Sunday, July 10, 2011

Keith Richards In My Passenger Seat (A review of the LIFE Audibook)

Even without knowing Keith Richards' book, LIFE has topped the New York Times' Bestseller List or continues to rank high on the Amazon lists, the man, his craft and milieu fascinate me so much, I eagerly awaited its release date--October 26th, 2010.  I held out until Christmas last year to get myself the perfect Christmas present:  the LIFE audio book.  Narrated by one of Keith Richard's good friends, Mr. Johnny Depp and rock musician Joe Hurley. 

The audio book comes in a set of 20 discs--19 of them tell the story while one contains pdf files.  I perpetually had those discs in my car and while I had that book playing, I did not mind the traffic one bit.  During those days when I'd be driving myself and I'd be listening, it would honestly feel like Keith was in the car with me, telling me stories of his life.   Anecdote after anecdote, I never would want him to end.  I would often arrive at my destination and go, "just one more track" and stay in the car a bit longer.

As far as rock memoirs go, this one stands a head and shoulders above so much of the clutter.  A good number of them basically tell the rudimentary tale of that rise to fame, the copious drugs, adulation and women, an internal downfall of sorts followed by redemption:  quitting the drugs and possibly finding that one woman that makes you want to be a better person--yeah I've read a few.  LIFE is exceptionally intelligent, beautiful and brilliant.  Richards takes us to his childhood--an only child growing up in Dartford, to his discovery of music via his mother and grandfather, Gus who encouraged him learn how to play "Malaguena"--"If you can play Malaguena, you can play anything."

From there we go to the struggling early days with Mick and Brian, to his absolute love of the blues.  How for extended periods of time, it would be nothing but the blues playing in that apartment the group shared.  While I have never attempted to play the guitar, I nevertheless enjoyed all the stories he had about getting creating certain sounds or getting a certain riff down, about "open G tuning."  He talks about it with so much passion, it is immediately obvious how much he adores his craft, how much he adores everything that goes with the creation of music.  He tells the story of how he wrote the song "Satisfaction" and how most of the time, the simplest of set ups mixed with creative ingenuity and serendipitous magic can produce greatest of music.

Keith has stories of the road, of being a first time father to his son Marlon, of the scrapes and accidents he's been involved in, of his Bentley, "Blue Lena," of his time in Jamaica where he continues to have a home and where he met the group now known as the "Wingless Angels," his friendship with musicians like Graham Parker and John Lennon, his court cases and how New Music Express kept naming him the rock star most likely to die for a period of ten years. These are just tales off the top of my head.  

One likewise gains insight into the love-hate relationship between him and Mick Jagger.  However, through all the violent fights, squabbles, and disagreements they continue, as one writer put it, to be "brothers."  The Rolling Stones are still The Rolling Stones.

Richards has a clever and colorful way of speaking and this is put out there wonderfully by Depp and Hurley.  Richards' voice however starts and ends the book.  LIFE, the audio book, is a true gem.  I almost hated having to wrap it up.  God bless you, Keith.