can’t read it w/ out a subscription…
anyway you can hit print then in the option “change” hit save to pdf and upload here?
can’t read it w/ out a subscription…
anyway you can hit print then in the option “change” hit save to pdf and upload here?
Oh, weird. I don’t have a subscription either and I was able to read the article. But not anymore.
The article was also on the News app on my iPad so I just copied it and pasted it here.
The Wisdom of Keith Richards - The Wall Street Journal https://apple.news/AqrjzkFn4RnmNOnEAtz0L1A
The Wisdom of Keith Richards
At 74, Keith Richards is still a style icon. And although he’s aware that at some point the music must stop, for now there’s a new album to finish and a tour to plan
By Alan Light
I AIN’T GONNA BE around forever—not even me!”
Keith Richards, shrouded in an ever-present cloud of cigarette smoke, wheezes a laugh when it’s pointed out that many observers, based on evidence to date, disagree with his sense of his own mortality. “Well, yeah,” he says, “it’s between me and the roaches.”
It’s a few days before his 74th birthday. Patti Hansen, his wife of 34 years, is away visiting family, so Richards is home alone at his Connecticut estate with Sugar, a French bulldog, and Ruby Tuesday, a white Maltese. “I’m just here dog-sitting,” he says. “That’s my job today.”
The Rolling Stones guitarist sits at a simple table in the corner of a glass-enclosed room off his kitchen. He’s wearing an open black shirt covered with lightning bolts, draped over a black T-shirt, with jeans tucked into Ugg-style boots. He makes no attempt to hide his wrinkles, but he looks fit, focused, in good fighting shape.
The stuff scattered in front of him could be a Keith Richards starter kit: a pack of Marlboro Reds; playing cards, dominoes and a buck knife; stacks of CDs, including box sets of Mozart and Chuck Berry; and a copy of James Norman Hall’s 1940 story collection Doctor Dogbody’s Leg, in which a Royal Navy surgeon spins a series of tall tales about how he lost his leg during the Napoleonic Wars.
It’s a placid domestic scene for the most celebrated outlaw in rock ’n’ roll history—the swashbuckling “Keef” swigging from whiskey bottles, snorting and swallowing drugs that would kill a weaker man, running from the law, writing the “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” riff in his sleep; the earthshaking songwriter and musician who confirmed most of his infamous mythology in 2010’s best-selling, no-holds-barred memoir, Life. Writing the book almost wrecked him, he says, but it didn’t mark the end of the road. In fact, Richards claims that the group’s most recent performances—12 European stops last fall—were as good as they’ve ever been in the Stones’ unprecedented 56-year career. “I think the band is sounding better than it ever has,” he says. “Does it matter now? To us, it does.
“There’s a certain thing in this band, which I find really weird, is that they just want to do it. Some nights we’re better than others, of course, but all I know about this damn band is that they always want to make it better than the night before. And that’s one of the things that keeps us going. I actually wanted four or five more shows—it stopped just as we were peaking.” (The next tour starts in May, 11 shows kicking off in Ireland and followed by dates across the U.K. and Europe.)
Perhaps even more notable for the band’s multiple generations of fans, the Rolling Stones have been working on a new album off and on for more than two years (over that span, according to producer Don Was, they’ve spent about three weeks total in the studio). It would be their first record of original material since 2005’s A Bigger Bang. Richards seems pleased with the direction it’s headed, though he presents no real sense of urgency—he expects that by the time everyone regroups after the winter holidays, it will be months before they get back to work.
“I’m going to sound like Trump—‘It will happen; don’t worry about it’—but it’s in the early stages,” he says. “We have some stuff down, which is very interesting,” but he then adds that travel with their respective families during the winter holiday season means he and Mick Jagger will not be in contact for a while. “It’s more difficult for us to write together the further apart we are, but it also has its benefits in that we come back to it from a different angle.”
Don Was, who has worked with the band since the ’90s, expresses enthusiasm over what they’ve done so far. “The songwriting that Keith and Mick did last year was really something to behold,” he says. “The three of us sat in a room, with them facing each other, five feet apart, with guitars, and there’s something magical that happens that’s still as fresh as when they started.”
Whether the Rolling Stones are recording or not, Richards says that his songwriter’s brain is always engaged. “Writing songs, you don’t get a minute off, not even to sleep,” he says. “You wake up in the middle of the night with a couple of notes in your head, and you’ve got to get out of bed and figure it out. It’s like being incontinent—either you’ve got to take a pee, or you’ve got to lay this little line down.
“So you get up, go to the piano or the guitar and hope it sticks. I don’t record shit. If I don’t remember it, it’s no good. I’ll wait for the wife or one of the daughters and see if they start to sing it without knowing it.”
He is well aware, though, that it’s a long way from the ’60s, when the Stones were chasing the Beatles up the pop charts and cranked out 13 top-10 U.K. singles (including eight No. 1s) in just over five years. “There was different pressure at that time,” he says. “You had to write a hit song every three months, which is a damn mill to go through. Now I have the pleasure and the luxury of taking as long as I like. I’ve got songs on the burner that are 15 years old. I’m still not satisfied with them.”
Richards pays minimal attention to pop music or new technology. “I don’t know if streaming isn’t just a speeded-up version of what we did with 45s,” he says. “That was pretty much the same rat race. You’ve got to say it all in two minutes and 30 seconds.”
Among the new stars, Ed Sheeran gets his passing approval. Taylor Swift? “Good luck, girl—wish her well while it lasts.” But Richards adds that no one should take his thoughts on these matters too seriously. “I’ve just been around too long to be picking the bones out of kids,” he says. “It wouldn’t be fair of me, and I’ve always been an opinionated bastard anyway. And I never did really like pop music—even when I became pop music, I was listening to the blues and jazz and not interested in the hits.”
He does single out one younger performer from those who joined the Stones onstage during a U.S. tour a few years ago. “Lady Gaga’s good; she’s got real talent,” he says, comparing her to another recent favorite, Amy Winehouse. “Hey, if Tony Bennett likes her, how are you going to argue with Mr. Bennett?”
THE RICHARDS HOME, about an hour-or-so drive from Manhattan, sits behind two sets of gates; as you climb up the driveway, you pass various outbuildings before the main house rises out of the woods. Richards built the structure he’s referred to as Camelot Costalot in 1990, and it would be classified as a traditional, old-school Connecticut manor were it not painted in Mediterranean hues of orange, pink and blue.
Inside, the rooms are a range of dramatic colors. The walls are covered with photographs of Richards and supermodel Hansen at work, and many family portraits; in addition to the couple’s daughters, Theodora and Alexandra, Richards has a son, Marlon, and a daughter, Angela, from his relationship with the late Anita Pallenberg, and the clan now includes five grandchildren.
The house and three generations of Richardses are very much the center of his life today. “We’ve really gone into grandma and grandpa mode,” Hansen later tells me by phone. “It’s very relaxed. We love being in Connecticut, with each other, having the family around all the time and enjoying this time of our life.”
Though the last full-scale Rolling Stones tour, from 2005 to 2007, is the second-highest-grossing tour of all time (it was subsequently surpassed by U2), since then the band has structured its outings into shorter, more localized bursts—a few weeks at a time in South America or Europe or Australia. With these more manageable hops, whatever debauchery a Stones tour might conjure, both Richards and Hansen now talk about the road as an opportunity for them to be with each other.
“It’s more time with the old lady,” he says. “She’s always with me—‘I can’t let you out by yourself!’ I need all the support I can get, and the old lady is numero uno support.”
“It’s probably more fun now because it’s just Keith and me and the dog,” says Hansen. “The kids are all older, so we don’t have to deal with school and all that. Touring now is just time for us to be together.”
This bond between the couple even extends to Richards’s signature visual style, the ragged-but-right, heavily accessorized patchwork that inspired his friend Johnny Depp’s vision of Jack Sparrow’s attire for the Pirates of the Caribbean series, landed Richards a spot in a Louis Vuitton campaign and prompted designer Hedi Slimane to create an ensemble of “Keith” pieces for Saint Laurent. The guitarist offers a simple explanation for his look.
“I think most of the reason that people think I have style is because I wear my old lady’s clothes,” he says. “I’ve always done that—‘Oh, he’s so stylish!’ Patti and I wear the same size, so I take this one and this one.”
“Around the house, we’re always wearing each other’s pajamas, silks and satins and comfies,” says Hansen. “He’s definitely the flamboyant one in the family. He can make anything work—he finds a piece of ribbon lying around and knows what to do with it.”
Adorned with the famous skull ring, various bracelets and bangles, and a multicolored headband (though his thatch of hair, now gone fully white, is too thin to hold the trinkets and baubles that used to be braided into it), Richards denies giving too much thought to matters of fashion. “It’s totally unmanufactured; that’s the thing,” he says. “Improvisation—that is style, in all things. I honestly admit that I look to see what the other guys are wearing and wear the opposite. If they’re dressing up, I dress down. But I never thought about it; it was only other people that pointed out to me, ‘That’s a great look.’ So maybe style is unconscious.”
In the 21st century so far, Richards’s greatest accomplishment—maybe more than the music, though the latter-day Stones records tend to be underrated—was the publication of Life. Somehow the book (which he and author James Fox worked on for five years) managed to both enhance his reputation as the hardest-living, freest spirit in rock and also reveal the thoughtful, well-read man behind the myth. Reviews were ecstatic, it topped the New York Times bestseller list, and the audio version (read in part by Johnny Depp) was named audiobook of the year by the Audio Publishers Association. Life even received the prestigious Norman Mailer Prize for biography.
“Writing that book almost killed me, man,” says the author, lighting another cigarette. “By the time I’d gone through the entire career, I felt like I’d died twice. You don’t realize—you think, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll tell you this, and then that happened, and dah dah dah,’ and at the same time, you actually relive it all yourself. It took me a couple of years to recover from that.”
“The book recalibrated a lot of people’s thinking about who he is,” says drummer Steve Jordan, who has worked with Richards since the ’80s and co-produced his last solo album, 2015’s Crosseyed Heart. “There’s such a preconceived notion about his persona—he’s been misrepresented for a long time, and the book gave a sense of what he’s really like and what a brilliant guy he is. I think he saw that he was appreciated, and that put him in a good place—he’s a lot more relaxed since then.”
“It took a big weight off his shoulders to get that done,” says Hansen. “It was very heart-wrenching, bringing all that up, and Keith doesn’t really like talking about himself.”
“I’m glad to get a lot off my chest, and I was amazed by the response that it got,” says Richards. “I like the way that it worked out. But it’s a hell of a thing trying to tell your story and still trying to protect your friends and neighbors at the same time.
“I could be really cute and say I’m thinking about a second one. But I ain’t gonna go through that again.”
IN DECEMBER 2015, the Rolling Stones went into British Grove Studios in London, a space in which they had never worked before, to start on the new album. “I knew Mick had a couple of songs, and I had a few,” says Richards. “But it was a new studio, so I called Ronnie Wood and I said, ‘Get down this Little Walter track called “Blue and Lonesome”—we’ll have that in our pocket in case the new stuff isn’t working out in the new room.’
“Sure enough, we get there and the new stuff is not working out in the new room—we’re still looking for the sound. So I said, ‘Ron, “Blue and Lonesome.” ’ Suddenly the room comes alive and we have a take. Then Mick turns around and says, ‘Let me try this Howlin’ Wolf one.’ And in five days, we’d cut the whole damn thing.”
The result was an album they titled Blue & Lonesome, the first time the Stones made an entire record dedicated to the Chicago blues that initially inspired them. The spirited, spontaneous performances captured a side of the band that many fans thought had long been lost, and it sold well (for a project so decisively not aimed at a pop market) and in January won a Grammy in the best traditional blues album category.
“The success of the blues album went beyond anyone’s expectations,” says co-producer Don Was. “I think it brought back an awareness that when they do something great, people really respond to it.”
“The blues record I’m really, really proud of,” says Richards. “It was something that had to be done—it took the Stones full circle. This is a f—ing blues band, and the height of our ambition was to be the best blues band in London. We were just trying to turn London on to the blues, and believe it or not, we turned America back on to the blues. Everything else is basically gravy, because we brought the music back from somewhere else and sent it back home.”
After the sessions, though, the music on Blue & Lonesome wasn’t the problem; the issue was convincing the lead singer that they should release it, which took several months. “Mick is a great performer, but can he pick the wrong ones,” says Richards, rolling his eyes. “He said, ‘Oh, we shouldn’t put out a blues album.’ So it took a bit of arm-bending. It’s funny when guys are so good at what they do—he’s a genius harp player, a genius blues singer. Because it just comes off of their hip like that, they think nothing of it. Talent is one thing; recognizing you’ve got it is another.”
The tension between Jagger and Richards is by now the stuff of rock ’n’ roll legend, and it seems it will follow them to their graves. “Mick’s a randy old bastard,” says Richards about his writing partner’s becoming a father for the eighth time just over a year ago, at age 73. “It’s time for the snip—you can’t be a father at that age. Those poor kids!”
As for the comments he made about Jagger in Life—such as calling his bandmate “unbearable” or mocking the sex symbol’s “tiny todger”—he has no regrets. “Mick and I would have spats anyway, no matter what I said in the book, and I left a lot out,” he says. But, he adds, “Mick and I live off of this fire between us.”
Mick and Keith—they’ve known each other practically their whole lives, and the contrasts are presented in terms that are almost Shakespearean: Mick is strategic, Keith is impulsive; Mick is the head, Keith is the heart. (“I read these things always,” Jagger once said, “ ‘Mick’s the one calculating; Keith’s passionate.’ But, I mean, I’m really passionate about getting things right.”) But from this friction comes the spark that drives the most definitive rock ’n’ roll band of all time.
“They’re two really different guys, and that’s what makes it so powerful,” says Was. “It’s like a rubber band pulled really tight. When you release it, it goes flying—that creative tension is what makes it so enduring. They understand that something special happens when the two of them get together. The cognizance of that magic that only comes from the two of them can be frustrating, but also really powerful.”
Whatever differences exist between the Glimmer Twins, whatever fights still arise five decades later, Richards makes his allegiance to his group crystal clear. “It’s been up- and downhill,” he says, “but if I’m talking about the Rolling Stones, there ain’t a frontman like Jagger. Don’t matter how many bones you want to pick out of him, he’s amazing to work with.
“I find it an interesting challenge to write for Mick,” he continues. “There’s no point in my giving him a song that’s beyond his range or that he’s not comfortable with. What I really like to do is write a song where Mick goes, ‘Yeah, right, I’m in!’ That’s what I try and do, because I’m writing for the lead singer of the Rolling f—ing Stones, and that is my job—to give him a riff that he leaps on and goes, ‘Right, I know what to do with this.’ ”
“Keith loves his band,” says Steve Jordan. “He’s very proud of his band; he feels it’s the best band in the world, and he’s still very committed to it. And I think he’s even better now. His writing keeps evolving, and that’s what you hope for when you’re an artist.”
No band has lasted as long as the Rolling Stones. Every day they go on, they are creating a new blueprint. In the late ’80s, their record-breaking concerts behind the Steel Wheels album were widely mocked as the “Steel Wheelchairs” tour; incredibly, that jaunt now falls in the first half of their career.
Richards thinks about how it all started, when he was just a kid dreaming of getting out of his London suburb. “I had no idea I was a songwriter,” he says. “I wasn’t sitting down and trying to be Gershwin. I can’t read a note of music. It’s all in the ears and from the heart—that’s all it is. I can’t believe I pulled it off, really.
“I’ve been so lucky, I don’t believe it,” he continues. “I’m sure I’m going to pay in the next life. Hell is really going to be hell for me. I don’t know why I’ve been given all this. You couldn’t dream it up, man, you couldn’t write it.”
And soon, back to work. More shows to play, more songs to chase. The Rolling Stones must go on, for the generation that grew up with them and the generations that don’t know a world without them.
“Now, there’s the air that you breathe, there’s the water you drink, and there’s the f—ing Rolling Stones,” says Richards. “We’ve been here forever—that’s the weirdest thing, ‘Oh, they’ve always been there.’ Wait till they’re gone, pal.”
Appears in the March 10, 2018, print edition. The online version of this article was updated after press time to include the Rolling Stones’ recent announcement of tour dates.
Read about this the other day.
I didn’t know they were a couple. Did anyone?
I remember reading about them being a couple when he divorced his wife.
Here’s an old People magazine article:
Wow, they made Old People magazine!
hopefully they don’t have a baby.
Yeah. David Crosby had some pretty strong words about it - that he immediately regretted.
Not expecting much out of this film. I love Neil but his movies and videos are always directionless.
Wait until Ryan finds out…
Oh, this could get ugly.
Old guy fight!
Just saw this on Twitter. Curious what your answers would be.
Even on some of my favorite albums there’s sometimes a track I’d skip like on Cold Roses or Southeastern for example. My first thought was to go with The Black Crowes: southern Harmony but someone else said that. So I went with Counting Crows: August and Everything After.
What would you pick?
My apologies if this has been posted elsewhere. Shit, I would go to this if I could get a ticket, book some time off and get a flight. I love New Orleans.