I just finished reading Keith Richards's book, Life. I like the Rolling Stones. The band I am in, the Kansas City Jammers, played their music at every gig in the early 1970s. So it was with great anticipation that I began reading this tome. (It needs an editor, by the way, but don't we all?)
What I ran into was a gargantuan amount of vitriol thrown at Mick by Keith (including a comment about a. size and b. performance, and I am not referring to his concerts) as well as some interesting insights into these men's friendship with each other. Obviously they are locked into each other as Paul and John were. There is competition for women, competition for other musician friends, and competition for songwriting attention. Here is a quote that shows that men friends are more important than women.
"I've no doubt, in retrospect, that Mick was very jealous of me having other male friends. And I've no doubt that that was more of a difficulty than women or anything else. It took me a long time to realize that any male friend I had would autmoatically get the cold shoulder, or at least a suspicious reception, from Mick. Any guys I got close to would tell me, sooner or later, 'I don't think Mick likes me.'" (p. 311)
Next we have what is little talked about, and I do not doubt its veracity or that it happens between we lesser rock guitarists. Men compete with their friends not only for women but for men friends. Keith goes on, also on p. 311, to say that Mick and he were very tight friends but that Mick was possessive. Keith thought Mick didn't want him to have any friends other than Mick. On the next page, Keith writes that Mick thought that Keith belonged to him.
Keith explains friendship (p. 312) in well-known terms. He mentions two components that men in Buddy System used to define friendships — being understood and trusting. "It's can you hang, can you talk about this without any feeling of distance between you? Friendship is diminishing distance between people...and to me it's one of the most important things in the world...I'll trust you until you prove you're not trustworthy." Dependability was another component of friendship the men I interviewed mentioned. Keith, many pages later, gets to dependability, too.
While this last series of quotes come from the history of the band in the early 70s, by the 80s the distance has grown between Keith and Mick yet Keith knows Mick would be there for him if the chips were down. "I used to love to hang with Mick," Keith writes on p. 457, "but I haven't gone to his dressing room in twenty years. Sometimes I miss my friend. Where the hell did he go? I know...I can guarantee he'll be there for me, as I would for him, because that's beyond any contention"
Two lifelong friends — they bug each other; they fight; they separate; they frustrate each other; they come back together in new ways as more mature men — or perhaps this book leaves that question open — but they know when push comes to shove, they are there for each other. Yes, things change and Keith is ambivalent in his feelings, maybe protecting himself as with this line on page 418: "I love the man dearly. But it was a long time ago that we could be that close."
This is the complexity of friendships over the course of almost 60 years between these two great musicians. All good reads should make the reader reconsider some aspect of life. This book may or may not make you enjoy the Stones music more, but it should get you to consider lifelong friends and what a lifetime of working and playing together can do to them as they mature.