October 28th, 2010

The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richard’s surprisingly translucent memoir, “Life,” made its way onto bookstore shelves Monday. With the help of diaries and letters (for memory-jogging) and journalist James Fox (for literary sprucing-up-ing) the 66 year-old icon offers up a blow by blow account (take that whichever way you wish) of life inside the “pirate nation” that was the Stones.

Of course much is being made of the book for what it does to stoke the ongoing feud between Richards and bandmate Mick Jagger. Throughout the volume, Richards reveals his nicknames for his boyhood friend (“Brenda and Her Majesty,” “that little bitch Brenda”) and pokes fun at his looks (“Mick’s tiny todger”), yet his coup de grace comes with the assessment that

“in 1983, he was just trying to out-disco everyone.”

The story of Richards’ many years of drug use has already been told , which is perhaps why the sections in which he opens up about the other two elements that compose the rock ‘n’ roll trinity are so fascinating.

On his devotion to the blues:

“You were supposed to spend all your waking hours studying Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson. That was your gig. Every other moment taken away from it was a sin.”

And on womanizing:

“I just never had that thing with women,” he writes. “I would do it silently. Very Charlie Chaplin. The scratch, the look, the body language. Get my drift? Now it’s up to you. ‘Hey, baby’ is just not my come-on.”

But according to Richards, he isn’t all bad-boy rocker anymore. He never really ever was. And his frustration with that substance-fueled stereotype of himself he helped create, and maybe his motivation for writing a more-sides-of-me memoir, are shouted out loud.

“People think I’m still a goddamn 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.”