My five decades of raising hell: Keith Richards reveals the truth about the girls, the drugs and his fiery feuds with Mick Jagger
16th October 2010
I can’t bear ‘her majesty’ Mick
Their partnership is one of the most celebrated and complicated in rock history, but Richards says Mick Jagger eventually became ‘unbearable’.
Although the pair – who met when Richards was aged four – remain ‘friends’, he does not hold back in his memoir.
He reveals how he used to mock Jagger with the nicknames ‘Your Majesty’ and ‘Brenda’, and called him, ‘That b**** Brenda’ in front of other bandmates.
He even compares living with Jagger to having ‘an annoying mynah bird’.
Richards says that until the mid-1970s, the pair could not be separated and made every decision for the band. ‘But once we were split up, I started going my way, which was the downhill road to dopesville, and Mick ascended to jet land.’
He adds: ‘We’ve had our beefs but, hey, who doesn’t? You try and keep something together for 50 years.’ Yet he admits that he has not been to Jagger’s dressing room in 20 years.
Jagger was apparently ‘peeved’ about one or two things when he read an advance copy of the book, but the author refused to remove anything, saying the ‘truth’ was more important.
Richards says: ‘I think it opened his eyes a bit, actually. The bit he wanted taken out was how he used a voice coach. He was like, “You know, could we leave that out?” And I went, “No! I’m trying to say the truth here”.’
According to Richards, Jagger was jealous and did not like him having other male friends.
‘There is a weird possessiveness about him. Mick doesn’t want me to have any friends except him,’ he writes. ‘I have a feeling that Mick thought I belonged to him. And I didn’t like that at all.’
In a final stab, he mocks Jagger’s sexual prowess. He says that Richards’s girlfriend Anita Pallenberg found the singer under-endowed and ‘had no fun with the tiny todger’.
It is not just Jagger towards whom he vents his spleen, and no book about the Rolling Stones would be complete without a jibe or two aimed at the Beatles. Or, as Richards calls them, ‘The f****** Beatles’.
John Lennon was ‘a silly sod in many ways’ who came around to Richards’s house with Yoko Ono to take drugs. ‘I don’t think John ever left my house except horizontally,’ he says. Richards reveals he once told Lennon where he was going wrong: ‘You wear your guitar too high. It’s not a violin. No wonder you don’t swing. No wonder you can rock, but not roll.’
Marianne and that Mars Bar
It was one of the great legends of the Sixties – the story that Marianne Faithfull – naked but for a fur rug – was discovered in a compromising position with a Mars bar during a drugs raid on Richards’s country mansion.
It emanated from police sources after the raid on Redlands, in Sussex, but was said to be untrue by those close to Miss Faithfull.
But now we have Richards’s own version of events, and he confirms there were in fact ‘a couple’ of the chocolate bars at the scene. Apparently they were a vital component of any drugs party ‘because on acid (LSD) you suddenly get sugar lack and you’re munching away’.
One of the bars, he says, one was on a table in front of the sofa where Miss Faithfull, fresh from a bath and wrapped in a huge rabbit-pelt rug, was reclining. Or as he puts it: ‘She was more dressed in this fur bedspread that she’d been all day.’
But the idea she was doing anything with a Mars bar other than eating it is a ‘myth’, he insists.
Richards reveals that when the police arrived, he was in such a state from LSD that he thought a gang of identically-dressed dwarfs had come to call on him. They were ‘very small people wearing dark blue with shiny bits and helmets!’, according to his recollections.
He let them in, complimenting them on their ‘wonderful attire’. While the Stones and their hangers-on sat around continuing the party, the officers poked around the house, Redlands, sifting the contents of ashtrays to find evidence of narcotics.
The raid in February led to the famous trial four months later at which Richards and Mick Jagger were jailed.
When the prosecutor suggested a young woman would be embarrassed to be wearing nothing but a rug among a group of eight men, Richards retorted: ‘We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals.’ This is what he claims got him a one-year jail sentence for allowing his house to be used for smoking cannabis while Jagger got three months for drug possession.
Both were freed the next day pending a successful appeal.
Richards says he deeply disliked his brief stay at Wormwood Scrubs. But he says the experience was the best PR he could hope for, and thanks the ageing judge for turning him into a folk hero overnight. ‘I’ve been playing up to it ever since,’ he admits.
Back seat of the Bentley
Richards moved in with German-born actress and model Anita Pallenberg after she had a two-year relationship with Brian Jones.
But he insists that he did not ‘steal’ her from his fellow Stone.
He says that Jones would probably have tried to kill her, having thrown punches, knives and glasses at his girlfriend during terrifying rampages.
‘It’s said that I stole her. But my take on it is that I rescued her,’ says Richards, who says at that time Miss Pallenberg had become Jones’s ‘full-time geisha, flatterer, punchbag – whatever he imagined, including partaker in orgies, which Anita always resolutely refused to do’. They both had become almost identical in style of hair and clothes, too.
Keith Richards with Anita Pallenberg. He took her from bandmate Brian Jones
Love blossomed between them during a road trip to Morocco on the back seat of his blue Bentley – which had a secret compartment in the frame for hiding drugs.
They had all decided to ‘do a runner’ while on bail awaiting trial after the drugs bust at Redlands and wanted to find a country to rest in ‘where we could get legal drugs’. He sent his mother a postcard signed: ‘Your fugitive son, Keef’.
On the way through France, says Richards, he spent the first part of the journey playing 45s on a portable record player in the back as an edgy atmosphere developed between them all, mainly because of ‘hypochondriac’ Jones moaning about finding it hard to breathe. Richards says he didn’t believe Jones was ill until he was struck down with pneumonia and hospitalised in Toulouse. They dumped him at a hospital and carried on towards Morocco without him.
It was somewhere between Barcelona and Valencia that stunning Miss Pallenberg made her move in the back seat, Richards recalls. Without saying a word, she leant over and performed a sex act on him.
He describes the smell of the orange trees in Valencia, saying: ‘When you get laid with Anita Pallenberg for the first time, you remember things.’
The couple arrived in Morocco and ‘for a week or so, it’s boinky boinky boinky and we’re randy as rabbits, but we’re also wondering how we’re going to deal with it’ (the Brian Jones question).
They were both terrified it would destroy the band. Eventually Miss Pallenberg went back to Toulouse for Jones, took him to London then brought him to Morocco along with Marianne Faithfull, who was joining Mick Jagger for the weekend. Richards and Miss Pallenberg tried to appear distant to each other but Jones sensed what had happened and began to become violent to his girlfriend again. In the end, she and Richards did a moonlight flit and set up home in St John’s Wood, North London.
Richards, who went on to have three children by Miss Pallenberg, says: ‘Brian made desperate attempts to get Anita back. There was no chance of that happening ... it’s said that I stole her. But my take is that I rescued her. Actually , in a way I rescued him ... They were both on a very destructive course.’
You’re missing it, I’m kissing it
Richards describes how Miss Pallenberg cheated on him with Mick Jagger while acting in the movie Performance – and how he gained his revenge by sleeping with Jagger’s own girlfriend Marianne Faithfull.
He says he has never been a jealous man, but he wrote the Stones’ song Gimme Shelter – with the lyrics, ‘Oh, a storm is threat’ning, My very life today; If I don’t get some shelter, Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away’ – on a stormy day when Anita was clearly falling for Jagger.
It was ‘not the first time we’d been in competition for a bird’, says Richards, adding: ‘It was like two alphas fighting. Still is, quite honestly.’
He concedes he could hardly complain, having stolen her himself from Brian Jones. ‘It was like Peyton Place back then, a lot of wife-swapping or girlfriend swapping and “oh, you had to have him, OK”,’ he says.
When Anita did not come home at night, says Richards, he would simply, ‘go round somewhere and see another girlfriend’.
His revenge in bedding Miss Faithfull – which he says happened only once – was interrupted when Jagger returned home early. Their ‘hot and sweaty’ episode was cut short as Richards ‘did one out the window’ clutching his clothes, although he accidentally left his socks behind.
He reveals: ‘Marianne and I still have this joke. She sends me messages, “I still can’t find your socks”.’
Richards sums up the bed-hopping pantomime of the Sixties with a bravado taunt to Jagger: ‘I was knocking Marianne, man. While you’re missing it, I’m kissing it.’
Miss Pallenberg, now 65, shares a farmhouse in Sussex with son Marlon and acts as caretaker to Richards’s Redlands estate while he is out of the country in tax exile.
Fire in the Playboy Mansion
The Stones’ 1972 tour of the U.S. saw the band reach new levels of extravagance; hiring their own passenger jet and booking entire hotel floors to accommodate their entourage and ensure privacy for the partying.
‘We had become a pirate nation, moving on a huge scale under our own flag, with lawyers, clowns, attendants,’ says Richards.
In Chicago, they encountered a shortage of hotel rooms so Hugh Hefner invited the band to stay at his Playboy Mansion, then located in the city.
They were there for more than a week, along with a personal physician whom Mick Jagger had recruited because he was scared by threats he had received and wanted a medical expert beside him at all times.
‘Dr Bill’ kept them supplied with prescription drugs in return for access to a steady stream of women.
Richards’s memories of the mansion are hazy. ‘It’s all plunges in the sauna, and the Bunnies, and basically it’s a whorehouse, which I really don’t like,’ he says.
He believes Hefner must have regretted his invitation, particularly after Richards and Bobby Keys, the Stones’ saxophonist, set fire to a bathroom.
As they sat on the floor working their way through the ‘smorgasbord’ of drugs in their doctor’s bag, Keys suddenly remarked that the room had become smoky. Looking around, Richards realised he couldn’t even see his bandmate and the curtains were smouldering. The pair continued to sit there as fire alarms went off and staff burst in, carrying buckets of water.
He adds: ‘Some of my most outrageous nights I can only believe actually happened because of corroborating evidence. No wonder I’m famous for partying. You get these brief vignettes of what you did. “Oh, you don’t remember shooting the gun? Pull up the carpet, look at those holes, man”. You can’t remember that? Nope, don’t remember a thing about it.’
A river full of piranhas
The sexual revolution turned ‘jolly hockey sticks’ British women into predatory ‘piranhas’, according to Richards.
He says women had ignored him for years until his sudden fame made him a target for thousands of groupies.
‘You stood as much chance in a river full of piranhas,’ he says.
‘These chicks were coming out there and you took that for granted every night. What are you going to do at that age when most of the teenage population of everywhere has decided you’re it?’
Lucifer, you ain’t having me yet
Richards boasts that he used to walk down Oxford Street openly carrying ‘a slab of hash as big as a skateboard’ and it did not even occur to him that this might be illegal in the lax attitude of the Sixties.
After decades indulging in what he calls the ‘breakfast of champions’ – a cocktail of heroin and cocaine – he claims he has finally given up hard drugs.
But having quit heroin in 1978, it was not until 2006 that he kicked the cocaine habit after plunging from a coconut tree in Fiji and undergoing life-saving brain surgery, including having a metal plate fitted to his skull.
He admits: ‘Yeah – that was cocaine I had to give up for that. You’re like, “I’ve got the message, oh Lord”.’
After decades indulging in what he calls the ‘breakfast of champions’ – a cocktail of heroin and cocaine – Richards claims he has finally given up hard drugs
Perhaps splitting hairs, he complains that people still think he uses heroin. ‘People think I’m still a goddamn junkie. It’s 30 years since I gave up the dope!’
Not that the old rocker claims any moral high ground for ditching the drugs, and jokes that he is ‘just waiting for them to invent something more interesting’, offering himself as a willing guinea pig to try it out.
In the meantime, he is cheerfully dodging death, citing a list known as ‘People Most Likely To Die’ on which he featured prominently for more than a decade, until everybody else on it duly expired. It was a ‘badge of honour’ that he outlived them all, he boasts.
When his time comes, he accepts he is unlikely to be invited into Heaven.
‘Lucifer – he’s the guy I’m gonna see, isn’t it?,’ he says.
‘I’m not going to the Other Place, let’s face it.’
Richards adds: ‘Fame has killed more very talented guys than drugs. Jimi Hendrix didn’t die of an overdose – he died of fame.’