This topic on my mind because I just finished Keith Richard’s excellent memoir Life. It’s a great read, full of great rock and roll adventure, but what caught my attention was the way he treats Mick Jagger. Not that it came as a shock.
Life is one of only three rock memoirs I can remember reading- the others being Dave Davies Kink and Motley Crue’s The Dirt. Kink I read because a bandmate said it was interesting and The Dirt because I saw it at the library and I thought why not? But I’m generally not that into reading rock memoirs because I’m not all that interested in that sort of life. I’m sure it’s fun for a while, but I don’t know, I get homesick and tired of being around people.
But the common thread of all three of these books is- man it sucks playing with ____. Dave hates his brother Ray, who is, according to him, a total dick. The guys in the Crue take shots at each other throughout the book. Spoiler- Keith doesn’t like Mick all that much. He concedes that Mick is a great performer. He also admits that he works very well together with him musically and that they’re “brothers”. But not really friends.
Part of me thinks- well I can understand that. Shit, you start a band with someone when you’re teenager and you get stuck with them for the rest of your life. Keith can and does work outside the Stones and Mick does at times as well, but they’re really never going to be on the level they are as solo artists. Keith admits as much. They are stuck. Trapped. Condemned.
Can you imagine having the same job for forty years with someone that you met in elementary school? Other than my seldom-seen co-blogger I barely talk to anyone I know from high school. I see people every now and then, but I don’t have to spend half (or more) of every year with them. I don’t think I could.
I’ve been playing in bands for 15 or so years and at this point, I’ve had a handful of people I’ve played with for more than a year at a time. One is my current drummer. We rarely argue about stuff, and when we do, it’s almost always about songs- I want to change something, he doesn’t or he feels something isn’t working and I want to keep at it. There’s no money on the line, no tour waiting, no media expectations, really nothing besides us wanting to play music. But we fight about it. Not as much anymore- we see it coming and just lay off. But music is what we do for fun. No one has a mansion in the south of France riding on how well that song comes out.
But I have had some horrible fights with former bandmates- normally right before one or both of us quits the band. Again, it’s just for fun and we’re fighting, and we can walk away and not lose any money (sadly, I’d save money by not doing music at all).
So I can kind of relate. But part of me is like, lay off Mick. He’s brought me a lot of joy in my life. And can’t you just let it go man? You’re older than my dad. And really, did you need to bring up Mick’s lack of endowment? That’s just mean, and contrary to what the media claimed when the book was released, that had been an open secret for years.
But it was a great read. What I’ve always liked about Keith is his enthusiasm. He’s like an average guy who got to meet all his heroes and do some great music. I imagine if he weren’t in the Stones he’d be a weekend warrior playing dive bars.
*I just remembered that I read Bob Dylan’s book, but I don’t really remember much about it. I think I bought it at an airport bookstore because I needed something to read.