The Book of Keef

What other could the title of Keith Richards’ autobiography be than: Life. He is the man who didn’t die. (Although at times he’s looked like Death has forgotten him.)

pic from

For the last few days the man has me enthralled with his anecdotes and stories. Many myths are uncovered (Marianne Faithful and a Mars bar anyone?) but still his life (or where I am now, half-way through the book) is almost unbelievable. For instance, the matter of factness with which he talks about his drug use, albeit with a very PC disclaimer. (The”I don’t recommend it to anyone…but I was pretty good at it” variation.)

It was a different time of course: the ‘long hair’ the Stones rocked wouldn’t turn heads these days. Someone carrying a slab of hash the size of a skateboard down the streets of London probably would. (“I wouldn’t even wrap it up.”)

He describes all the wild parties and mentions the huge entourage, so many hanger-ons who he doesn’t even really know. He seems very laid back about the fact that all these people are using all kinds of drugs in his house, whilst his son is toddling along with them. I guess the fact both he and his lady were hooked at the time, kind of helped dissolve the annoyance of plucking people from your bathroom-floor.

Perhaps ‘laid-back’ best describes his lifestyle, illustrated by many examples: an accidental (or not so accidental) girlfriend-swap… Ah yeah, just one of those things.  A car accident that takes him and his pregnant girlfriend down: well, that was a bit worrying but hey-ho the baby was fine. Shooting a gun in a full room to make people shut-up: that was on drugs and he doesn’t do that anymore – besides nobody came upstairs to complain, did they?

The one thing that becomes very clear throughout this book is his love for music. You often hear people say: “I don’t do it for the money,” only to rake it in with magazine photo-shoots. This time I actually believe it: Keith is a man obsessed with music. From the day he listened to songs on the radio as a kid and tried to replay them, to the Stones’ hay-days when he was constantly looking to make the sound better: different tuning, 5 strings… He also became apt at covering other musicians when they flaked; trying to save the songs. More significantly perhaps, he constantly utters his respect for other great musicians: no matter how known or unknown.

At the time of writing, he obviously still enjoys writing and playing music, and he still gets a buzz out of performing.

So even for a clean-cut lady like myself, Keith is a surprising inspiration for living life. He’s a man who simply loves what he is doing in life, which might well be the reason why Death has left him alone. In any case, it makes his autobiography an enormous pleasure to read!

One thought on “The Book of Keef

  1. Laugh out loud moments for me included his description of “Stash” the exiled Russian aristocrat: the patter of mysticism, the talk of ancient knowledge . . . all employed in the service of the leg-over. How gullible are the ladies”. And on having to give up cocaine after his head injury: “Didn’t bother me. I’ve done so much of it over the years, it sort of gave up me.”.
    But what made the book for me was the love. Of his friends, his family, and his music. When all else around him was a maelstrom of ego-driven bullshit, Keith demonstrates a sense of honesty and humility, quite at odds with the contrived image of the louche minstrel. What a great friend he would be – just don’t touch his shepherds pie!!

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