Life: Keith Richards by Keith Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A review of Keith Richards' 'Life' in the form of a 2,500 word monologueness spoof, AKA "One Day In The Life of The Human Riff.”
So by lunch time we’re driving through Stangefruit, Mississippi. We’ve got three runaway Mexicans in the boot, each carrying 25 balloons of charlie up their jacksy, and a 15 year old transsexual Moroccan kid Bill Burroughs had left in the back seat with a beaker of smack in shim’s silicon tits. Just another day in the life of the human riff let me tell you.
We were stopped outside town by a couple of cops who looked like they hadn’t slept in weeks. When we explained we were preachers from England - hence the hair, the communion wafers, and the kid - they confiscated the vehicle and threatened to throw us across the pond, till my lawyer turned up with a drunken judge, the senator for Mississippi and a series of Polaroids of a non-descript scene involving a yak, seven acrobats, and a lawn trimmer. So they threw us back the keys and told us never to burrow through their borough no more, but I just spit and nodded, fucken coppers, all queers, and not in a nice way let me tell you. But that’s just the way life is when you’re the greatest rock guitarist of all time. I’m sweating, it must be the humility.
Let me find the 1 and begin at the in then.
I was born at dawn in a scum pit on the outskirts of Dartboard. We were beaten awake by the police and made to cover ourselves in the muck of the pit and make our way to the local school where they would teach us naught but how to be muck gleaners for the land owners thereabouts. With that soot and shit on my face from my early morn I knew in my heart I was a black man, never a proper pale English git.
By the morning tea horn, a sound our landlord created with a cat, a leather strap, and my younger cousin Nathan, I’d decided to do a runner, and by mugging a rich git I met on the tube and stealing his ration card I pretended I was an arts student called Jagger where I fitted right in amongst the reprobates of aspiring bohemia.
By lunchtime I was bored with the whole bag and teamed up with some likely lads who were playing guitar under a tree in the school’s yard. I beat them silly until they let me join their band and so that rolling bag of bones was born, Brian on sitar, Ian on keys, and me on a guitar I’d stolen off the local vicar. The teachers began saying something about getting back into class so that could get us gigs designing advertisements for Babylonia or some such guff, so we did a runner and moved into the basement of a pub on Dean Street, Soho called The Pirate’s Bitch. They wouldn’t serve me at first as I was naked but for the stain of black muck, so I wandered into the street, threw on whatever rags I found lying around, and went back in and told them firmly that we were the entertainment for the evening. When they asked where was our rig Brian was stumped until a boy named Wyman wandered in and tried to sell the publican a stolen PA system, to which we all plugged in and climbed the charts, wallpaper peeling.
We hung at The Pirate’s Bitch for much of the afternoon, sucking on the leaking pipes of Watney’s Red Barrel and eating the crisps that fell through the grate from the firm of lawyers what lived upstairs from us. One day the lawyers came down and informed us that through the magic of the radiogram what had been perfected during the war our last six jams where a hit in the United States, and they wanted to fly us over the pond. We didn’t have the heart to tell them they weren’t our songs, what with them being rather old negro spirituals and blues what white devils in the US had through some physical peculiarity bestowed on them by Jehovah been unable to hear until they was played by us sons of the dying Empire. An anomaly that still baffles biologists to this day, or so I hear.
The lawyers bunged us all into a plane so swiftly that I still hadn’t had time to wipe the pit muck from my features, so when we did arrive in the States there was still some confusion as to my native hue, and hence we were played on both the coloured and white radio stations, most Americans assuming London was some borough of Boston or some such guff. Charlie the maître d' at the hotel where they bunged us was short of a buck so we let him sit in on drums, and it turned out he had quite a talent for it, even though he admitted he hated the music. Likewise little Mick the bellboy who tagged along beside him, a thick git with a minuscule prick but elephantitis of the bollocks what gave him a unique style of dancing that strangely endeared me to him, god bless the little bugger.
Halfway through the first set I realised I had no more Chuck Berry numbers up my sleeve and all the boys were looking to me. I said, “we’ll be back after this break,” and I ran to the bog only to find the destitute and whistling 300 pound form of Howlin’ Wolf whitewashing the johns in his paint-spattered overalls. As I spattered the rim of the bowl with a little of my own London smokestack I told him my predicament, and he in return taught me how to play the blues.
He said, “Just pick up that guitar Blind Boy Slim left by the water cooler and strum it with that broken bottle neck on the floor. You don’t have to know no chords or nothing, it’s in banjo tuning, open G slide, just wipe off the blood before you start.”
“What about the words Mr Wolf?” I said.
“Damn boy, make a little story over the top about how ragged, sad and horny life can be and you’re with it.”
So I wiped me arse, thanked the Wolf and stumbled back to the stage, grabbing said guitar from beside the water cooler. I grabbed it a little too eagerly, resulting in my breaking the sixth string and smashing the bottle-neck slide, so five string guitar in slide tuning it had to be, I’d just figure out the fingerings as I went along. And so it is and so it will always be.
Later after the gig when John Lennon dosed us on LSD and gave us a lift to the airport in his Bentley he verified that he’d had much the same experience, only with Muddy Waters in a Dole office in Liverpool while he was bashing McCartney for his milk money.
When we got back to Old Blighty we’d gained a few hours and a few thousand quid, but 98 per cent of it would have to go to Her Majesty for the sour milk we’d been given as kids and the new teeth my granpop had got on the National Health, or so Mick informed me, so I banged the poor blighter with a rifle I’d picked up in a Texas drug store and he has never walked the same again. I apologised as I put the dosh in a brown paper bag and we went looking for somewhere to hide it.
We decided on a place in the country, a straw thatched cottage outside Stonehenge, and hung there the rest of the morning having all the drugs and women we could eat. We had a dandy lot round for pink gins and a pet junkie that we milked hourly for heroin, everything a Englishman could need. But of course by the time we were telling Charlie what to cook up for lunch Mr Plod had to turn up and piss on the whole damn scene.
The cops dragged us up into the Old Bailey but it turns out they’d forgotten the pot. All they had was Marianne Faithful’s smack-soiled bathmat and some dead spliffs. The judge sentenced me to life nonetheless, deciding I was the ringleader of the whole shebang, which I was.
Luckily the prison van got a puncture on the way to Wormwood Scrubs and while the boys were changing tires Ronnie Biggs and I did a runner. We decided we better part ways to throw off the beagles so he went to Spain and I holed up in a lovely little hashish palace in Tangiers were Brian’s old bird Anita and I picked up a nasty case of Bill Burroughs for our troubles.
During a game of Missouri Lame Mule Snap I’d won a palace in the South of France from some dispossessed Russian royal, and when Anita and I arrived there we learnt that by providence both Charlie and Mick had gained employment once again as bouncer and busboy, so I pulled out the old Telecaster and we jammed on a few tunes whilst in exile in rooms in the basement.
Things got ugly however. Anita and I had become hooked on hummus whilst in Tangiers and unbeknownst to the rest of us she’d had a container load of the chickpea based junk flown in and transported by the portable studio truck back to our palace where she had had the engineers and photographers, who circumstance demanded we employ now, not to mention her bevy of pet tabouli addicts she kept in a mini-bus outside the East wing, fill the swimming pool with the Levantine Arab spread as an early afternoon surprise. But Brian, who we had left in a veterinary clinic outside Paris during our Moroccan sojourn, had jumped into the pool and drowned in the wheaten coloured sea of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. He was found by the gardeners who immediately informed the gendarmes, so I decided to split.
I jumped in my speedboat, pointed it due South, and stuck my Telecaster in the steering wheel while I had a siesta. When I woke it was almost din-dins and I was on the filthiest shore I’d seen since that childhood holiday in Bournemouth. I wandered through the faecal sea-water and finding a young lady with a packet of Mandrax and an eye dropper lolling by the Pavilion I was informed I’d discovered St. Kilda Beach. So I claimed it in the name of Her Majesty and went back to this bird’s house on the outskirts of Melbourne suburbia. I must say I adapted nicely to suburban Australian existence that afternoon and within the hour I was signed on to the rock n’ roll and spending my first fortnightly payment on VB and pudding for her sprog what I done sit while she scoured the city for quaaludes and greens. It was a happy dinner indeed and I would have stayed the night if Mick hadn’t turned up suddenly with my suitcases and I realized the silly queer had been trailed the whole way by Anita and the bevy of gendarmes what now followed her, not to mention a horny black-faced Marlon Brando on a bicycle looking to gun down Terry Southern. It would be an ugly scene if they found me so I jumped back into my speedboat and didn’t stop till I reached a Jamaica, where I knew they wouldn’t let Anita in on account of her accent. It was late evening by then and the only light came from the crown of an enormous volcano above the beach from which a pungent odour emitted.
Suddenly I was surrounded in the night and I realized that I had been taken hostage by a band of vicious Rastafari pirates. All looked dire till I pulled out my five string and strummed a little Jimmy Cliff. I explained that I wasn’t really the white Babylonian devil I appeared but rather a brother musician blackened deep in his soul by the muck of working class London. The leader of the band, who called themselves the Legless Angels, pulled a reassuring smirk then passed me a hookah pipe that I observed went into the ground at the mountains feet. The Rastafari pirate king explained that this pipe went straight into the volcano. Jah, he explained, had seen fit to fill the bowl at the volcano’s crown with the most powerful cannabis plants in existence. This hierophant herb was constantly heated by the molten lava stirred by the white devils Jehovah had imprisoned beneath it, all for the medicinal service of the pirates and their kin. If I truly was a brother then Jah would grant me the power to pull the cone, but if I was a Babylonian devil attempting to deceive them Jah would see that I was sucked through the hookah the moment my lips touched it and hence into Satanic service in the volcanic basement.
It was quite an effort but I pulled the cone cleaner than Haile Selassie’s underdaks and a roar of cheers and drumbeats arose as they carried me to their mountainous kingdom on high where, they explained, no gendarme or Mr Plod of any proportion would dare take arms against them.
And that’s where I remained the night, smoking through till the morning and jamming for Jah with the Legless Angels. At dawn they had me pay for my board and whatnot by making it over to the USA in various guises so as to flog a few of my musical wares and the odd bag of weed. The shit I sold Mick was just parsley.
So that’s just a normal day in the life of a human riff, honestly, no exaggeration.
I’d love to chat but I’ve just dropped a blue, might be time for a kip. Catch you on the next tour, cheers, and if the Shepard’s pie arrives just wake me up.
by Benito Di Fonzo.
DECEMBER 2010/JANUARY 2011.
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