Life by Keith Richards and James Fox
Just like you’d expect: Rock ’n’ roll, drugs, and sex. In that order of importance, that’s what we got in this here book.
But here’s the crazy thing: I really didn’t even like Keith Richards when I picked up this audiobook. Every time I’ve seen him interviewed, he’s appeared to be a drug-addled freak. But I just kept hearing great things about the book, so I decided to exit my comfort zone and give it a whirl.
And damn, this thing is good. I’ve become a vexation to my friends, who, I’m quite certain, are completely weary of hearing me talk about Keith Richards and his wonderful book.
Here’s why I keep raving:
The guy can tell a story. He’s got lots of them. The book kicks off with a dramatic drug bust tale, and there are plenty of similar stories here.
But the stuff I really love is when Richards writes about music—performing, writing, and listening to music. There’s such passion there, and it’s beautiful to read (hear).
He says that he and the others talk to the songs while they’re writing them—cajoling them, chastising them. That’s weird and wonderful.
There was a line I just kept thinking about—about how he feels like he’s levitating when they’re performing on stage—and when I checked out Keith Richard’s website, I saw those sentences at the bottom of the page about the book. They’re really quite lovely.
Also, at the beginning of Track 1 on Disc 19, he describes the acoustic challenges of performing in a large stadium, and the methods by which he and the others make sure they stay in synch with one another. It was so good, so fascinating, so beautiful, I listened to it 3 times.
(Bizarro aside: It reminds me of the Blue Angels—that sense of teamwork. Speaking of whom, the Blues use “Start Me Up” during their run-up… though it quickly becomes nearly inaudible because of the glorious, deafening engine noise. At which point I start shivering with joy. But I digress…)
So this baby won the Audie for Audiobook of the Year, which is well-deserved. It’s just plain amazing as an audiobook.
Other than “It’s amazing,” here are the other things to know about the audiobook:
First—I was expecting the whole audiobook to be read by Johnny Depp, because I’d heard that he was the reader. But he does only about the first quarter of the book, then Joe Hurley takes over as the reader, and then Depp comes back at the end. Not that I’m complaining, because they both are remarkably good at interpreting the story; I just didn’t expect the change of voice midstream. Keith Richards, the man himself, reads the final section. He sounds slightly less clear than the other two, but it’s fascinating to hear his voice. (Also, when he’s reading, occasionally you can hear the pages shuffle, which, for some reason, I really like.)
Second—You really can’t be driving with the car windows open, because the swearing is done with gusto. It’s big, lusty swearing, I’m telling you. I ain’t got a problem with it, but you just want to make sure the child-full minivan that pulls up next to you at a stoplight doesn’t get an earful.
Third—The voice of the narrator (especially Joe Hurley’s reading) has a tendency to stick in a person’s mind (again, not in a bad way). So I’ve been talking to myself with that voice in my head for about a couple of weeks now, and while it’s wildly entertaining, it’s also not the sort of thing you want to do out loud.
So here’s the thing: The guy (and his co-author) can write.
Also, he’s confessed that he has librarian tendencies, he hangs out in his home’s library, and he loves public libraries….
…and that just makes me so happy I could almost levitate.
Thus, for the first time in my (sheltered) life, I confess: a crush on a man who wears eyeliner.
Read by Johnny Depp and Joe Hurley; the final chapter is read by Keith Richards himself; 22 ½ hours