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Writing a better format for Keith Richards than talking

Published 4:58pm Sunday, November 7, 2010

When Paris Hilton got a book deal, I winced and bit my tongue.

ebyI didn’t resent Sarah Palin becoming a bestselling author.

Mama Grizzly’s at least a journalism major.

But Keith Richards, that intrigues me.

First of all, I’ve been a fan since the British invasion and finally saw the Rolling Stones in Detroit in October 2002:

The Rolling Stones and the inaugural Ford Field concert.

Saturday night live.

“Satisfaction” guaranteed.

They don’t call these men of wealth and taste “the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band” for nothing, as they proved from the opener, 1971’s “Brown Sugar,” to the single-song encore with that mesmerizing guitar lick in full snarl, 1965’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which ended in fireworks and white smog obscuring the stage.

I hereby retract any snide ageist comments I may have made in this space disparaging the “Steel Wheelchairs” tour about the time they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Even jokes about their longevity have gotten old.

Like those old rhythm and blues guys they idolize, they don’t intend to retire.

They vow to “Not Fade Away.”

They’re the most durable band, hands down, still on the road in 2002 with their 15th North American tour when half of the Beatles are gone.

And what a catalog. “Street Fighting Man,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Wild Horses,” Honky Tonk Women,” “Start Me Up,” “Let It Bleed,” “Don’t Stop,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Undercover of the Night” and “Sympathy for the Devil,” which featured fireballs shooting from the set.

We saw Mick play guitar on the new “Don’t Stop,” Mick play harmonica and Mick sing Bob Dylan on “Like a Rolling Stone,” which Dylan didn’t even do at Notre Dame.

“It’s Only Rock and Roll,” yet 40,000 of us dinosaurs deliriously liked it.

Yet I momentarily felt bitterly disappointed, too, at the snub of 1966, the greatest year in music.

No “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Paint It Black” or “Mother’s Little Helper.”

Keith’s memoir could go either way.

Maybe pages would help translate his mumbled comments in interviews.

Clearly, he’s intelligent and more incongruous than the one-dimensional drug-addled pirate character Johnny Depp drew inspiration from after portraying Hunter Thompson.

But, the thought nagged me, how could he possibly remember any of his amazing debauched rollercoaster ride with the Stones?

You know, the idea if you remember the Sixties you weren’t really there.

As recently as 2006, he fell out of that palm tree in Fiji.

Seven million and $700,000 ought to buy some more satisfaction.

That’s the reported advance for Richards’ 564-page memoir, “Life,” in which a softer, more sophisticated side shines through.

Only child in Dartford, a London suburb. Grandpa taught him gardening. A Boy Scout. A soprano who sang for the Queen at Westminster Abbey. An animal softie with a pet cat.

Listening to Doris Richards’ Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong before he got his first guitar at 15.

After a 48-year partnership he finds fellow Glimmer Twin Mick Jagger “unbearable.”

The Chicago Tribune ran a cool picture of the bickering bandmates Oct. 16 credited to former Niles Daily Star photographer Jason Wambsgans.

Keef, the Connecticut squire, writes, “People think I’m still a junkie. It’s 30 years since I gave up the dope!”

In 1973, New Musical Express compiled a list of rock stars most likely to die, with Richards at No. 1.

“Ten years I was number one on that list. It used to make me laugh. That was the only chart on which I was number one for 10 years in a row. The folks out there created this folk hero. Bless their hearts. and I’ll do the best I can to fulfill their needs. They’re wishing me to do things that they can’t. They’ve got to do this job, they’ve got this life, they’re an insurance salesman … It’s no exaggeration that I was basically living like an outlaw. And I got into it!”

•••

“The thing with John (Lennon) — for all his vaunted bravado — he couldn’t really keep up.”

— Keith Richards

•••

“I wrote ‘Angie’ in an afternoon (in a drug clinic), sitting in bed, because I could finally feel my fingers and put them in the right places again.”

— Keith Richards

•••

“It’s like ‘Mein Kampf.’ Everybody had a copy, but nobody listened to it.”

— Keith Richards, dissing Jagger’s first solo album, “She’s the Boss.” In a visit to Dartford, he told the kids, “Whatever you’re listening to now, it wouldn’t have been there without me.”

•••

“This might be the only drug memoir ever that features no redemptive cleanup, no 12 steps, no regrets, no apologies … Will the Rolling Stones, who survived the drugs, death, madness and chaos, survive the prose of Keith Richards?”

— Rich Cohen in Rolling Stone’s review of “Life,” a “classic rock memoir” which “holds nothing back.”

•••

“As cool on the page as on the stage.”

— Richard Corliss in Time

 

Quips, quotes and qulunkers:“Most people that you read about in history, the more you study them, the less impressive they become. Lincoln is one of the only ones where the more you find out, the more impressive he is. He was also our funniest president by far.”

— Conan O’Brien, who returns to late-night television tonight at 11 on TBS. Did you know he was valedictorian in high school in Massachusetts?

•••

“Why weren’t the wars and their human and economic consequences front and center in this campaign, right up there with jobs and taxes?”

— Tom Brokaw

in the New York Times

•••

“We probably should have tried to build Iraq from the outside in.”

— Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

•••

“I became an engineer because of Sputnik. (President Eisenhower) called on us to catch up to the Russians in space. The funny thing is, in those days, the kids who weren’t smart enough to become scientists and engineers became business majors. Now you have 11 percent of MIT’s engineering graduates going to work on Wall Street.”

— Sen. Ted Kaufman, appointed to fill out Joe Biden’s Senate term in 2009

•••

Obits: Barbara Billingsley, matriarch of the Cleaver family as June, the impossibly perfect suburban housewife in pearls on “Leave It to Beaver” from 1957 to 1963, one of my all-time favorite shows, died Oct. 16 at 94.

A child of divorced parents, the California native and former model and her husband split after having two sons together.

One of the great movie scenes was in “Airplane” in 1980 when she announced, “Oh, stewardess! I speak jive.”

Tom Bosley, TV dad Howard Cunningham on “Happy Days,” died Oct. 19 at 83.

John Eby is Daily News managing editor. E-mail him at john.eby@leaderpub.com.

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