The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards is 71 years old and looks something like one of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal. He is one of the most innovative stylists of rock’n’roll guitar, but is nearly as widely commented upon for being a consistent loose cannon on the verge of accidental death. He’s one of pop music’s most notorious drug users, and in general a fan of hard living. Yet he’s still going strong, thank God, releasing his third solo album, Crosseyed Heart, and a new Netflix documentary, this Friday.
Fans — especially those who read his bestselling 2010 autobiography Life — know that Richards is also an incredibly smart, affable, and passionate person. Certainly his tributes to the music he loves are often almost poignantly sincere. However, to those who haven’t delved deep, Richards might reasonably come across as totally crazy, unnecessarily prickly, or out-of-touch. Recently, he’s caught flak for a comment he made in a recent New York Daily News article in which he claimed (among other things) that rap attracted a lot of “tone-deaf people.” “Rap — so many words, so little said,” he said, jokingly.
His comments stand as a borderline insensitive — claims deserving in themselves of ridicule. But Richards has always been transparent about his opinions, as he is about the more sordid details of his past. I’ve tried to highlight some of the most bizarre and incendiary Richards comments of all time — that which makes Keith Keith.
“I was totally comatose but I was totally awake. I could listen to everyone, and they were like, ‘He’s dead, he’s dead!’ waving their fingers and pushing me about, and I was thinking, ‘I’m not dead!’”
This is part of Richards’ discussion of the time he did heroin laced with strychnine (you know, the noted poison) in an infamous 2006 NME interview. There are endless shocking Richards drug stories from the ‘70s, when he was consistently mixing up speedballs to the point of near-overdose and doing things like getting arrested for trafficking charges between failed rehab stints.
“‘Oh, if you can make a load of shit, so can we.’”
Keith on the Stones’ psychedelic detour Their Satanic Majesties Request, and the extent to which it was a response to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band (“a mishmash of rubbish”). This is from a recent Esquire interview, but similar reservations about the Beatles post-Revolver — and indeed, the flower-power, meditation-infused period — is echoed in Life. Keith’s speed was always more Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson, and reggae.
“The Grateful Dead is where everybody got it wrong. Just poodling about for hours and hours. Jerry Garcia, boring shit, man. Sorry, Jerry.”
“I’ve had enough of bloody rap. I mean, ‘Mary had a little lamb, his fleece was white as fuckin’ snow.’ This is kindergarten shit.”
Keith has been talking trash about rap since at least ‘97. He recommends toasting on Jamaican dub records instead.
“I’m Sagittarius, half-man, half-horse, with a license to shit in the street.”
There is actually a “Tao of Keith” kind of book collecting self-mythologizing Keith quotes of this sort. This one’s probably the coup de grâce.
“Then one day he was at dinner and I’m like “Woah, Scissorhands.’”
Before he teamed with him in Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp was, to Keith, just an associate of his son Marlon’s who he assumed was his “drug dealer.” Two years after Depp began his visits to the Richards household, Keith recognized him one night at the dinner table.
“Let’s get one thing straight. You’re a wannabe.”
This comes from Justin Bieber’s description of trying to “bro down” with a drunken Keith Richards at a bar in Turks and Caicos earlier this year. After an initial confrontation (Richards: “Who the fuck are you?”), the two sat down to have a drink before Keith decided to call things like he saw them. Apparently the two icons parted as friends.
“[Marianne Faithfull] had no fun with his tiny todger. I know he’s got an enormous pair of balls - but it doesn’t quite fill the gap.”
This is just one of many disparaging comments Richards makes in Life about his friend and bandmate Mick Jagger (“Brenda,” as he calls him throughout). If Keith isn’t ragging on Mick for being a dumb narcissist (a section begins “It was the beginning of the Eighties when Mick started to become unbearable”), he’s talking dick size.
“And as I took the lid off of the box, a fine spray of his ashes blew out on to the table. I couldn’t just brush him off so I wiped my finger over it and snorted the residue. Ashes to ashes, father to son.”
By virtue of the story associated with it, this is probably Richards’ most legendary quote (also from the NME interview). Keith had some trouble when attempting to dispose of his father’s ashes, but found a meaningful impromptu solution with the help of some high-grade cocaine.