“I love Rock and Roll.” In fact I like all kinds of music and dancing: Fridays after Five, the local salsa club, and Scottish country dancing are or have been recent favorites. But Rock and Roll has my attention now while I read Keith Richard’s autobiography Life. With the snow falling last night I cranked up my Ipod (can you actually crank up an Ipod?) and found a comfy seat facing my white garden and read Keith.
He has taken me through his young life, and now he is sharing his teenage adventures as a member of the new band, The Rolling Stones. He, Mick, Brian Jones, and Charlie Watts go from one gig to another fending off shrieking emotional teenage girls as they refine their image, the bad boys of Rock – the image that their fans want and that the record industry endorses – as they follow Beatle-mania into a new age of Rock and Roll.
I laugh with Keith as he tells of the singers who show with the Stones in this early era and who change their clothes between acts for yet another coat and tie look – this would be Bobby Vee and his ilk. At one point the Stones decide they should change their outfits as well so they switch around the clothing they are currently wearing. There are so many great stories in this book.
Keith’s voice, often irreverent and always ironic, comes through clearly. At my point in the book, he is still overwhelmed that he is making so much money and meeting all the fantastic people whose work he and his fellow Stones have dissected Ad nauseam. Muddy Water, James Brown, and Chuck Berry are only a few mentioned.
But the most interesting parts for me are Keith going off on his music and how he found his own style. He goes into depth with this as he analyzes the work of many old rockers and blues men and women who influenced him. His reaction to playing his music with his new group is as refreshing to me as it would have been for him. Of that he says, “That feeling is worth more than anything. There’s a certain moment when you realize that you’ve actually just left the planet for a bit and that nobody can touch you. You’re elevated because you’re with a bunch of guys that want to do that same thing as you. And it works, baby, you’ve got wings. You know you’ve been somewhere most people will never get; you’ve been to a special place. Then you want to keep going back and keep landing again, and when you land you get busted. But you always want to go back there. It’s flying without a license.”
For more Rock And Roll I read Just Kids by Patti Smith recently and appreciated her view of the rock scene in New York during her youth. She and Robert Mapplethorpe, her lover and good friend, experienced the Chelsea Hotel and its many visitors of that time: Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to mention a couple, but her view of rock is darker than Keith’s although Keith and Patti do share a sense of wonder as they experience their new worlds and new friends. And, of course, I have not yet fallen into the Keith Richards world of drugs. I am sure, when that happens, that Life will continue with his own wonderful irony, stories, and fascinating Rock and Roll history, and I’m ready to rock on.
ZM – Adult and Reference Services