Thursday, April 05, 2007

Drinkin' and Smokin' with Keith

by Wayne Robins

The opinion here is that Keith Richards probably did not snort his father’s ashes. It’s more likely
he rolled the cremated remains of the pater familias into a joint and smoked him. But of course, he probably did not do that, either. What’s even crazier than the alleged act is that the probable joke at the expense of a reporter from NME became front page news around the tabloid world.
Google News offers 1,040 links about the Keith story. Among the most interesting—and much more colorful than the standard wire service reports—is from
Xinhuanet, the online arm of Beijing-based Chinese news agency, whose dispatch read in part:
“Richards may be recognized by some as the greatest rhythm guitarist in rock'n'roll, but he is even more well-known for his ability to survive the most debauched excesses of the rock lifestyle... His relentless consumption of drugs and alcohol has been well documented, and the world has watched in awe as he has survived episodes that would have brought death to lesser mortals.”

I’ll drink to that. Or at least I drank to that, when I played dueling air guitars with Keith at the end of a lengthy, bourbon-infused interview in his manager’s New York office. Keith was promoting his role as music producer of Taylor Hackford’s 1987 Chuck Berry film bio, “Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll.” I was doing a story for Newsday, which was my employer for almost 19 years. If you’ve seen the movie, and Richards' tense face-offs with the irascible Berry, you know that Keith is entirely capable of being the responsible adult in the room, especially where music is involved.

But this was an interview.

I don’t recall whether I supplied the Rebel Yell (I did once carry a bottle of the Dixie-based brand to Richards in Los Angeles when he was promoting his second solo album, "Main Offender" in 1992). Keith took his with ginger ale; me, with ice and water. After a few hours of animated conversation, the bottle was almost empty, it was getting dark, and regarding the still-unfinished “Hail Hail Rock and Roll” soundtrack, Keith said: “Would you like to hear some rough mixes?”

Well, yeah. And when Keith got up to jam air guitar-style with his recent Chuck Berry sessions blasting from the speakers, well, Lord, I was moved to do the same. And so we were, reelin’ and a rockin’, me mostly reelin’, one reason my beverage of choice these days is ginger ale, without the whiskey.


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