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Never Mainline

Jenny Diski: Keith Richards, 16 December 2010

by Keith Richards, with James Fox.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 297 85439 5
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... I’m going to hang on to Keith Richards’s autobiography, because sometimes I worry that I lead a boring life and wonder if I shouldn’t try harder to have fun. When that happens, a quick flick through Keith’s memoirs will remind me that I’ve never really wanted to live the life of anyone else, not even a Rolling Stone ...

Play hard

Dave Haslam, 20 October 1994

The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music 1972-93 
by Nick Kent.
Penguin, 338 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 0 14 023046 7
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... name in the mid and late Seventies as a strung-out stringer, the suburban boy getting high with Keith Richards, hanging out at backstage drug binges, and – on one memorable occasion – being beaten about the body by Sid Vicious wielding a rusty bicycle chain. Kent’s most fruitful years writing for New Musical Express coincided with the descent ...


Graham Coster, 10 January 1991

Stone Alone 
by Bill Wyman and Ray Coleman.
Viking, 594 pp., £15.99, October 1990, 0 670 82894 7
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Blown away: The Rolling Stones and the Death of the Sixties 
by A.E. Hotchner.
Simon and Schuster, 377 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 0 671 69316 6
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Are you experienced? The Inside Story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience 
by Noel Redding and Carol Appleby.
Fourth Estate, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 1 872180 36 1
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I was a teenage Sex Pistol 
by Glen Matlock and Pete Silverton.
Omnibus, 192 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 7119 2491 0
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by George Michael and Tony Parsons.
Joseph, 242 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3435 4
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... him. Whether he likes it or not, he usually does what he’s told. Even drummers, as the Who’s Keith Moon proved, are allowed to be charismatic – but bass players, unless they also sing, like Sting, get on with playing bass. The manager of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, bassman Noel Redding recalls, was quite clear on the roles mapped out for each of ...


Iain Sinclair: Thatcher in Gravesend, 9 May 2013

... of their upstream neighbour, Dartford. Dartford is where Margaret Thatcher, like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, launched her career as a big-stage, big-dollar performer. With age, Thatcher and Keith Richards relocated their original identities, with fat biographies boosted as pure legend, bad behaviour ...

Saint Q

Alan Brien, 12 September 1991

Well, I forget the rest 
by Quentin Crewe.
Hutchinson, 278 pp., £17.99, September 1991, 0 09 174835 6
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... yet?’ At Quentin’s we grew used to finding Koestler, Bernard Levin, Peter Sellers, Ken Tynan, Keith Richards – but none of these quite counted as in her league. As Quentin observes here, with a pretence of puzzlement, ‘even in supposedly relaxed and liberal circles, very few managed to behave normally with royalty.’ This, he goes on, afforded ...

Ways to Be Pretentious

Ian Penman, 5 May 2016

M Train 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 253 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6768 6
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Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 303 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6300 8
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... My memory is that she was wearing a greyish white T-shirt adorned with a Nosferatu-like image of Keith Richards. Before the assembled hacks, she launched into a risible stream-of-consciousness rap – a dithyramb to all the Keefs and Bobs and other venerable rock’n’roll patriarchs. I wanted a polysex pop music Kali, and here she was dragging it all ...

I did not pan out

Christian Lorentzen: Sam Lipsyte, 6 June 2019

by Sam Lipsyte.
Granta, 304 pp., £12.99, March 2019, 978 1 78378 321 2
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... fires up and down my spine. This was a radical idea at the time: it wasn’t until 2007 that Keith Richards told an interviewer he’d snorted cocaine mixed with his father’s ashes. Lipsyte’s first novel, The Subject Steve, was published on 11 September 2001, an inauspicious start even if your subject matter is the lives of fatalistic ...

A bout de Bogart

Jenny Diski, 19 May 2011

Tough without a Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 26072 0
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... DiCaprio and Elijah Wood, and not a rugged, crusty old geezer in sight, if you don’t count Keith Richards in his Pirates of the Caribbean cameo or the cartoon ogre Shrek. It is, Kanfer admits, a chicken and egg situation. Adults don’t go to the movies because they can’t find ‘emotional and aesthetic satisfaction’. He regrets the ‘current ...

Into a Blazing Oven

Lili Owen Rowlands: Virginie Despentes, 17 December 2020

Vernon Subutex Three 
by Virginie Despentes, translated by Frank Wynne.
MacLehose, 306 pp., £14.99, June, 978 0 85705 982 6
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... that makes him look more handsome than ever – ‘like if you spliced Bruno Mars with Keith Richards’. He tours Belfast, Wolverhampton and Liverpool, but ‘without the others … he’s just some guy with a lot of tunes loaded onto USB drives.’ In Paris, on the night of 13 November 2015, the group spontaneously reunites, eating Nutella ...

Dixie Peach Pomade

Alex Abramovich: In the Room with Robert Johnson, 6 October 2022

Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson 
by Annye C. Anderson with Preston Lauterbach.
Hachette Go, 224 pp., £20, July 2021, 978 0 306 84526 0
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... knew what he meant, but I thought just the opposite.’) Brian Jones played the album for Keith Richards, who thought he was listening to two guitarists. (‘It took me a long time to realise he was actually doing it all by himself,’ Richards said.) The Rolling Stones used Johnson’s songs to convey ...

Got to go make that dollar

Alex Abramovich: Otis Redding, 3 January 2019

Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life 
by Jonathan Gould.
Crown, 544 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 307 45395 2
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... the Rolling Stones had conceived as a homage to Redding and the Stax studio sound; Keith Richards later called the Stones’ version ‘a demo for Otis’). Slow, pleading ballads like ‘These Arms of Mine’, ‘Chained and Bound’, ‘My Lover’s Prayer’, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ and ‘Pain in My Heart’ may have been ...

‘Someone you had to be a bit careful with’

David Sylvester: Gallery Rogues, 30 March 2000

Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... title and also by letting the first and last words in the book come from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and those on the jacket from Paul McCartney, so that Fraser is effectively handed over to showbiz. In reality, showbiz was in the margin of his life. He was a creative figure in the art world whose motivation for dealing was neither profit nor ...


E.S. Turner, 1 October 1987

The war the Infantry knew 1914-1919: A Chronicle of Service in France and Belgium 
by Captain J.C. Dunn, introduced by Keith Simpson.
Jane’s, 613 pp., £18, April 1987, 0 7106 0485 8
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Passchendaele: The Story behind the Tragic Victory of 1917 
by Philip Warner.
Sidgwick, 269 pp., £13.95, June 1987, 0 283 99364 2
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Poor Bloody Infantry: A Subaltern on the Western Front 1916-17 
by Bernard Martin.
Murray, 174 pp., £11.95, April 1987, 0 7195 4374 6
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... That), Siegfried Sassoon (Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer) and Frank Richards (not, as some have supposed, the creator of Billy Bunter but the author of Old soldiers never die, an excellent view of the war by a Regular in the ranks). As many will know, Good-Bye to All That, published in 1929, erupted like a burst of mustard ...


Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning, 25 September 2014

Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... he got a sound it would take the Rolling Stones until 1972’s Exile on Main Street to secure. And Keith Richards says he still can’t work out some of Moore’s blistering riffs and runs.) Listening to these itchy little songs in your front room, sixty years on, you miss the most vital spark in the detonation: Elvis’s own vivid, mercurial ...

Brussels Pout

Ian Penman: Baudelaire’s Bad End, 16 March 2023

Late Fragments: ‘Flares’, ‘My Heart Laid Bare’, Prose Poems, ‘Belgium Disrobed’ 
by Charles Baudelaire, translated by Richard Sieburth.
Yale, 427 pp., £16.99, March, 978 0 300 27049 5
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... of Rimbaud, it may be purely a matter of image. (Which is itself already quite modern.) Before Keith Richards, before punk, here is rock and roll animal Arthur Rimbaud with his anti-gravity shock of lightning strike hair. A queer Pan with italicised attitude, Rimbaud gets the Leonardo DiCaprio film and David Wojnarowicz mask. All Baudelaire’s ...

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