keef is the word.
I confess to being a sucker for a rock biography — the excess and schadenfruede are irresistible. Every year I take one on summer holiday, and 2011 was no exception. Shunning the anticipatory delights of Michael Bracewell’s ‘Roxy: the Band That Invented An Era’, and Chris Salewicz’s ‘BobMarley: The Untold Story’, I was drawn the hottest new bio on the block. That’s right… Keith Richards’ ‘Life’.
Above: More than a glimmer: a memory like an elephant
At 600-plus pages, it’s a bit of a doorstop, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. On the back cover, Keef archly informs us “Believe it or not, I haven’t forgotten any of it”, and to be fair, he’s very sharp on the early years, though fuzzier as time wears on. The book splits roughly into three: childhood, forming the band and success; the lost, drugged-out years; settling down, family life and Rolling Stones the brand. The writing is credited to the man himself (with James Fox), and clearly there’s a lot of transcripted material in here, because you can really hear Keef speaking. What comes across is someone who’s hugely dedicated to what he does (at times the book gets deeply technical about guitar playing), and always wears his heart on his piratical sleeve. He’s surprisingly funny, open, self-deprecating and intelligent. And although he runs out of steam at the end (and starts dishing out recipes for bangers and mash), this is right up there with the best in genre. Actually, you’d expect nothing less.