Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Slogging Through Life

As I reach just passed the halfway point of the Keith Richards' tome, I've decided that I've read enough to complain. Sure, it's HIS life and book. But man Keef, if you're gonna drop musical bombs, you can't just leave us hanging.

If you knew that "Brown Sugar" was all Mick's, then God bless you, because I didn't. So was "Moonlight Mile." For real. I was also delighted to find out that one of my favorite Stones songs "Surprise, Surprise" from one of my favorite Stones' albums, "Now," was all Keith.  This is the type of stuff that gets casual mention, while the size of Marianne Faithful's tits, or a trip to Morocco with Anita Pallenberg and a man called Achmed Hole-In-Head gets more air time than the Deer Hunter wedding reception.

Early on, it's Brian this, and Brian that, and Brian plays this, and Brain snorts that. Then, as you see 1969 in your rear view mirror, it's "Oh yeah, Brian's dead now." NEXT!

"Life," the book, feels like a collection of demos. Passages go on too long, never quite gelling. Great ideas seem to be left for later overdubbing. It's appropriately addictive, yet never quite satisfying.

I am at the point where the band is about to record "Exile On Main Street." Too bad the hype surrounding the deluxe edition of the CD pretty much covered everything, otherwise I'd be jonesin' for some first hand shit. We'll see. There's another 300 pages to come.

Of course, I can't escape the need for a soundtrack when I read about the music I love, so I've been shuffling the Stones library with great enthusiasm....and I found something good.

Recorded at Madison Square Garden on the 13th of September, in the year 2005, presumably by some guy with 2 stealth microphones crammed happily into his Orioles cap, or unhappily into somewhere worse, here is a version of "19th Nervous Breakdown" that I absolutely love.

The recording is marred by the usual drunken yappers. But it is fine enough to hear a band, 40 years after the fact, still hitting the groove that makes the Rolling Stones the Rolling Stones.

I love this recording. It's not the arrangement you'd expect. That's what makes it special. And don't even get me started on Charlie, who is still carrying this band.



Shriner said...

You are farther along than I am (Brian is still alive), but I tend to agree on your review of this so far. I'm guessing Keith has certain events burned into his head -- and that's what the book presents.

So it's about what I expected. Frankly, considering his recreational hobbies, I'm surprised this much was retained.

(Though, I guess, if all you do in your life is make music and live that lifestyle -- that's what you'd remember, so maybe it's *not* surprising.)

A read to skip is Pat Benatar's book -- apart from some relatively early sexism in her career, her life just wasn't that interesting (apart from the fact that it appears you *can* have a successful career in Rock & Roll without getting hooked on smack, etc...)

steve simels said...

"Moonlight Mile" is, of course, the greatest Stones track that not only did Keith not write but he's not even playing on.

But "Brown Sugar" is all Mick? Really? Even the cool open-G guitar riff?

Sal Nunziato said...

Especially that riff.

Eric said...

as I read LIFE from the library, I had to read quickly, but still paid7 days in past due fines.as I told you the book gets beter after page 300, now we know wild horses was written for marlon, not gram parsons and that keef not mick wrote angie for his daughter not angela bowie...IT GETS BETTER , I WON't INClude vignettes so I don' ruin the surprises but us stone freaks wanna hear about the musical truths more than the personal asides, though Doris seemed like a hip mum and grandad ernie was a mad socialist.

are you sure on that stones date? They did MSG Jan. 18/20th of 06'. This might be meadowlands....sal,fyi, the 1/20/06 was stunningly the best I ever heard them...very evil,satanic show

Dan Levy said...

Eric, I was also at that 1/20/06 MSG show and agree it was surprisingly great! Music was played that night.

Sal Nunziato said...

Got my ticket stubs. One from 9/13 and one 1/17. Missed 1/20.

Anonymous said...

I won't be reading it until after Xmas (please Santa) so until then, what about Marianne Faithfull's tits? Don't make me wait!

mpjedi2 said...

Personally, I loved the book. It was like sitting down with Keith and listening to him ramble. Honestly, I would figure the book was written based on tapes of just that, what with the credited co-writer.

Still, it strikes me as far more honest and personal than something that feels polished and well thought-out. Yeah, there's stuff that gets dropped like a bomb, and then...on to the next thing. I just imagine that Keith had very little else to say.

But yeah...Brown Sugar as Micks was kinda mind blowing.

Anything Should Happen said...

How do Sal.

I've caught up with lots and lots of reading over the past week or so and most of it hasn't been great.

Wall to wall music (auto)biographies here and most are just self serving and sycophantic.

Bands / Artists that I love largely have dull lives and I was quite looking forward to KR's but you have it nailed.

Re-read Bill Bruford's book wonderful at times but veering off all over the place.

Gave up on the new crop and returned to some old faves, Shakey, Philip Norman's Shout, Hammer Of The Gods, Hoople's All The Young Dudes.

One that I enjoyed immensely even though I wasn't that struck on the band was Holly Johnson's Bone In My Flute and the Lydon book is self serving at it's height but wonderfully bitchy.

William S. Repsher said...

Keith also mentioned "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was Mick's song -- hard to believe.

But the book is a middling rock read. Some is outright BS, stating Altamont was just another gig -- watch Gimme Shelter, look at Keith's face, this was not just another gig, as he and the band were clearly scared shitless, and for good reason. I much prefer romps like Spanish Tony's book or Stanley Booth's.

Oddly enough, and directly opposed to the arc of most good rock bios, the book starts out great with the early pre-fame days and gets more tiresome during the classic years. Brian Jones is treated as a pest, then an after-thought. You get the impression Keith knew very little about him once the power shifted to him and Mick as the creative forces. Mick Taylor was given short shrift, too -- a few nice compliments, but that's all.

I get the vibe of someone who became so used to being the center of attention for decades that he's not very capable of real self analysis. Would have thought Mick would be more prone to that, but he seems to be inhabiting the same rock star bubble himself.

Peter Ames Carlin said...

I'm like 90 percent of the way through. Some parts I absolutely love - the stuff about his childhood; the amazingly vibrant descriptions of certain songs and riffs, and the way it FEELS to play them, and why certain tunings lead to certain kinds of riffs/songs you'd never dream of while playing in standard tuning. All that is magical, and so are the details on how the band came together, and what their earliest, sketchiest gigs were like.

Then they get famous, then he gets seriously into his powders, and it's like.....bzzzzzzz. It's all rote. Like he got bored around p. 250 or so, and just kind of muttered the rest of it.

Here are my top beefs on Keef's "Life"

1. Once the band comes together he never, really ever, gets into their musical/personal chemistry. Never once describe's Bill's personality, other than tossing some random gripes about how shallow he is. He has nearly nothing to say about Mick T (oh, he's shallow, too) and tho he obviously loves Charlie, he has nearly nothing to say about him, either. Mick J? Too fucking bossy. End of story. Wouldn't it be interesting if thought a little more deeply about his brother-in-music? If he put himself into Mick's shoes, say, and tried to figure why control is as important to the guy as it obviously is? And how bitterly pissed he must have been at Keith's decade-long heroin odyssey? I think so.

2. As Sal already noticed, he builds toward massive events -- Brian's death, say; Altamont; a legion of other triumphs, catastrophes, etc -- and then forgets about them save for a kind of shrugged off, 'Oh, and that happened, too."

3. How about some decent description of the 'Exile' songs? Or some of the underrated albums ("Black & Blue," say. . .one of my secret faves in their catalogue). How about details on how sessions would progress, and how the weave of personalities/talents made them what they were?

4. And the Chuck Berry show! We already knew he tried to fuck up everything they'd done by changing keys and arrangements on the spot. What else was going on? How about adding an original element to that tale?

5. And really, if you came within a whisker of breaking up the Stones permanently in '88/'89....this is stuff your readers really, really want to know about. Some additional details -- maybe even a full narrative set-piece -- would be so groovy.

Bonus Beef (for the extended play re-release): What's with all these critics calling it one of the best non-fiction books of the year? Maybe 300 pages of it fit that description. But there's like 400, 500 other pages, and they're often awkward, flat and just sorta zzzzzzz. But go ahead. Paint it white! Paint it white, you devils!

Sal Nunziato said...

Actually Peter, I'm pretty sure Keith mentions Bill and Charlie exactly twice in the first 300 pages.

You could argue that this isn't a book about the Stones, but more to the point is that what he's chosen not to expound on is exactly what I want to hear.

ssspune said...

Oooh, LOVE that version of "19th!" Thank you, and thank you for your review, too. (I'm new to your blog, btw--it's awesome!) I think I have to go back to the book again with a more critical eye--I sped-read through like it was going to be taken away and I'd be left jonesing in the corner...hence, it was like being adrift in a cloud of Keith-isms--those little snippets of poetry, i.e. when he describes being lead by dogs through miles of fog on the way home as a kid, or when he talks about the kitten he rescued. Corn-ball stuff perfect for an animal lover like me, but won't earn me much cred on a blog like this. (Ooops!) Thanks again!

Eric said...

he liked Bill's amp more than Bill.
he did pursue Charlie and his affection for him runs deep in book.
He does point out that our great guitar hero Mick T. was a morose soul---that made me look again at all video/film and Taylor never got animated at all--i guess we never noticed because his playing blinded us by its power...but i've only seen one geetuarist move less on stage than taylor--billy zoom of X.

Keef was very fond of Ian Stew....

After 40 years, Altamont may have meant more to music/culture heads than keef----

where's the video of him copping smack on rivington street?

Jeff in Denton TX said...

The revelation about "Brown Sugar" being Mick's was actually not a surprise to me. I read it years ago, thanks to Fred Bronson's "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits."
This is newer than the 1985 first edition I own.

I haven't yet attempted to read Keith's book. Your review may sway me.