A few excerpts of Keith Richards’ new memoir, Life, were published in the recent issue of Rolling Stone. Pretty thoughtful stuff, almost at odds with his, um, image:
I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me. I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl. Is it half and half? I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain. People think I’m still a junkie. It’s 30 years since I gave up the dope! Image is like a long shadow. Even when the sun goes down, you can see it. I think some of it is that there is so much pressure to be that person that you become it, maybe, to a certain point that you can bear. It’s impossible not to end up being a parody of what you thought you were.
There is something inside me that just wants to excite that thing in other people, because I know it’s there in everybody. There’s a demon in me, and there’s a demon in everybody else. I get a uniquely ridiculous response – the skulls flow in by the truckload, sent by well-wishers. People love that image. They imagined me, they made me, the folks out there created this folk hero. Bless their hearts. And I’ll do the best I can to fulfill their needs. They’re wishing me to do things that they can’t. They’ve got to do this job, they’ve got this life, they’re an insurance salesman… but at the same time, inside of them is a raging Keith Richards. When you talk of a folk hero, they’ve written the script and you better fulfill it. And I did my best.
“What is it that makes you want to write songs? In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people’s hearts. You want to plant yourself there, or at least get a resonance, where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you’re playing. It becomes almost an obsession to touch other people. To write a song that is remembered and taken to heart is a connection, a touching of bases. A thread that runs through all of us. A stab to the heart. Sometimes I think songwriting is about tightening the heartstrings as much as possible without bringing on a heart attack.”