Why Rolling Stone Keef is no kiss kiss and all bang bang

Keith Richard is undeniably Mr. Rock and Roll.  He epitomises the rock ‘n roll life style, women, illegal substances, feuds and fights, and like all the Stones, is an unparalleled showman. But musically, Keith is famous for two things – riffs and rhythm, and that’s it, there isn’t anything else.  A knighthood for creativity?  I don’t think so.

Brilliantly talented guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, who once played lead guitar for Mick on his solo tour, studied with the reclusive jazz musician Lennie Tristano.  He is always in the top 3 when the best rock guitarists are being listed, often at number one and has taught many musicians who went on to have major success, including Steve Vai of G3 and Kirk Hammett of Metallica. He has been hugely successful himself,  nominated for 14 Grammies and selling over 100 million records. Deeply creative, he had to sue Coldplay for copying his music.

On the subject of Keith, in his book Masters of Rock Guitar, Joe praises Keith’s rock persona, but says ” Famous for his riffs and rhythms, his excessive use of drugs ruined his creativity.  His technique is not refined, and his solos are not legendary. The distance between him and legendary rock guitarists is huge.”

Blues guitarist Mick Taylor played with the Stones, but it wasn’t a happy experience. At the age of 17, he played with the famous John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers, developing a guitar style that is blues based with Latin and jazz influences.  In 1969, the Stones had to replace Brian Jones and they picked Taylor.  When Keith couldn’t play or rehearse “for whatever reasons”, Taylor worked with Jagger on tracks for Let It Bleed and he wrote Sway and Moonlight Mile.  He also contributed hugely to It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll.

In 1971,  Keith came back.  Taylor said “Keith and I used to fight and argue all the time.” Mick Taylor was appalled at how bad the Stones sounded live.  Was the reason for the fighting that Keith realised he was being outplayed by a truly creative musician?  Keith himself has admitted he is a purely rhythmic guitarist and he quipped “I can make all types of guitar sound the same”.  Taylor was also upset he had received no credit for the songs he had co-written with Jagger. In 1974, Taylor quit.

In 1995, Jagger was interviewed by Rolling Stone and he said “I think he  (Taylor) made a big contribution. He made it very musical. He was a very fluent, melodic player, which we never had, and we don’t have now. Neither Keith nor [Ronnie Wood] plays that. What came out of playing with him were musically some of the best things we have ever done”.  As far as credits and backdated royalties are concerned though, Mick Taylor is still waiting.

In his book A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, the author, Robert Greenfield describes how Truman Capote came along on a Stones tour to write his impressions of the band for Rolling Stone.  Apparently, Capote was so disgusted with the venal, money grubbing attitude of the principals, and the lack of care and concern for the music, that he declined to write the piece.  He did say “they are evanescent people of no importance.  Jagger is really a businessman.  He has the facility of being able to focus on the cash receipts while beating his whip in Midnight  Rambler.  He is about as sexy as a p…….. toad.”

Maybe part of creativity involves creating an unforgettable persona, and by that yardstick, Keith possibly might qualify.  Musically, he doesn’t make the top 10 best guitarists, or even come close.  If, as has been suggested, he should be knighted for his creativity, how much more worthy of that honour are the truly talented Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and a host of others?  If the yardstick is musical talent, is Jagger himself a worthy recipient?

The Stones are terrific showmen, and they know how to get down and dirty, but they don’t love their craft.  They haven’t bother to develope as musicians, like the brilliant Jeff Beck, or Led Zeppelin, who would play together for hours just for the pleasure of playing together, or Carlos Santana, who would die for his music.  When the Stones paid a visit to Hugh Hefner’s mansion, the stories that leaked out are part of rock and roll legend.  Let’s hope for the sake of his lovers that Keef’s lovemaking isn’t like his music,  no kiss kiss and all bang bang.

UPDATE.  Oh God.  I have realised that Boris’s article is a windup and now I feel like a complete idiot.

References: A Journey Through America by Robert Greenfield. Exile on Main Street by Robert Greenfield.    Up and Down with the Rolling Stones by Tony Sanchez.     Masters of Rock Guitar by Joe Santriani.

14 responses to “Why Rolling Stone Keef is no kiss kiss and all bang bang

  1. this is the face of true rock n roll

  2. Dear me! What an outbreak of ignorance on CYBERboris!! Boris is going to be so ashamed of all you roses, angels and petals. Seems you really dont know what subtle means! It’s not about calling yourself by the name of some pretty flower! It’s not about being so obvious! If you can’t see the rhythm in Keef then it’s you who lacks subtlety. You really are missing out if you think it’s all got to have pink fluffy bits around the edges. Crude? No, no, no girls. Why don’t you all toddle off and be frightfully obvious with your prissy pink selves and leave the subtlety and musical sophistication to those who understand?

  3. Can you imagine Keith Richard playing Jeff Beck’s “Cos We’ve Ended as Lovers”? thank God he never attempted it! He would slaughter it! Nooooo subtlety. The Stones’ music is crude, hard, slam bang thank you ma’am stuff. Also, all that Under My Thumb and Bitch stuff is so chauvinistic and anti-women.

  4. Keef’s playing is hellishly unsubtle. OK, that’s great sometimes, but that is the limit of his ab ilities.

  5. There is one Rolling Stones song I love, particularly the version with Mick Taylor. “Gimme Shelter”. Great song and great playing from Mick T.

  6. Have just been reading Greenwood’s Exile On Main Street, in which there is the salubrious tale of how Anita Pallenberg injected the fifteen daughter of their cook with heroin. NICE.

  7. Boris, Anita Pallenberg was anybody’s. She was also a very destructive, unpleasant person. Don’t believe all you read in Keith’s book, maybe you should check out those references that Angel gives you.

  8. Peter, the Stones playing live are very loud. Keith writes good riffs. But Boris was arguing he should be knighted for his creativity. No way.

  9. I don’t agree that Keef syncopates like no-one else. Live the Stones are often “Out Of Time”.

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  11. Pete. thanks you are so kind.

    In retrospect, I think I got Boris’s article all wrong, he is kidding. Hope you had a good Christmas too, and have a feeling that next year will be great for you.

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  13. Well Angela, you and I have chatted about the Stones before and thiswas an interesting piece. I don’t think you’re giving Keef due respect though. You can’t compare him with Jeff Beck or Carlos or Clapton. He is, as you say, all about riffs and rhythm. No one sounds as good as Keef out of tune, on guitar or when singing. He’s a black man in disguise when it comes to rhythm, with more in his little finger than most musicians have in the whole body. He syncopates like no one else. Keef can even be out of time and still have more rhythm than anyone else.

    I’m back home now. I hope you had a good Christmas. I’m always available for a little private one-to-one tuition on WordPress if you’re in need again.

    • Your views on Keith are seriously insulting to the brilliant black musicians whom he idolised but could never emulate. Blues music and good rock music are much much more than the riffs and rhythm that were the extent of Keef’s abilities. His songs are often very derivative.

      What Keith is good at is part of rock ‘n roll and he does it well, but it is a small part. As Joe Satriani said, his continued and excessive drug taking “ruined his creativity”. “His technique is not refined, and his solos are not legendary. The distance between him and legendary rock musicians is huge. ” I agree with this.

      What you have written is very insulting to all the brilliant blues musicians and black musicians who know how to play.

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