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Please Allow Me to Correct a Few Things

Please Allow Me to Correct a Few Things

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Published by Ken Connor

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Published by: Ken Connor on May 27, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Please Allow Me To Correct a Few Things
Imagine if Mick Jagger responded to KeithRichards about his new autobiography.
By Bill WymanPosted Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, at 7:15 AM ET
 Editor's note: On a recent morning, the journalist Bill Wyman received aUPS package containing a typed manuscript. On reading it, he saw that it seemed to be thethoughts, at some length, of singer Mick Jagger on therecently published autobiographyof hislongtime songwriting partner in the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards. A handwritten note on an old  piece of Munro Sounds stationery read: "Bill: For the vault. M."  From this, Wyman surmised that the package was intended for Jagger and Richards' former bandmate,the bassist Bill Wyman, who has assiduously overseen the band's archives over the past five decadesand with whom Wyman the journalist coincidentally shares the same name. Wyman the journalist, alongtime rock critic,was once threatened with a cease-and-desist letter from Wyman the bassist's Park  Avenue attorneys and felt no compunction about perusing the contents of the package. The manuscript he received is reprinted below.
PRINTDISCUSSE-MAILRSSRECOMMEND... REPRINTSSINGLE PAGE Facebook DiggRedditStumbleUponCLOSE I am, I see here, marginally endowed, if I read Keith's sniggering aright. I do not sing well, either. I amnot polite to employees; indeed, I have even been known to say, "Oh, shut up, Keith," in bandmeetings. I do not appreciate the authenticity of the music or the importance of what we do. I want to"lord it over" the band, like James Brown. I am "insufferable." I slept with Anita.Most of that is in just the first quarter of this overlong book, but a tattoo of my failings sounds allthrough it and culminates in almost 20 full pages of rambling invective near the end.I don't mind this, really, for reasons I hope are understandable and will get into later. This is all from aguy pushing 70 for whom gays are still "poofters" and women "bitches." I think so many things about
Keith. We were close, the two of us, for many years. We had known each other in grade school, if youcan believe it, in the same undistinguished eastern suburb. Then we bumped into each other in a trainstation at 18 or so and started talking about the blues. We were different; I'd already been on TV withmy father, who was a fairly notable expert on physical education at the time. Keith was … rougher, let'ssay. For the next nearly 10 years, we were rarely apart. Even after we were famous, we lived at eachothers' flats or houses. We were still very young, and, like puppies, we'd cluster together.We were barely a band before our lives changed, but I think still of the time we spent, squalidly, beforewe were a group, in a very cold and small flat, more filthy than you can imagine. Our flatmate JimmyPhelge was a veritable comic virtuoso with a pair of soiled underwear. Certainly we—I—wanted to befamous, but can I point out our road to it was not absurd, exactly, but unthinkable, in the sense that wecouldn't even imagine a way to do it? The London music scene was entirely insignificant, and we didn'teven play the trad jazz (Charlie's métier), which dominated.Still, we practiced day and night out of some unspoken impetus, innocent suburban boys abruptlyliving quite near the edge of a dark milieu. This brings me to Brian, who played guitar very well andwas a brittle devil. We knew that because of many things, not least that he spent an inappropriateamount of time beating up his girls in the next room. I'm not proud of that. Keith gives himself (toomuch, I think) credit for rescuing Anita, eventually, from Brian; but that of course was years later.Earlier, we both listened to or watched his cruelty, in the bedroom and elsewhere; we paid no attentionto the half-dozen kids he'd fathered and ignored the savagery he accomplished on tour. We didn't know better; we were priapic jackals ourselves, fucking even one another's girlfriends if they got left, as itwere, unattended. But it was wrong to have let Brian do that, and Keith should have owned up to this inthe book.AdvertisementI supposed it is a karmic justice for Brian that we continued to watch as he descended from there tohell, harried by the police and increasingly incapacitated artistically, which further estranged him fromus. Oh, that's not true; we didn't just watch. We ushered him along, ridiculing him, you might say, todeath as he began to lose his ability to contribute. Again, we were young. What were you doing at 25?We didn't know about depression, insanity, addiction, or what acid might have done to him. It's unclear to me whether the drugs diminished his ability to contribute or whether the drugs were in effect a wayto cover up something that wasn't there. The first song Keith and I wrote was a hit single; Briancouldn't write a song to save his life, literally. And let's remember that he was a total asshole.I'm digressing but I'm trying to explain where we came from. We didn't have a template. Nothingagainst Steven Tyler, but there's a difference. We felt around in the dark; we were famous within weeks;and, in the end, we left a body or two behind us. We did these things, good and bad, together; we werefriends.The second important thing is Keith's talent. We took it for granted, in a way, as he says. We felt it wasour duty to get together and write a song, one good song each day we worked. He is kind to say I couldtake what he gave me and run with it. But he is the one who gave me the actual song to write the lyricsto. He wrote a dozen Top 10 hits in five years, and, after the band added Mick Taylor and essentiallygrew up, he wrote most of 
 Beggars Banquet 
 Let It Bleed 
. Again: What were you doing at 25? It'sinteresting to me how no previous song we'd recorded would have a respectable place on those albums;and any song on them would have seem out of place even on
 Between the Buttons
. Keith'slurch forward was amazing. As a pure rock (not folk or pop) songwriter, I think he is not just without peer. I think he is unrivaled in depth and growth, from "As Tears Go By" to "Satisfaction" to "JumpingJack Flash" to, I don't know, "Gimme Shelter. " "Monkey Man." "Street Fighting Man." The primal feel
of the chording. The musicality of the intros and breaks. The innovation of the recording—cruder, nodoubt, but I will argue far more emotionally powerful than the Beatles'. The winding, intermixedguitars he almost desperately loved. Without him, what would I have been? Peter Noone? It is hard touse a word like integrity about a band as compromised, as self-bloodied, as we were. But for someyears, unlike any other group, the Beatles included, we declared war on that silly, hypocritical,repressive, and arbitrary society in which we lived. The only ammunition we had were Keith's songs.The lyrics, I confess now, may have been in their defiance just
épater la bourgeoisie
and in their poesyderivatively Zimmerman-esque. Even when they weren't, no one would have paid attention if thechords weren't arresting, irrefutable. The songs spoke primarily through their music, not their words.Keith's doting fans nattering on about the ultimate avatar of rock 'n' roll authenticity irritate me, it'strue; but he may to this day be underappreciated.So those two things I think, are important. Our bond; his talent. We blink at that point, and go 40 yearsforward, and he has written a book that says, essentially, that I have a small dick. That I am a badfriend. That I am unknowable.The reviewers, who idolize Keith, don't ask why this is all in here. We have rarely spoken of suchthings publicly, and tangentially even then. We don't talk about it in private, either, and, no, he hasn't been in my dressing room in 20 years. I thought we both learned that there is no point in sharinganything at all with the press, save a few tidbits for the upbeat
The Stones are back in top rocking form!
article that accompanies each of our tours. I think Keith never appreciated the tedious hours I had tospend with Jann Wenner to accomplish that.But I know why it is all here.In the book we get the stories.Oh, the stories. The rock, the girls. The car wrecks, the arrests. You read them on the printed page,delivered in what, I must admit, is a pretty fair written representation of Keith's slightly tangential,drawling, effeminate delivery, resting charmingly just this side of the incomprehensible.I was generally made familiar with the stories in a different context. They were generally related by anassistant or a lawyer, tour manager or a publicist, poking their head into a room. Keith's disappeared.Keith's asleep backstage and can't be roused for the show. No one will wake him because he keeps aloaded gun under his pillow and grabs it and points when riled. Keith fell asleep in the studio again. No, Keith isn't mixing the album. He flew off to Jamaica, and, no, we don't know when he will be back.Keith's asleep. Keith's asleep. Keith's asleep.The scamp. Those are but one tier, and a fairly innocuous one, of the many times I was vouchsafednews of my partner. The next tier is more colorful. Keith (or his favorite sax player/drug runner/drug buddy/hanger-on) has slugged a photographer/destroyed a hotel room/gotten into a fistfight with thelocals/fallen into a coma. Oh, yes, and the police are here. (Because police are whom you want backstage at a rock concert or at a recording studio.)Or: The bandmate Keith personally vouched for is freebasing again. This last was of some interest tome, because it meant that I got to sing at a stadium backed by not one but two guitarists falling over onstage. Keith likes to talk a lot about his getting clean from heroin. It is not correspondinglyapprehended that he replaced the heroin comprehensively with liquor. Given a choice I select theslurring alcoholic over the comatose junkie as a lifelong professional partner, and I say this with someknowledge of the two alternatives. But neither is strictly desirable.And, yes, they do fall over onstage. (Or asleep on a chair in the studio.) I laugh at it now and blame no

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