“…the soundtrack for the rumbling of rebellion” – thoughts on “Life” by Keith Richards

I know this book is largely only about “sex drugs and rock-n-roll,” but I like it. While it didn’t quite give me the level of satisfaction I hoped for (I got a bigger bang out of Eric Clapton’s autobiography for example) I still got a lot out of it. I was late getting started on this book – which my book club is meeting to discuss tonight – but having taken some vacation days this week, you might say time was on my side. 🙂 (please don’t groan yet, I’m just getting started!).

With the way my book club picks books to read, you can’t always get (read) what you want, but this was a book I had my eye on anyway, and I was happy when one of my fellow members put it on our bookshelf and even happier when another picked it as our May book. I do have some mixed emotions about it though, and I know some girls who read it will likely condemn him as a misogynist (he often refers to them as “bitches”). It did shine a light on a lot of previously unknown (to me, anyway) incidents, and there were some passages where wild horses couldn’t drag me away from it. I had no illusions that were shattered during my reading and this morning – since it’s all over now – I’m finally ready to write about it… Okay. Enough silliness trying to work Stones song titles, etc. into this post; (how many did you spot, by the way?) let’s get to a “review.” 🙂

“Life” by Keith Richards

It seems allowances are often made for geniuses. I guess that’s one way a fan (such as I) can forgive bad behavior on the part of musical geniuses such as Keith Richards. There’s a lot in this book to be disgusted by, most notably his many years spent as a junkie, and his tendency to abandon or discard certain women in his life (at least until he met and married Patti Hansen), yet you can’t help liking him in spite of it all. And make no mistake, Keith Richards is also a very intelligent man; don’t believe all the drugged-out rocker stereotyped images you might have of him. One of my favorite pictures in the appendix of the book is of him in his vast library at his Connecticut home. I envied him when I saw that.

This is a book where the author seems as equally at ease dispensing recipes (bangers and mash, anyone?) as he is dispensing advice on the important art of knife fighting. Really. A book where we hear his side of the stupendous rumors we’ve heard in the media over the years: Did he really get his blood changed? Did he really mix some if his father’s ashes with cocaine to snort? (to mention just a couple)

There is also great humor throughout. One story I particularly liked was when the band was touring America and learned from their American counterparts that changing clothes several times during a performance was common and indeed expected. They looked at each other and agreed that was a good idea, so at a break in their next show they did in fact change clothes – with each other! On his often stormy relationship with Mick Jagger, he offers that when he (Keith) “picked up the smack, Mick picked up the slack.” at one point, when describing the family of longtime companion Anita Pattenberg, he says they were “a family that had gone down, apparently, in a blaze of syphilis and madness.” Perhaps my favorite was a sentence that began, “Then, unfortunately, the bedroom caught fire.” Oh, if I had a nickel for every time that has happened to me… An autobiography of Keith Richards is one place, however, where that sentence doesn’t even sound out of place.

What I liked best about the book, though, was when he talked about music and about the creative process. How “you never stop learning an instrument,” and how he met and worked with so many famous names in the music world – maybe as many as anybody ever has. The quotation from the title of this blog post comes from a passage where he is discussing the song, Satisfaction, and other songs of that era: “There was trouble in America; all these young American kids, they were being drafted to Vietnam. Which is why you have “Satisfaction” in Apocalypse Now. Because the nutters took it with them. The lyrics and the mood of the sings fitted with the kids’ disenchantment with the grown-up world of America, and for a while we seemed to be the only provider, the soundtrack for the rumbling of rebellion, touching on those social nerves.”

I’ll finish with a quotation from Tom Waits, who is lamenting how a “sense of wonder” at music and maybe art has kind of leaked out of humanity’s consciousness in the modern world, but that Keith doesn’t share this “defect of wonder.” He says, “…Keith seems to still wonder at this stuff. He will stop and hold his guitar up and just stare at it for a while. Just be rather mystified by it. Like all the great things in the world, women and religion and the sky… you wonder about it, and you don’t stop wondering about it.”

A very enjoyable book, especially recommended to those who are already familiar with the Rolling Stones and their music.

Below: The Rolling Stones (probably their most well known line-up)

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May Reading: The Month Ahead

Well, April was not a stellar month for me as far as blogging frequency goes, but I got a decent amount of reading done.  In May I will try to do better about blogging, but here’s what I have on tap to read this month:

Desert Spear by Peter Brett

I feel like I’m kind of cheating here, since I had hoped to finish this in April, BUT… I have just over 100 pages to go, and the story is really picking up.  This is the second book of a trilogy (book three due out sometime this year? <fingers crossed>).  The first of the trilogy was The Warded Man (known as The Painted Man outside of America).  A fantastic (post-apocalyptic?) world populated by great characters and plenty of ‘demons’ to be killed.  A great adventure.

Life by Keith Richards

This is my book club’s May selection.  The biography of the iconic guitarist from The Rolling Stones promises to be entertaining reading, and I can’t wait to get started.  Our club has also read Eric Clapton’s autobiography, which was not surprisingly met with mixed reviews by my eclectic group…

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’m participating in Allie’s read along over at A Literary Odyssey.  I actually cracked the book this afternoon, reading the introduction to my 1969 edition.  I’m supposed to have Part I (about 175 pages) read by the middle of May for the first of four scheduled posts in this read along (it encompasses both May and June).  Can’t wait to read this one either.  I’ve already read Crime and Punishment years ago and felt it was quite good.

We Make a Life by What We Give by Dr. Richard Gunderman

Late in March, I went to a lecture by the author (who also happens to be a former college roommate of mine!) and was quite impressed and moved  by his thoughts on philanthropy and ethics.  It was somewhat of a reunion for me as well, since I hadn’t seen my old friend in many years.  The book is actually a collection of essays, several of which I’ve read already, but I need to give it my full attention for a few days and finish it.  It is very thought-provoking and full of ‘deep thoughts’ – and I don’t mean the Jack Handy kind…

The Fear by Peter Godwin

I’m about a third of the way through this book already (somehow I got entangled in April, reading more books at one time that probably ever before; I’m trying to right my ship in May).  It’s the disturbing story of Zimbabwe under the despotic rule of Robert Mugabe.  I first heard of this book on NPR and “just had to read it…”  Oh, and I’ll also have a Vonnegut title for the KVML Book Club meeting on May 26th.  I’m not sure which book we’re reading this month though, as I had to leave the last meeting a little early.

That’s it.  (Isn’t that enough!?)  How about you?  What are you reading in May?  (You know I can only read about five books a month, so I need to live, er… read vicariously through others to get enough of a fix…)