The 50th anniversary of the band’s first gig hasn’t brought forth the Rolling Stones themselves, but there’s a slew of memorabilia and merch available (as well as, to be fair, some great bootlegs now available for official download from the Stones website).
In addition, there’s plenty of biography action, both of the band and at least two forthcoming biographies of Mick, as well as the reissue of the ‘classic’ Stanley Booth account of the 1969 tour, finally published in 1984 after the author had successfully navigated bouts of depression and time devoted to LSD.
Cannily Keith (or should that be, Keef) got his retaliation in first with his autobiography Life. He is very well served by his ghostwriter James Fox (author of the excellent ‘White Mischief’ ).
Reading the book is like having Keith there, talking to you (in the audiobook literally so for the first section). It’s a brilliant read, very dry and very funny – although his occasional references to women as ‘bitches’ is jarring, especially since the book reveals that, if it were ever in doubt, he is a man of highly attuned sensibility.
It is hard to think any of the current crop of books, authorised or not, will capture the flavour of the band anywhere near as well. Here the wit and wisdom of Keef is on good form:
On the fifties
England was often under fog, but there was a fog of words that settled between people too. One didn’t show emotions. One didn’t actually talk much at all. The talk was all around things, codes and euphemisms; some things couldn’t be said or even alluded to. … [But] People really do want to touch each other, to the heart. That’s why you have music. If you can’t say it, sing it.
Always ready with a surprising example –
But if you want to get to the top, you’ve got to start at the bottom, same with anything. Same with running a whorehouse. I would just play every spare moment I got.
Knowing where it came from…
I forgot to say that to play the blues was like a jail break out of those meticulous bars with the notes crammed in like prisoners, like sad faces.
… And why it’s always moving on
They wanted a frozen frame, not knowing that whatever they were listening to was only part of the process; something had gone before and it was going to move on.
Taking a stand, insisting Exile on Main Street should be a double album
And anyway, if you don’t make a bold move, you don’t get fucking anywhere. You’ve got to push the limits.
And who would want to be without Keith’s recipe for bangers and mash –
‘4. […] Throw them on low heat with the simmering bacon and onions (or in the cold pan, as the TV lady said, and add the onions and bacon in a bit) and let the fuckers rock gently, turning every few minutes.
5. Mash yer spuds and whatever
Go mash! If you haven’t read it already, get to it now.