December 20, 2003
Keith Richards not raised by wolves shock

I missed this piece about one of my most favourite musicians, Keith Richards, when it first came out nearly a week ago.

He doesn’t exactly look like your average squire, Keith Richards, with his piratical swagger and a complexion that’s been compared to old cat litter. But Keith, who turns 60 next month, is emerging as one of the most shockingly normal, and English, of rock stars, as well as one of the most self-aware. 'I can be the cat on stage any time I want,' he said some years ago. ‘I like to stay in touch with him.... But I’m a very placid, nice guy – most people will tell you that. It’s mainly to placate this other creature that I work.'

Keith’s paternal grandparents were both well respected councillors in Walthamstow, where his grandmother served as the first female mayor. His maternal grandfather was a first world war hero. Keith’s father was among the first to hit the Normandy beaches on D-Day and was badly wounded as a result. He was later cited for conspicuous gallantry. Some discrepancy, then, between the raised-by-wolves legend of Keith’s upbringing and the reality, with its emphasis on duty, rank and sound traditional values. He enjoyed singing 'Zadok the Priest' to the new Queen in 1953 and was a model Boy Scout, as well as a dab hand at sports.

Which precisely accords with my understanding of the particular virtues of his music-making, which seems to me likewise to be very orderly, deeply traditional, and highly disciplined.


More and more, Rock and Roll seems like World War III, but without so many casualties, and fought by the descendants of the alpha-warriors in the previous two wars, the ones with all the casualties. That is certainly the way the the old Rock and Rollers themselves talk about it. All that "getting out of it alive" stuff. Even the wearing of mock military uniforms starts to look less like a mockery and more like a straight acknowledgement of their true spiritual (and in Richards' case literal) ancestry.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:34 AM
Category: Pop music