Tag Archives: biography

Keith Richards: Life, a Candid Autobiography

Keith Richards’ 2010 autobiography Life is a solid exposé and memoir on the life lived by the Rolling Stones guitarist. Weighing in at 547 pages of narrative, it’s clear that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer intends for the reader to come away with a full picture of himself, not just as a founding member of one of the greatest rock bands in history, but as an individual apart from that legend.

The autobiography kicks off with a scandalous story from the road of when Keith and Stones’ rhythm guitarist Ronnie Wood were arrested with a number of illegal substances in Fordyce, Arkansas in 1975. It’s one of the more exciting stories in the book and it sets the tone for numerous tales of drugs and legal issues to follow it.

After that, Life immediately shifts to Keith’s childhood, adolescence until he meets and begins playing music with Mick Jagger (p. 77). This was the hardest part of the book for me to get through. It seemed overburdened with trivial details about Keith Richards the child. While some meaningful events and information is relayed her such as his initial introduction to music and guitar a lot of it seemed unnecessary, but then it is the story of his life, not just of his adult music career.

This makes for an autobiography that is well balanced between the author’s personal life and ideas and his superstar music career. It’s not written in a manner that tries to glorify the rock and roll lifestyle or to revel in fame, but it doesn’t shy away from it or wrap itself in false humility. Keith opens up and tells us quite a lot of personal information about himself, his origins, his philosophies, his loves, his strengths, and his weaknesses. He writes intently on the subject of music and how he came to it with passion, the origins or the Rolling Stones, his often adversarial friendship with lead singer Mick Jagger, his addiction, resulting arrests and subsequent rehabilitation.

The book is chocked full of stories and candid details. Some of the points I liked the most include the following.


The Rolling Stones didn’t write their first song until 1963 when their manager Andrew Loog Oldham locked Keith and Mick in a kitchen together in Willesden and told them to “come up with a song.” Before that, Keith thought songwriting was someone else’s job. This is easy enough to understand since up until this time in music history it was very common for the songwriters to be different people from the performers. Truthfully before the Beatles made it fashionable popular bands rarely composed any of their own music.

Keith makes it quite clear that there was never any rivalry between the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, or between any of their respective members. They were friends. Keith refers to the two bands as being a “mutual-admiration society.” He even says that they would call each other up and plan their single releases so to not compete with each other (pg 141). Any amount of rivalry that may have seemed to exist was nothing more than media hype.

As mentioned above, Keith speaks very candidly about his drug addiction. Early on in his life, Keith experimented with recreational drugs, alcohol and cannabis. He was introduced to amphetamines while on tour in the US with R&B acts including Little Richard and Bo Diddly. He talks a bit about LSD in the 60s and a particular three-day trip he took with John Lennon which was so significant that neither of them could quite remember what all had happened. His terrible addiction to heroin however came about in a far less cavalier manner. It happened the same way it seems to happen with the opiate epidemic plaguing the US today; from an injury and overmedication. He was in a car wreck and afterward was in such pain, having a nurse come to clean his wounds everyday that he was prescribed morphine. After several weeks on the drug he became hooked. When the doctor took him off the medication he had severe withdrawals which he treated with underground opiates and eventually heroin which he continues using for the next several years.

I really love that Keith talks about his experiences with Reggae and Rastafarians in Jamaica where he lived for some time. He speaks very highly of the culture, philosophy and most especially the music of the Rastas he became friends with, and how that was a major influence on him and helped him get his head straight from years of excess.

If gleaned properly there is probably a solid handbook’s worth of advice and information on beginning in music, theories on how to approach playing guitar, songwriting, performing live, recording and band dynamics. Keith doesn’t come across with any rock star pretentiousness to speak of. He does get a little preachy and high minded at points, but otherwise stays well-grounded even when telling tales of times when Keith was anything but grounded.

Life is a thorough trek through the years of Keith Richard’s history. It’s sometimes a little wordy, a bit snide, and long. It isn’t always a page turner, but it does hold a reader’s attention fairly well and it delivers all the juicy, candid details a fan of the Rolling Stones, or just rock and roll history will enjoy.


Motley Crue’s The Dirt Movie is a Wild Ride

The Dirt hit Netflix several days back and it’s pretty killer. I’ve only watched it four times since then.

To say “the book was better” is pretty cliché even if it’s true, but I have to respect the process and the logistics involved in making a film of this scope. It’s difficult to fit a 428 page memoir into an hour and forty minute movie. It’s probably even harder than fitting a 20 year career (at the time of publication) into a 428 page memoire.

I have to say I didn’t have a lot of high expectations for this movie. It’s easy to be cynical. Band biographies are often hit or miss and I didn’t care for some of the updates I saw of The Dirt as it was being produced.

Upon the first viewing, my concerns were mostly squashed. It’s a fun ride through the debauchery and maturing process of one of hard rock’s most notorious and most popular bands. Aside from a few minor timeline issues and some soft-balling of major tragedies, I can’t much complain.

I can easily forgive the timeline issues, as I said above it’s a 20 year career reduced to less than two hours. What more can we expect? We’re even afforded a scene when manager Doc McGee arrives in which guitarist Mick Mars informs us it didn’t actually happen that way. The Dirt acknowledges from within that there’s only so much time to make the important points and still have an entertaining movie.

The Dirt really captures the spirit, the attitude, and more than anything the personalities and the differences between them of the members of Motley Crue as I came to understand them over the more than three decades I’ve been a fan.

We get to see Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth) as the dark, angry, creative force that he was and to some extent still is today.

There’s Tommy Lee (Colson Baker) as the young, naive, goofy, party animal he was always known to be.

Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) is as he was the rakish, blond, southern Californian playboy.

Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) is the older, grumpier, dry, no time for bullshit guitar slinger struggling with his crippling degenerative arthritic condition.


Highlights from The Dirt include a scene wherein the early pre-Motley Crue three-piece arrives at a party to try to recruit singer Vince Neil, and the stark contrast between the dark, grungy borderline punks, and the blond, glam rocking lady’s man is almost comedic.

Tommy Lee’s narrated scene on “a day in the life” of a drummer on tour would probably be almost unbelievable for anyone who hadn’t kept up with the reported antics of the band throughout the 80s and some of the 90s. Still, it’s among the funnier parts of the movie.

And of course, the tour with Ozzy Osbourne poolside scene when the Oz snorts a line of ants which is so infamous even The Family Guy had a segment about it is one of the more memorable and entertaining parts of the film.

However, it’s the soft-balling of two major tragic moments that bothers me the most for a movie that is supposed to be a tell-all expose of the best and worst of the Crue’s career.

For starters;
Vince Neil’s tragic car wreck that killed Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Razzle is presented in a far less incriminating light than the actual accident. In the movie it appears as if it was little more than a silly conversation that distracted Neil, causing him to drift into oncoming traffic resulting in a wreck that ended the drummer’s life and stopped Hanoi Rocks in its rise to fame. In reality Vince Neil was very drunk, speeding at 65 mph in a 25 mph zone and swerving around a fire truck when he crossed into oncoming traffic and hit two other vehicles, killing Razzle and permanently crippling the two people in the other vehicle. It was an avoidable tragedy for which Vince only spent 19 days in jail.

Secondly;
Bassist, primary songwriter and visionary of the band, Nikki Sixx’s overdose in the movie is also a gloss job. The movie doesn’t shy away in the least bit from the crippling heroin addiction that nearly killed him. Well, technically it did kill him for about two minutes, but the paramedic managed to get his heart pumping again. Missing from the story is the reportedly cavalier attitude with which he injected the deadly dose. Also missing were the other prominent actors in the scene. It’s fairly well known that Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash and drummer Steven Adler were at the party, but the movie completely leaves this out except for a brief shot of a figure strung out on the couch who resembles Slash. It’s a significant point considering it was Slash’s girlfriend Sally McLaughlin who performed mouth-to-mouth on Sixx before the ambulance arrived. Maybe these details were left out of the movie to avoid infringing on the reputation of the other band, but their image as heavy heroin users is well established in Slash’s self-titled autobiography anyway. On top of that, The Dirt didn’t mind depicting Van Halen’s David Lee Roth using cocaine in the band’s party pad earlier in the film.

The Dirt skips almost everything regarding the Crue’s time in rehab, but I didn’t mind because as Vince Neil says in the film “you don’t want to see any of that shit.”

They also skim through the John Corabi years as if it took place over little more than a few months, but since most real Motley Crue fans don’t care much for that period it’s fine. In fact, I can’t name a single song from that album. The main problem is that The Dirt completely neglects Vince Neil’s solo career as if the only thing that happened to him during that time was the tragic death of his daughter, Skylar.

The Dirt is a great ride, and a damn good biopic. It delivers well on the best and worst of Motley Crue’s history. It touches the perspectives of all four members of the band, as well as their manager Doc McGee and it experiments with nontraditional styles of story-telling, with fourth-wall breaking segments, cross-narration, comedy, and very candid representations of some of the darkest points of the bands lives.

Any fan of band biopics should enjoy The Dirt.