Keith Richards grew up in Dartford, a suburb of London, and came from a close-knit working class family. You kind of expect someone like Keith Richards to have had a rough childhood with traumatic events, but Keith’s big complaints about growing up concerned mean dentists and school bullies. Keith became interested in music early, singing in a school choir for many years and getting his first guitar in his teens. It is hard to imagine Keith Richards as a choir boy, but he was. It was his love of music that first brought Keith into contact with Mick Jagger. Jagger also grew up in Dartford, though from a "posher" background. One day, Jagger ran into Richards on the tube, Richards was carrying a Chuck Berry record, they began discussing it and the rest is history. It is amazing that these two, probably the best rock and roll songwriting team in history (disclaimer, I believe you are either a Stones person or a Beatles person, I am a Stones person), met as teenagers in such a random way and are still working together and friends (though there certainly is some tension there as Richards describes in the latter chapters of the book). Keith and Mick both were obsessed with early American rock and roll (Berry, Holly) and more importantly the Blues. The book definitely taught me a lot about music, the blues and early rock in particular.
Once Keith and Mick met, they started playing music together, and the Rolling Stones eventually were formed. Brian Jones, the now deceased guitarist, is credited with founding the band. Charlie Watts, the effortlessly cool and seemingly unflappable drummer joined at the beginning too. The book is very long (around 600 pages) and Richards spends a lot more time detailing the early years of the band and its meteoric rise than the later years. In these early chapters, you really get to know Richards – he is a music geek, somewhat shy, a loyal friend, and a one-woman type of guy. Eventually comes superstardom, and with it, rocky relationships, drugs, and bad judgment. I found Keith’s description of his eventual heroin addiction interesting and honest. He doesn’t act like it is a big deal or something to be ashamed of. He also doesn’t follow the normal celebrity behavior of acting like she he gave up heroin he has been clean. It is clear that he gave up heroin but that’s all – he still did plenty of other drugs and obviously still drinks plenty. While I appreciate his honesty, there are certainly parts of the book and Keith’s life that are hard to swallow. He repeatedly states that he and the Stones were victims of the law and order establishment (in the U.K. , States and Canada) who targeted him to prove a point, and this is why he was arrested so much. And it certainly appears that he was somewhat of a target, but he played some role in that by breaking the law by carrying around drugs and unlicensed (loaded) weapons. Another part of the book that is challenging is his depiction of women. He claims to be a one-woman man – and to some extent I believe it – he has had two major relationships in his life (Anita Pallenberg and Patti Hansen), but I didn’t get the sense (with Pallenberg only) that he was faithful. And, he has a tendency to refer to women as “bitches” a lot. Along with the women issues are the kid issues – his son Marlon was his main tour minder during the worst of his addiction when he was just 8 or 9. Finally, I wish he skipped the bitching about Mick. It seemed petty, and Mick did keep the band together while Keith was in a heroin stupor during the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Throughout the book, you feel like you are sitting with Keith at the bar and he is telling you stories. Some of the stories are accounts of how classic Stones songs were written, or the many near death experiences Keith went through along the way, and some of the stories are just regular guy stuff – like the kinds of books he reads and the kind of food he eats. This is where his recipe for Bangers and Mash come in (I have shared it below). I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book. I am a fiction reader, and what I love about fiction is its ability to transport you to another place and time. Keith’s book did this for me - for the time I was reading it I felt I was part of his world – and I was disappointed when it ended. I recommend this book for anyone that loves rock and roll.
Keith Richards Bangers and Mash (adapted by Wendy:
Ingredients (serves 2)
4 "Bangers" sausages (any big sausage will do, I got "Irish Bangers" from Whole Foods)
3 large potatoes
A cup and half of peas
3 onions, 2 sliced and 1 chopped
3 slices of bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups beef stock
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup of milk
salt and pepper
Here is Keith's recipe, I include it to show how funny he is:
1. First off, find a butcher who makes his sausages fresh.
2. Fry up a mixture of onions and bacon and seasonings.
3. Get the spuds on the boil with a dash of vinegar, some chopped onions and salt (seasoning to taste. Chuck in some peas with the spuds. (Throw in some chopped carrots too, if you like). Now we're talking.
4. Now, you have a choice of grilling or broiling your bangers or frying. Throw the on low heat with the simmering bacon and onions (or in the cold pan, as the TV lady said, and add onions and bacon in a bit) and let the fuckers rock gently, turning every few minutes.
5. Mash yer spuds and whatever.
6. Bangers are now fat free (as possible!).
7. Gravy if desitred.
8. HP sauce, every man to his own.
Here are my instructions, a little more detailed and I put together this onion gravy on the fly. Never made it before, super easy and really yummy, would work really well on roast beef dishes.
For gravy: Heat a slug of olive oil in a saucepan and add onions on medium heat. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, and then add the red wine. Let the onions cook on low heat until they are dark colored, stirring occasionally.
Then sprinkle flour over onions and stir, cook until flour isn't raw anymore, about 2 minutes. Add beef stock and bring to a boil, cook, stirring, until gravy is thickened, about 10 minutes.
Yummy! OK, for the potatoes, you probably should have put this on before the gravy. Cut up the potatoes, put in boiling water and cook till tender. When potatoes are done, add the peas. Cook for a couple of minutes and then drain. Return to the hot pot and mash all together, add the butter and milk and salt and pepper to taste. Add more butter and milk if you like.
For the bangers, fry up the onions and bacon together. Then, as Keith suggests, take the pan off the heat and cool. Then add the bangers to the pan, and cook on medium low heat until done, turning often, about 15 minutes. I burned mine, as you can see, but it all worked out fine in the end.