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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 9 October 2011
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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on 11 March 2016
Keith Richards’ autobiography starts really well and holds that momentum for a long time; although when it reaches the period covering the Eighties it does fall somewhat into score settling, and after that becomes somewhat bland and without spark. As such you have to hand it to this book, it really does mirror The Rolling Stones’ career.

Ghost writer James Fox does a fantastic job of catching his master’s voice. No doubt Keef was sat down in front of a microphone and told to talk about his life into tape after tape after tape, but from there Fox has managed to create a seamless narrative whilst rendering the subject’s personality. It really does seem as if Keith Richards is talking to you, sharing all his best anecdotes in his avuncular growl – all the time throwing around such terms as ‘cat’, ‘babe’, ‘bitch’ and so on. (I imagine the audiobook of this would be a real treat.) There are some odd points: for example, the book never addresses the fact that for the first fifteen years of his career Keith Richards was known as Keith Richard. I always assumed that Andrew Loog Oldman (their then manager) tipping his cap to the far softer British rock’n’roll icon Cliff Richard. But there is no real tackling of The Peter Pan of Pop, apart from Keith seeming to take glee in Cliff’s run of British hits ending when he decided to record a Jagger/Richards track.

Part of the problem with this book losing steam is that I think Richards appreciates that after ‘Start Me Up’, the Stones never produced another great song. As such those later sessions do not have the attention to detail that he gives to ‘Exile on Main Street’ or ‘Let It Bleed’. He does however give a spirited defence against charges of the band selling out with their mega-tours, just saying that they want to play music and this is the best way to do it. And after spending six hundred pages with the man, it’s hard to begrudge him that love of performing. Particularly as the majority of people who buy this book will certainly consider buying a ticket the next time the Stones hit the road
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on 14 June 2011
My brother read this book as a lifelong Stones fan and told me some of the more interesting stories so I thought I would give it a go whilst on holiday. Keith's story is interesting in itself, but perhaps more so was the backdrop of the times he has lived through and people and places he has visited.

The pluses for me:
1. The early years growing up in post-war Britain (sets the scene in rather stark contrast to the later decadence)
2. Seeing how they filled a music vacuum in the early sixties
3. Hearing about the swinging sixties in London and how small and classless the set was
4. That I know enough of the Stones music to have had the most recent mentioned song going around my head after reading of it (until the early 80s)
5. The book more or less ends at 1980, saving us from the dull years

The minuses:
1. It seemed like he is trying too hard to prove his music credentials throughout - surely his record speaks for itself?
2. The 'This is your Life' way he inserts stories from other people - do we really need a story from Kate Moss about spring onions, or is he just name dropping?
3. That he 'is' a gangster - yawn, isn't that what minders are for?
4. From early on he is at war with the establishment (even when Mick gets his knighthood) as it is them against the Stones, but he primarily lives in the USA - sell out?

So three stars for a good, but not great, read.
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on 27 February 2016
Keef doesn't disappoint in this sometimes eye opener of a memoir. I can remember seeing the Stones as a supporting group and have been a fan since then and I'm amazed that he's still on this planet, having spent quite a lot of time off it. He comes across as a really nice bloke and obviously loves his music. I sometimes felt a bit lost at the musical references as I don't play an instrument but his enthusiasm kept me reading even though most of it was beyond me. His loyalty and admiration for his fellow musicians really shone through and I've re listened to old Stones albums since with a different 'ear'.
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on 9 April 2013
This is a rollicking good read...full of gossip and re-telling of famous incidents that are the stuff of rock and roll legend. But Keith Richards brings much more to the table here: sensitive and affectionate recollections of a Dartford childhood and the family members who inspired and encouraged his early love of music. He comes across as rather wise - someone who hasn't lost his head on the road to fame and riches. Yes, there is epic drug abuse, and he chronicles this with honesty and sometimes wry humour. But throughout the book it is clear that, for Keith Richards, the journey has never been primarily about the money, the women, the hedonism or the celebrity. It has been about the music. I love the ending, and how he brings his story right back to Dartford with the passing of his mother and a delightful memory of her 'first review' of his music. I closed the book thinking..."I like this man."
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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 6 May 2011
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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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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on 22 August 2012
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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on 16 April 2016
What a man! What a survivor! What a good piece of literature! What a pain in the arse! This is without doubt one of the best exposés of a rock star's existence. Keith presents his life warts and all with refreshing candour and a surfeit of expletives. You love him and you loathed him at the same time, but you cannot deny his talent, self-belief, drive, dedication and sheer tenacity. A great read.
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