Monday, September 02, 2013

Keith Richard's "Life", the Music, 1

Keith Richard's biography ("Life", 2010) was a surprising success both in terms of its commercial appeal  and its literary quality. Not quite up there with Dylan's "Chronicles," but not so far off (more honest cause less arty, some would say); i t shows a very intelligent person with a definite perspective on life.

What was particularly interesting to me was Keith Richards' commentary on music. Some people would fault him as a mercenary or popularizer of the blues. I think "Life" shows he was and is a true blues scholar, who took on a life-long thoughtful engineering study of blues as music and feeling.

Heartbreak Hotel on Radio Luxembourg is sort of the beginning. The first rock 'n roll he ever heard. It sounded totally different, "bare, right to the roots that you had a feeling were there but hadn't  yet heard." He heard it compared to highly orchestrated musics of the day. Haunting Heartbreak Hotel came up through silence. "Silence is your canvas," writes Richards. The consequent perception being to live with the Silence and make peace with it as you make music. P. 58

It was the band, not the singer, that really got to him – more specifically the guitarist Scotty Moore. (He edint listen to Ricky Nelson, he says, he listened to James Burton.)p.60  He is a collector of little figures, small riffs. The ones that make so much difference on the great works. He has been trying to figure out one of Scotty's (on "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone") for over 40 years.  And Scotty keeps the curtain closed. "Every time I see him, it's 'Learnt that lick yet?" Richards writes.

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