filter. Keith comes across as amazingly down to earth and sensitive, nothing like the public image. His observations and tales are brutally honest with himself and others, and "Life" is a good title in the context of what he has to say. He goes surprisingly deep into the technicalities of playing, writing, and stage performance, so for anyone with any musical knowledge, the book is doubly interesting. I was on the road myself for many years, so I can understand totally the kind of life he has led, at least in the basic sense. For more than two-thirds of the book, I was gripped by the story and observations, but sadly, towards the last section, it begins to meander and gets a bit tiresome, a ghost-writer or editor might have helped at this point, as it's a shame it peters out when the book itself is so unexpectedly good. Then again, it could be a bit mean or nit-picking to seize on that - It's a very worthwhile read and changed my perception of Keith completely.
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on 28 March 2018
Fans of the Rolling Stones will enjoy this book. It is very gritty and to the point. I've read other reviews where readers say some chapters are overlong, but I disagree. You need some in-depth background to just what was going on in those early years. If you are of a certain age (I'm in my late sixties) you will identify with the 1960s and remember (hopefully!) the news coverage of The Stones at the time. I found this book to be very readable (a page turner) and very informative.
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on 17 July 2011
I'm writing this review because, frankly, after 133 reviews posted here ( at the time of writing ) for it to get ONLY four stars is pathetic.
This is a GREAT book. Of the kind that you look forward to getting everything else out of the way, so that you can IMMERSE yourself properly in it.
Let me state upfront that I am no Stones fan. It's my mom's generation and not a whole lot to do with me, other than the fact that they probably influenced a large chunk of the bands in my CD collection.
What gripped me about this book was simply THE ADVENTURE. The adventure in real terms of what it's like to be a millionaire from your early twenties, but also, more importantly, the adventure INTO MUSIC.
Keef is a music nut. He delves, he researches, he notes. He knows what he is talking about, and to hear him speak about his passion is fantastic. The way he describes his wonderment at creating sounds via unorthodox guitar tunings and experimentation, the manner in which he will talk knowledgeably about obscure blues musicians...it makes you simultaneously want to retune your guitar, as well as go looking for CDs of the ancient black musos that drag themselves round the hinterlands of the US.
I'm sure many people will pick up this book, because they think they're going to get a Motley Crue 'DIRT'-style romp. In fact, this has more depth. Yes, the Crue's tome was a masterpiece of nihilism and grotesquery, but this is way more spiritual. It's also a superb social document of the post-war music culture of the UK.
Keith's joie de vivre is an excellent tonic in these current times, and as a result, LIFE is ultimately more rewarding than many rock biogs.
From the usual anarchic rock n roll shenanigans, to the sheer excitement of the creative process, the reader is transported into the presence of somebody enthusiastic and insightful about what he does. Beautiful.
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VINE VOICEon 9 October 2011
I do not want to be long-winded so I shall try to keep this short. I have been a Stones fan since they first started touring, and even met them once at Birmingham Town Hall in the early days, when Brian was still an integral part of the group. I liked the Beatles but I loved the Stones. (I now live in Hamburg where the Beatles got their start and know the guy who brought them to this great city. We are writing a book together but that is another story).

Keith Richards tells it like it was, no punches pulled, no stone unturned. It is fascinating if a little frightening in places. All the stuff about drugs turns me off because I was never into that scene. You could say "Sex and Rock 'n' Roll but no drugs please" was more my way of thinking. However Keith describes his experiences honestly and candidly and you have to work through it. On the other hand, the passages about how the great songs were born are fascinating, as are the insights into the life of the band on the road, the exile in France (I have also lived in France and know a lot of the places Keith mentions), the relationships with Marianne Faithful, Anita Pallenberg, Bianca Jagger etc, and the friendships along the way with Bobby Keys, Gram Parsons and many others; these are real gems. Who was Ruby Tuesday or the Skydog slaver? The answers are all in this book.

Keith has a conversational style (his ghost writer James Fox was probably taking the stuff down verbatim) and it draws you in and you want to go on listening even when it becomes shocking, and the "F" word on every page soon ceases to shock if it ever did (it takes a lot to shock me but then I am the same generation as Keith and Mick).

Well, I have written far more than I intended, but it is a big subject. All I can do is recommend the book and take my hat off to Keith Richards as a man and an artist.
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VINE VOICEon 15 March 2013
Having watched all the material recently released for the Stones' anniversary, it reminded me I really must read Keith's book. It was very well reviewed at the time, and I can understand why. It reads well, and you can imagine it coming straight from the man himself. The whole story is here, with many insights. He comes across as completely believable, which makes his story so compelling. I had never appreciated the extent to which he is the creative heart of the band. He's mostly very generous to Mick, with just a few putdowns and critical insights. Almost like brothers as well as best mates. There's huge affection for Charlie, and also for Ronnie. Bill doesn't receive much more than a passing mention. And there's much honesty with regard to his feelings for Brian; a complex and troubled character. All in all, it's a fascinating read and an obvious must have for any fan of the music. The surprise after such a life is that he can recall so much, but then he explains why he was able to deal with the drugs and survive. A great insight into the man, the band, and so much more.
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on 1 September 2015
I went into this not expecting much, 'oh, ageing rock star, what has he got to say?' but I ended up reading all 613 pages with real interest and enthusiasm. He writes a lot about songwriting and music-making, in a beautiful, authentic way. And much of it against a background of drugs and violence, BE WARNED I found some of the passages on drug-taking shocking. And even as it rambles and skitters around, it is unexpectedly moving and truthful - I was close to tears at some bits. Everyone with even a passing interest in rock & roll music, what it was like as a young person in the Sixties, how a rock band works and succeeds - this is your book.
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on 3 December 2010
This is the mother lode.

In all of rock 'n' roll writing there are some towering peaks that stand out from a morass of mediocrity: the Gillmans' Alias David Bowie; Peter Guralnick's two volume life of Elvis Presley, Greil Marcus' Mystery Train; pretty much anything by Lester Bangs: all, note, written by professional journalists and, more or less, all from the outside. I can't think of a notable rock autobiography: let's face it, most rock musicians don't have the wit, let alone the resolution, to do it, and those that do (the Dylans, Pages, Waits of the world) have not had the inclination. I suppose they figure, not unreasonably, that what they have to say they've already said.

As a result, even those of the greatest rock biographies have tended to be remote affairs, presenting an external face of their subject, already recognisable to the listening public, and rendering through the prism of a fellow listener. (Bangs perhaps is the exception). But a listener cares more about how the end product sounds than the mechanical process by which it is arrived at: For those of us who've toiled over the years as players and wanted the inside perspective, there's been little to go on: a guitarist's tuning and chord voicings; the licks; the visceral details of how songs were ever devised in the first place are hard to describe remotely. The soul of pop perfection is elusive as a rainbow; hard for an untouched mortal to describe let alone analyse: its genius is its simplicity: under heavyweight intellectual scrutiny the lightness of perfection burns off into space. Messrs Jagger and Richards have few living equals as composers and performers of the perfect rock song.

And what was it like to *be* hooked on smack: to what lengths did you go? What was cold turkey like from the inside?

Traditional reportage stays a respectful distance from these questions. But these things are fascinating: they're the DNA of this great cultural artefact, and many (perhaps even most) of the listeners will, at one time or other, have had a go, and got nowhere.

For those people - people like me: enthusiastic bedroom rockers of decades' standing - this book is like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Keith - a prophet of the new religion - tells it all. And, by gum, it opens your eyes to the brilliance of the Rolling Stones.

Sure: excruciating details about Chuck Berry's riffs (and the depravity of mainline heroin addiction) aren't everyone's cup of tea, but if you've shelled out for Keith Richards' biography in the first place, odds are they will be. But the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards songwriting technique: that they consciously sounded out the right vowels and consonants before fitting words to them - that's fascinating: it explains so well the quality of their material.

Now if this were merely a dry and technical anorak's guide to playing rock 'n' roll, that would be enough for me. But it isn't: it's witty, enlightening, and most of all thoroughly Keef: credit to Richards' co-writer who has managed to resist any tinkering with Richards' unique and affable voice: you sense his role was more of a collater, a prompt and a content organiser: if the individual sentences didn't fall directly from Richards' lips then, in the vernacular, I'm a banana.

The interesting content of a life such as Richards' is inevitably going to tail off as his modus operandi stabilised: the latter half or a rock star's life is simply never going to be as epochal as the first: and so it proves here; by the time the heroin is finally kicked and the only frisson is regular handbags with Mick (Richards is unfailingly amusing on his account of "Brenda"), Keith Richards more or less settles down. But it is still a warm story of a man in his dotage, with his family about, and his own recipe for Bangers and Mash thrown in for good measure (thanks Keith!)

Authentic, funny, enlightening, entertaining, deadpan. Put this one in the same league as Lester Bangs. High praise.

Olly Buxton
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 7 July 2011
This is everything you would expect and more. The wild man of rock writes eloquently about his early life in Dartford, listening to Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, and others; his short career as a choir singer (!), and his rebellion against Authority; his subsequent meeting with Mick Jagger, and the forming of the Rolling Stones.

I was a teenager in the 60's, so grew up with the Stones, and The Beatles, although at school we were expected to show allegiance to one or the other - heaven forbid you could enjoy both! My parents (and I suspect thousands, if not millions of the then "older generation") labelled rock stars as "ignorant, uneducated yobs" unable to string an intelligible sentence together. Keith Richards proves them all wrong. He writes with a warmth and eloquence, which is at times hilarious and surprisingly moving. The style of writing gave me the feeling he was sitting right there, in my comfy armchair, just chatting away - wonderfully warm and witty. The opening chapter relating a drive across Arkansas in a car filled with drugs, and the subsequent court appearance, sets the tone for the book. He covers everything from his addictions, the often uneasy relationship with Brian Jones, whose death is mentioned very briefly, to his stormy friendship with Jagger. He is generous in his praise and admiration of other musicians, but comes across as quite a modest man where his own talents are concerned. Even though he does recognise the fact that he has written some of the greatest rock n' roll riffs of all time, he says he is still learning his craft. It's remarkable that, having ingested the vast amount of booze and drugs, he is still with us and functioning at full tilt - long may it continue.

"Life" is a rambunctious ride through the life of a fascinating man; I loved the book, and have a greater liking and respect for the seemingly indestructible Keith Richards since reading it.
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