When the Rolling Stones first turned heads, the band's Keith Richards was often dismissed as a Chuck Berry wannabe. The Blues, and Berry in particular, had an immeasurable influence.
Aside from creating the incredible "Satisfaction" riff, Richards was a rather ordinary '60s guitarist - a job he originally shared with the far more charismatic Brian Jones (followed by Mick Taylor and Ron Wood). Ironically, as Jones' drug problems took him out of commission, Richards came into his own. Also, the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards songwriting team began to blossom.
On "Beggars Banquet," Richards laid down the staccato guitar solo that highlights "Sympathy For The Devil" then delivered the down and dirty Blues guitar on "Stray Cat Blues."
From there, his work on "Gimme Shelter," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar" and (later) "Start Me Up" showed a guitarist in complete command - chords, riffs, licks, all seamlessly integrated. Richards gave frontman Jagger a run for his money.
During the Stones' downtime Richards embarked on a solo career, often in the company of his backing band the X-Pensive Winos (Steve Jordan, Sarah Dash, Waddy Wachtel, Bobby Keys, Ivan Neville, Charley Drayton and Babi Floyd). However, the most notable of Richards solo efforts was his first, a '78 cover of Chuck Berry's Christmas song, "Run Rudolph Run." Though impressive, Richards solo career is a sidebar. His reputation was built on and derives from his work with the Stones.
Richards had his own share of drug problems and looked "older than God" since turning forty (ages ago) but emphatically he was the heart and soul of the Stones' prime (1969-74). That's what counts.
To just about everyone's surprise, Richards, of all people, published his autobiography, Life, in '10. What could he possibly remember? Wasn't it all just a hazy drug-addled blur?
"You can't imagine that this book could be any better than it is," said Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana. "Keith holds nothing back. It's funny, gossipy, profane and moving and by the time you finish it you feel like you're friends with Keith Richards." To promo the book, Rolling Stone published an exclusive excerpt prior to its release.
The book publisher chimed in saying the guitarist "tells his story of life in the crossfire hurricane… unfettered, fearless, and true."
The best-seller gained instant notoriety due to well publicized digs at Jagger (which, not surprisingly, generated some negative comments from Jagger). But Richards was also quick to compliment his bandmate when warranted. He confirmed some of his and the band's more notorious moments while debunking or clarifying others. More important, the book provided a close look at the Jagger/Richards dynamic that led the group through the decades.
Probably not of much interest to those looking for "the dirt" but fascinating for anyone who has ever played a guitar, Life also contained a revealing look at Richards' musical development, technique and use of open tuning.
See Rolling Stones.
Keith Richards/X-Pensive Winos Discography
1988 Talk Is Cheap
1991 Live At The Hollywood Palladium, December 15, 1988
1992 Main Offender
2010 Vintage Vinos