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Keith Richards riffs on life with the Rolling Stones

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones spills stories about his years in the band in his autobiography, Life, which is available for sale Tuesday. Adult beverages and creative pharmaceutical use are themes.

Getty Images (2007)

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones spills stories about his years in the band in his autobiography, Life, which is available for sale Tuesday. Adult beverages and creative pharmaceutical use are themes.

Rolling Stone is calling it "one of the greatest rock memoirs ever" — and no, they're not gushing about the new Rick Springfield tell-all, Late, Late at Night. (Oooh, the life lessons of Noah Drake; I'm getting chills.)

Instead, the music mag is tingly with anticipation for Life, the sure-to-be-besotted autobio by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, which will hit store shelves on Tuesday. Such is the promised debauchery and booze-soaked dish, you won't know whether to read it or drink it.

Now 66 and the owner of a face that looks like a plate of pad thai, Richards has never been short on stories or honesty. In an extended excerpt from his book, published in the current issue of Rolling Stone, the immortal one writes about striking creative gold with Glimmer Twin Mick Jagger, as well as the doctor's bag of bad habits that should have killed him — but made him as durable as an apocalyptic cockroach picking a Fender.

Herewith, a couple of choice bits to wet your whistle:

On the inspiration for 1968 classic Jumpin' Jack Flash:

When you get a riff like "Flash," you get a great feeling of elation, a wicked glee. The lyrics came from a gray dawn at Redlands. Mick and I had been up all night, it was raining outside, and there was the sound of these heavy stomping rubber boots near the window, belonging to my gardener, Jack Dyer. It woke Mick up. He said, "What's that?" I said, "Oh, that's Jack. That's jumping Jack." I started to work around the phrase on the guitar, which was in open tuning, singing the phrase "Jumping Jack." Mick said, "Flash," and suddenly we had this phrase with a great rhythm and ring to it.

On setting fire to the Playboy Mansion in 1972 with Stones sax player Bobby Keys:

Bobby and I were just sitting in the john, comfortable, nice john, sitting on the floor, and we've got the doc's bag and we're just smorgasbording. "I wonder what these do?" Bong. And at a certain point, Bobby says, "It's smoky in here." And I'm looking at Bobby and can't see him. And the drapes are smoldering away; everything was just about to go off big-time. To the point where I can't see him, he's disappeared in this fog. "Yes, I guess it is a bit smoky in here." It was a really delayed reaction. … Some of my most outrageous nights I can only believe actually happened because of corroborating evidence. No wonder I'm famous for partying!

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467.

Move over, Mick:

Best Keith songs!

For a grizzled, gruff scoundrel, Keith Richards sure has a cute singing voice, doesn't he? Although Mick Jagger is arguably the greatest front man in rock 'n' roll history, there's always a perverse thrill during a Stones gig when Pirate Keef saunters to the mike. "Here's one!" he'll chirp. And if you're lucky, he'll warble one of these gems:

Happy (from 1972's Exile on Main Street) The quintessential Keith song: "I need a love to keep me happy!" The horns bleat, the guitars duel and a law-averse scruff tries to prove to his lady that he's not all bad boy.

Before They Make Me Run (from 1978's Some Girls) There's mucho swagger and sway in this switchblade shake about a hard-livin' rock star who takes orders from no one. Love that skippy riff, too: fun but defiant, just like the man himself.

Slipping Away (from 1989's Steel Wheels) Richards is a diehard bluesman first and foremost, and on this underrated cut, the Stones icon taps into his darker side for a slow-burn ballad about a rogue losing a battle with heartache.

Sean Daly, Times pop music critic

Keith Richards riffs on life with the Rolling Stones 10/24/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 25, 2010 9:18am]

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