Friday, November 12, 2010

It's hard to say what's the most quotable bit of Liz Phair's review of Keith Richards's autobiography in The New York Times

This, right near the front, looks unbeatable at first:

"You better believe it. This cat put the joie in joie de vivre. As the legendary guitarist for the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards has done more, been more and seen more than you or I will ever dream of, and reading his autobiography, “Life,” should awaken (if you have a pulse and an I.Q. north of 100) a little bit of the rock star in you."

But then you get a passage like this:

"The plight of the underdog was his passionate crusade, and anyone or anything that represented injustice in his eyes was fair game. Kate Moss recounts a hilarious anecdote from 1998 in which Keith, sidestepping the festivities of his daughter Angela’s wedding at his manor house, Redlands, finds he’s short some spring onions he laid on a chopping block while fixing himself a light nosh of bangers and mash. When the thieving guest totters into the kitchen with the greens playfully tucked behind his ears, Keith grabs two sabers from the mantelpiece and goes chasing after the poor guy in a homicidal rage. I won’t even touch on the incident involving shepherd’s pie."

And how about this?

"The most impressive part of “Life” is the wealth of knowledge Keith shares, whether he’s telling you how to layer an acoustic guitar until it sounds electric, as he did on the classic Stones track “Street Fighting Man,” or how to win a knife fight. He delivers recipe after recipe for everything rock ’n’ roll, and let me say it’s quite an education."

Or this?

"One theme in the book that really stuns is the extent to which Keith Richards has been pursued by the police on nearly every continent for the duration of his career. They’re pulling over buses, battering down doors and hanging out of trees trying to get a charge that will stick to music’s most notorious and, thus far, ne’er-long-incarcerated bad boy. The archetype of the rock ’n’ roll antihero is, by now, a familiar image. What is shocking to remember is that Keith himself invented it. It’s obvious he just doesn’t give a damn about the rules the rest of us live by."

(I particularly enjoyed the elegant archaism of "ne'er-long")


"Pulled by the poppy and pushed by cocaine, Keith acquires a taste for working unholy hours in the studio that damn near kill his colleagues.... He’s trying to impress upon his readers not the foolishness of this diet but rather the impossibility of its being replicated, since drugs of this caliber are no longer available, and few have the discipline to stick to the recommended doses."

Down to earth...

"If Keith weren’t such a brilliant character, the reader might weary of his hypocrisy. But the truth is, he’s hilarious. I got tired of jotting “hahahaha” and “LOL” in the margins."

But this, near the end, might be the creme de la creme...

"John Lennon makes a cameo, hunched over a toilet after having tried to keep up with Keith. When Bob Marley is described as a Johnny-come-lately, you know you’re dealing with the crème de la crème. There are poignant moments, too, tossed out with no more windup than the chuck of one’s car keys to a valet..."