"You Can Always Get What You Want"
Keith Richards with James Fox Exclusive extract from Keith Richards’ brilliant, long-awaited autobiography
By 1967, the Rolling Stones were the most controversial, explosive rock band on the planet. Two years earlier, when their pop rivals the Beatles had collected their MBEs from the Queen, the Stones had been arrested for urinating in public and demonised for making overtly sexual records such as the raw, aggressive Satisfaction. Then they had been touring dank pubs and clubs in beaten-up vans; now they were superstars complete with drugs, groupies and Bentleys. From London to the US to Morocco, they left a trail of mayhem. And at the group’s heart was Keith Richards, the man who still epitomises sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. For the first time, he reveals in his own words life in the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band.
The Redlands bust and the truth about that Mars bar
“Post-acid” was the prevailing mood at Redlands [Richards’ house] on a cold February morning in 1967. Post-acid: everybody arrives back with their feet on the ground, so to speak, and you’ve been with them all day, doing all kinds of nuts things and laughing your head off; you’ve gone for walks on the beach and you’re freezing cold and you’re not wearing any shoes and you’re wondering why you’ve got frostbite. The comedown hits everybody in a different way. Some people are going, let’s do it again, and others are going, enough already. And you can flash back into full acid drive at any moment.
There’s a knock at the door, I look through the window and there’s this whole lot of dwarves outside, but they’re all wearing the same clothes! They were policemen, but I didn’t know it. They just looked like very small people wearing dark blue with shiny bits and helmets. “Wonderful attire! Am I expecting you? Anyway, come on in, it’s a bit chilly out.” They were trying to read a warrant to me. “Oh, that’s very nice, but it’s a bit cold outside, come on in and read it to me over the fireplace.” I’d never been busted before and I was still on acid. Oh, make friends. Love. Not from me would there be “You cannot come in until I speak to my lawyer.” It was “Yeah, come on in!” And then roughly disabused.
While we’re gently bouncing down from the acid, they’re trampling through the place, doing what they’ve got to do, and none of us is really taking much notice of them. Obviously there was a shiver of the usuals, but there didn’t seem to be much we could do about it at that moment, so we just let them walk about and look in ashtrays. Incredibly enough, what they did come up with was only a few roaches and what Mick and Robert Fraser had in their pockets, which was a minute amount of amphetamine, bought legally by Mick in Italy, and in Robert’s case heroin tabs. Otherwise we just carried on.
There was the thing of course of Marianne. Hard day on acid, she had taken a bath upstairs, just finished, and I had this huge fur rug, made of pelts of some kind, rabbit, and she just wrapped herself up in that. I think she had a towel around her too and was lying back on the couch after a nice bath. How the Mars bar got into the story I don’t know. There was one on the table – there were a couple, because on acid suddenly you get sugar lack and you’re munching away. And so she’s stuck for ever with the story of where the police found that Mars bar. And you have to say she wears it well. But how that connotation came about and how the press managed to make a Mars bar on a table and Marianne wrapped in a fur rug into a myth is a kind of classic. In fact, Marianne was quite chastely attired for once. Usually when first you said hi to Marianne you started talking to the cleavage. And she knew she was thrusting it. A naughty lady, bless her heart. She was more dressed in this fur bedspread than she’d been all day. So they had a woman police officer who took her upstairs and made her drop the rug. What else do you want to see? From there – it shows you what’s in people’s minds – the evening paper headlines are “Naked Girl at Stones Party”. Info directly from the police. But the Mars bar as a dildo? That’s rather a large leap. The weird thing about these myths is that they stick when they’re so obviously false. Perhaps the idea is that it’s so outlandish or crude or prurient that it can’t have been invented. Imagine allowing a group of policemen and women to see this evidence – keeping it on display as they came tramping through the house. “Excuse me, Officer, I think you may have missed something. Over here.”
Others at Redlands that day were Christopher Gibbs and Nicky Kramer, an upper-class drifter and hanger-on who befriended everybody, a harmless enough soul who was innocent of betraying us, although David Litvinoff held him out of a window by his ankles to find out. And of course Mr X, as he was later referred to in court, David Schneiderman. Schneiderman, who also went by the moniker of Acid King, was the source of that very high-quality acid of the time, such brands as Strawberry Fields, Sunshine and Purple Haze – where do you think Jimi got that from? All kinds of mixtures, and that’s how Schneiderman got in on the crowd, by providing this superduper acid. In those innocent days, now abruptly ended, nobody bothered about the cool guy, the dealer in the corner. One big happy party. In fact, the cool guy was the agent of the constabulary. He came with this bag full of goodies, including a lot of DMT, which we’d never had before, dimethyltryptamine, one of the ingredients of ayahuasca, a very powerful psychedelic. He was at every party for about two weeks and then mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again.
The bust was a collusion between the News of the World and the cops, but the shocking extent of the stitch-up, which reached to the judiciary, didn’t become apparent until the case came to court months later. Mick had threatened to sue the scandal rag for mixing him up with Brian Jones and describing him taking drugs in a nightclub. In return they wanted evidence against Mick, to defend themselves in court. It was Patrick, my Belgian chauffeur, who sold us out to the News of the World, who in turn tipped off the cops, who used Schneiderman. I’m paying this driver handsomely, and the gig’s the gig, keep schtum. But the News of the World got to him. Didn’t do him any good. As I heard it, he never walked the same again. But it took us time to piece these little details together. As far as I remember, the atmosphere was fairly relaxed at the time. S***, anything we’d done we’d done already. It was only later on, the next day when we started to get the letters from solicitors and everything, Her Majesty’s Government and blah blah blah, we thought, “Ah, this is serious.”
Falling in love with Anita in Tangier, 1967
We decided to get out of England and not go back until it was time for the court case. And it would be better to find somewhere where we could get legal drugs. It was one of those sudden things, “Let’s jump in the Bentley and go to Morocco.” So in early March we did a runner. We’ve got free time and we’ve got the best car to do it in. This was Blue Lena, as it was christened, my dark blue Bentley, my S3 Continental Flying Spur – an automobile of some rarity, one of a limited edition of 87. It was named in honour of Lena Horne – I sent her a picture of it. Having this car was already heading for trouble, breaking the rules of the Establishment, driving a car I was definitely not born into. Blue Lena had carried us on many an acid-fuelled journey. Modifications included a secret compartment in the frame for the concealing of illegal substances. It had a huge bonnet, and to turn it you really had to swing it about. Blue Lena required some art and knowledge of its contours in tight situations – it was six inches wider at the back than the front. You got to know your car, no doubt about that. Three tons of machinery. A car that was made to be driven fast at night.
Brian [Jones] and Anita [Pallenberg, Jones’s girlfriend] had been to Morocco the previous year, 1966, staying with [antiques dealer] Christopher Gibbs, who had to take Brian to hospital with a broken wrist after a punch he’d thrown at Anita had hit the metal window frame in the El Minzah Hotel in Tangier. He was never good at connecting with Anita. I learnt later just how violent Brian had already become with her, as the downward slide began, throwing knives, glass, punches at her, forcing her to barricade herself behind sofas. She thought, at the start at least, that Brian’s rampages were quite funny – but they were becoming unfunny and dangerous. Anita told me later that on their way to Tangier the previous year, they had had massive fights after which Brian ended up in jail – and Anita too, once, for stealing a car coming out of a club. All this time they had grown to look like each other; their hair and clothes were becoming identical. They’d merged their personas, stylistically at least.
We flew to Paris, Brian, Anita and I, and met Deborah Dixon, an old friend of Anita, in the Hotel George V. Deborah was a piece of work, a beauty from Texas who had been on every magazine cover in the early Sixties. Brian and Anita first met on the Stones tour, but it was in Deborah’s house in Paris that they first got together. My driver Tom Keylock – a tough bloke from North London soon to become the Stones’ fixer-in-chief – brought Blue Lena over to Paris, and we set off for the sun.
I sent a postcard to Mum: “Dear Mum, Sorry I didn’t phone before I left, but my telephones aren’t safe to talk on. Everything will be all right, so don’t worry. It’s really great here and I’ll send you a letter when I get where I’m going. All my love. Your fugitive son, Keef.”
Brian, Deborah and Anita occupied the back seat and I sat in the front next to Tom, changing the 45s on the little Philips car record player. It’s hard to know, on this journey, how and why the tension built up in the car as it did. It was helped on by Brian being even more obnoxious and childish than usual. Tom’s an old soldier, fought at Arnhem and everything like that, but even he couldn’t ignore the tension in that car. Brian’s relationship with Anita had reached a jealous stalemate when she refused to give up whatever acting work she was doing to fulfil domestic duties as his full-time geisha, flatterer, punchbag – whatever he imagined, including partaker in orgies, which Anita always resolutely refused to do. On this trip he never stopped complaining and whining about how ill he felt, how he couldn’t breathe. No one took him seriously. Brian certainly suffered from asthma, but he was also a hypochondriac. Meanwhile, I was the DJ. I had to keep feeding the goddamn thing with little 45s, the favourite sounds – much Motown at the time. Anita claims that these choices were full of meaning and communication to her, songs of the moment like Chantilly Lace and Hey Joe. All songs are like that. You can take the meaning any way you want.
The first night of our journey through France, we stayed all in the same room, five of us in a kind of dormitory in the top of a house – the only accommodation we could find late at night. Next day, we got to a town called Cordes-sur-Ciel that Deborah wanted to see – a pretty village on top of a hill – and from out of its medieval walls, as we approached, emerged an ambulance, and at this point Brian insisted that we should follow it to the nearest hospital. There Brian was diagnosed with pneumonia. Well, it was hard to know with Brian – what was real and what wasn’t. But this meant that he was transferred to a Toulouse hospital, where he would stay for several days, and it was there we left him. I discovered much later that he gave instructions to Deborah not to leave Anita and me alone together. So it was pretty clear to him. We said, “OK, Brian, you’re cool. We’ll drive down through Spain, and then you fly over to Tangier.”
[After some small problems with the police in Barcelona, Keith and Anita head off to Tangier – alone.]
I have never put the make on a girl in my life. I just don’t know how to do it. My instincts are always to leave it to the woman. Which is kind of weird, but I can’t pull the come-on bit: “Hey, baby, how you doing? Come on, let’s get it on,” and all of that. I’m tongue-tied. I suppose every woman I’ve been with, they’ve had to put the make on me. Meanwhile I’m putting the make on in another way – by creating an aura of insufferable tension. Somebody has to do something. You either get the message or you don’t, but I could never make the first move. I knew how to operate among women, because most of my cousins were women, so I felt very comfortable in their company. If they’re interested, they’ll make the move. That’s what I found out.
So Anita made the first move. I just could not put the make on my friend’s girl, even though he’d become an asshole, to Anita too. It’s the Sir Galahad in me. Anita was beautiful too. And we got closer and closer and then suddenly, without her old man, she had the balls to break the ice and say f*** it. In the back of the Bentley, somewhere between Barcelona and Valencia, Anita and I looked at each other, and the tension was so high in the back seat, the next thing I know she’s giving me a blow job. The tension broke then. Phew. And suddenly we’re together. You don’t talk a lot when that s*** hits you. Without even saying things, you have the feeling, the great sense of relief that something has been resolved.
It was February. And in Spain it was early spring. Going through England and France it was pretty chill, it was winter. We got over the Pyrenees and within half an hour already it was spring and by the time we got to Valencia, it was summer. I still remember the smell of the orange trees in Valencia. When you get laid with Anita Pallenberg for the first time, you remember things. We stopped in Valencia overnight and checked in as Count and Countess Zigenpuss, and that was the first time I made love to Anita. And from Algeciras, where we checked in as Count and Countess Castiglione, we took the ferry and the car over to Tangier to the El Minzah Hotel. We were greeted there by a bundle of telegrams from Brian ordering Anita to come back and collect him. But we weren’t going anywhere except the kasbah. 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. Because we were expecting Brian in Tangier. We were both, I remember, trying to be polite, at least for each other’s benefit. “When Brian gets to Tangier we’ll do this and that.” “Let’s make a phone call to see if he’s all right.” And all of that. And at the same time that was the last thing on our minds. The truth was “Oh God. Brian’s going to turn up in Tangier and then we’ve got to start to play a f***ing game.” “Yeah, hope he croaks.” Suddenly, it’s Anita: is she with him or with me? We realised we were creating “an unmanageable situation”, maybe threatening the survival of the band. We decided to pull back, to make a strategic retreat. Anita didn’t want to abandon Brian. Didn’t want to go, tears and crying. She was worried about the effect on the group – that this was the big betrayal and it might bring it all down.
We visited Achmed, a legendary hashish dealer. His shop was on the stairs, called the Escalier Waller, going down from the Minzah, little one-storey shops on the right-hand side that backed on to the Minzah gardens. Achmed started off with one shop, then he had two above it. There were steps between them – internally, it was a bit of a labyrinth – and the higher ones just had a few brass beds with gaudy-coloured velvet mattresses on them, on which one could, having smoked a lot of dope, pass out for a day or two. And then you’d come in and he’d give you some more dope to make you more passed out. It was almost like a basement and it was hung with all of the wonders of the East, kaftans, rugs and beautiful lanterns… Aladdin’s cave. It was a shack, but he made it look like a palace.
Achmed Hole-in-Head, we used to call him, because he said his prayers so often he had a hole in the middle of his forehead. He was a good salesman. First thing, he gets the mint tea, and then a pipe. He was somewhat on the spiritual side, and as he gave you your pipe he would usually tell you some thrilling adventure of the Prophet in the wilderness. He was a good ambassador for his faith and a cheerful soul. Also a typical Moroccan little shyster. But he had such good s***, you kind of went to the land of milk and honey there. And after a few rounds of this, it was almost as if you were on acid. In and out he went, bringing sweetmeats and candies. And it was very difficult to get out. You think you’re going to have a quick one and then do something else, but very rarely would you do anything else.
The Moroccan speciality was kief, the leaf cut up with tobacco, which they smoked in long pipes – sebsi, they called them – with a tiny little bowl on the end. One hit in the morning with a cup of mint tea. But what Achmed had in large quantities and which he imbued with a new glamour was a kind of hash. It was called hash because it came in chunks, but it wasn’t hash strictly speaking. Hash is made from the resin. And this was loose powder, like pollen, from the dried bud of the plant, compressed into shape. Which was why it was that green colour. I heard that a way of collecting it was to cover children in honey and run them naked through a field of herb, and they came out the other end and they scraped ’em off.
That was my first touch of Africa. It could have been a thousand years ago, and you either went, “How weird”, or you went, “Wow! This is great.” One could say we were going round as hash inspectors. We used to do so much of it. “We must reconsider our ideas on drugs,” wrote Cecil Beaton in his diary. “It seems these boys live off them, yet they seem extremely healthy and strong. We will see.”
Anita’s dilemma, apart from the guilt of this betrayal and her passionate and destructive attachment to Brian, was that Brian was still very wobbly and sick and she felt she should look after him. So Anita went back to get Brian, took him from Toulouse to London for more medical attention and then, with Marianne, who was coming to join Mick in Marrakesh for the weekend, brought him to Tangier. Brian had been doing a lot of acid and he was in a weak physical state from his pneumonia, so to stiffen him up, Anita and Marianne, the nursing sisters, gave him a tab of acid on the plane. Anita and Marianne had both been up all the previous night on acid and, according to Anita, when they finally got to Tangier, some incident at Achmed’s in which Marianne found her sari (the only item of clothing she had packed) unravelling and herself suddenly exposed naked in the kasbah caused panic to set in – especially in Brian, who ran back to the hotel, seized with fear. There they huddled in the corridors of the Minzah Hotel, on straw mats, grappling with hallucinations. Not a good beginning to Brian’s recuperation.
We went to Marrakesh, the whole troupe, including Mick, who was waiting there for Marianne. Beaton was twitching about us, admiring our breakfast arrangements and “my marvellous torso”. Beaton was mesmerised by Mick (“I was fascinated with the thin concave lines of his body, legs, arms…”).
When we got to Marrakesh, Brian must have sensed something. And we’re pretending barely to know each other. “Yeah, we had a great trip, Brian. Everything was cool. Went to the kasbah. Valencia was lovely.” The almost unbearable tension of the situation. It’s not surprising that little or no work was done. I don’t remember doing or composing anything with Mick in Morocco, which was rare at the time. We were too occupied.
It was obvious that Brian and Anita had come to the end of their tether. They’d beaten the s*** out of each other. There was no point in it. I never really knew what the beef was. If I were Brian, I would have been a little bit sweeter and kept the bitch. But she was a tough girl. She certainly made a man out of me. She had had almost nothing but turbulent, abusive relationships, and she and Brian had always been fighting, she running away screaming, being chased, in tears. She had been used to this for so long, it was almost reassuring and normal. It’s not easy to get out of those destructive relationships, to know how to end them.
And of course Brian starts his old s*** again, in Marrakesh in the Es Saadi hotel, trying to take Anita on for 15 rounds. His reaction to whatever he sensed between Anita and me was more violence. And once again he breaks two ribs and a finger or something. And I’m watching it, hearing it. Brian was about to sign his own exit card and help Anita and me on our way. There’s no point to this non-interference any more. We’re stuck in Marrakesh, this is the woman I’m in love with, and I’ve got to relinquish her out of some formality? All of my plans of rebuilding my relationship with Brian are obviously going straight down the drain. In the condition he was in, there was no point in building anything with Brian. I’d done my best… Now it was just unacceptable. Then Brian dragged two tattooed whores – remembered by Anita, incidentally, as “really hairy girls” – down the hotel corridor and into the room, trying to force Anita into a scene, humiliating her in front of them. He started to fling food at her from the many trays he’d ordered up. At that point Anita ran to my room.
I thought Anita wanted out of there, and if I could come up with a plan, she would take it. Sir Galahad again. But I wanted her back; I wanted to get out. I said, “You didn’t come to Marrakesh to worry that you’ve beaten up your old man so much he’s lying in the bath with broken ribs. I can’t take this s*** any more. I can’t listen to you getting beaten up and fighting and all this c***. This is pointless. Let’s get the hell out of here. Let’s just leave him. We’re having much more fun without him. It’s been a very, very hard week for me knowing that you’re with him.” Anita was in tears. She didn’t want to leave, but she realised that I was right when I said that Brian would probably try to kill her.
And so the great moonlight flit from Marrakesh to Tangier was in motion.
We set [artist and writer] Brion Gysin up, had Tom Keylock order him to take Brian into Marrakesh into the Square of the Dead, with the musicians and acrobats, to do some recording with his Uher tape recorder, to avoid what Tom had told him was an invasion of press hunting for Brian. And in the meantime, Anita and I drove to Tangier. We left late at night, Anita and I, with Tom at the wheel. Mick and Marianne had already left. In some written work, Gysin recorded the devastating moment when Brian got back to the hotel and called him: “Come quickly! They’ve all gone and left me. Cleared out! I don’t know where they’ve gone. No message. The hotel won’t tell me. I’m here all alone, help me. Come at once!” Gysin writes, “I go over there. Get him into bed. Call a doctor to give him a shot and stick around long enough to see it take hold on him. Don’t want him jumping down those ten storeys into the swimming pool.”
Anita and I got back to my little pad in St John’s Wood. We were hiding out from Brian there, and that took a while. Brian and I still had to work together, and Brian made desperate attempts to get Anita back. There was no chance of that happening. Once Anita makes up her mind, she makes up her mind. But there was still this intense period of hiding out and negotiating with Brian, and he just used that as an even bigger excuse to get more and more out there. It’s said that I stole her. But my take on it is that I rescued her. Actually, in a way, I rescued him. Both of them. They were both on a very destructive course.
The trial and The Times
The Redlands trial, in late June, was in Chichester, which was still in 1930 when it came to the judicials. On the bench was Judge Block, who was probably 60-odd, about my age now, at the time. This was my first ever show in court, and you don’t know how you’re going to react. In fact I had no choice. He was so offensive, obviously trying to provoke me so that he could do what he wanted. He called me, for having used my premises for the smoking of cannabis resin, “scum” and “filth”, and said, “People like this shouldn’t be allowed to walk free.” So when the prosecutor said to me that surely I must have known what was going on, what with a naked girl wrapped in a rug, which is basically what I was being done for, I did not just say, “Oh, sorry, Your Honour.”
The actual exchange went as follows:
Morris (The Prosecutor): There was, as we know, a young woman sitting on a settee wearing only a rug. Would you agree, in the ordinary course of events, you would expect a young woman to be embarrassed if she had nothing on but a rug in the presence of eight men, two of whom were hangers-on and the third a Moroccan servant?
Keith: Not at all.
Morris: You regard that, do you, as quite normal?
Keith: We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals.
It got me a year in Wormwood Scrubs. I only did a day, as it turned out, but that was what the judge thought of my speech – he gave me the heaviest sentence he thought he could get away with. I found out later that Judge Block was married to the heiress of Shippam’s fish paste. If I’d known about his fishwife, I could have come out with a better one. We’ll leave it at that.
That day, June 29, 1967, I was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months in prison. Robert Fraser was given six months and Mick three months. Mick was in Brixton. Fraser and I went to the Scrubs that night.
What a ludicrous sentence. How much do they hate you? I wonder who was whispering in the judge’s ear. If he had listened to wise information, he would have said, I’ll just treat this as 25 quid and out of here; this case is nothing. In retrospect, the judge actually played into our hands. He managed to turn it into a great PR coup for us, even though I must say I didn’t enjoy Wormwood Scrubs, even for 24 hours. The judge managed to turn me into some folk hero overnight. I’ve been playing up to it ever since.
But the dark side of this was discovering that we’d become the focal point of a nervous Establishment. There’s two ways the authorities can deal with a perceived challenge. One is to absorb and the other is to nail. They had to leave the Beatles alone because they’d already given them medals. We got the nail. It was more serious than I thought. I was in jail because I’d obviously p****ed off the authorities. I’m a guitar player in a pop band and I’m being targeted by the British government and its vicious police force, all of which shows me how frightened they are. We won two world wars, and these people are shivering in their goddamn boots. “All of your children will be like this if you don’t stop this right now.” There was such ignorance on both sides. We didn’t know we were doing anything that was going to bring the empire crashing to the floor, and they were searching in the sugar bowls not knowing what they were looking for.
But it didn’t stop them trying again and again and again, for the next 18 months. It coincided with their learning about drugs. They’d never heard of them before. I used to walk down Oxford Street with a slab of hash as big as a skateboard. I wouldn’t even wrap it up. This was ’65, ’66 – there was that brief moment of total freedom. We didn’t even think that it was illegal, what we were doing. And they knew nothing about drugs at all. But once that came on the menu in about ’67, they saw their opportunity. As a source of income or a source of promotion or another avenue to make more arrests. It’s easy to bust a hippy. And it got very easy to plant a couple of joints on people. It was just so common that you expected it.
Most of the first day of the prison sentence was induction. You get in with the rest of the inductees and take a shower and they spray you with lice spray. Oh, nice one, son. The whole place is meant to intimidate you to the max.
Our lawyers had filed an appeal and I’d been released on bail. Before the appeal hearing, The Times, great champion of the underdog, came unexpectedly to our assistance. “There must remain a suspicion,” wrote William Rees-Mogg, the Times Editor, in his piece “Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?,” “that Mr Jagger received a harsher sentence than would ever have been handed down to an unknown defendant.” Ie, you’ve cocked it up and made British justice look bad. In actual fact we got saved by Rees-Mogg, because, believe me, I felt like a butterfly at the time and I’m going to be broken. When you look back at the brutality of the Establishment in the Profumo affair – something as dirty as any John le Carré story, in which inconvenient players were framed and hounded to their death – I’m quite amazed it didn’t get more bloody than it did. In that same month my conviction was overturned and Mick’s was upheld but his sentence quashed. Not so lucky Robert Fraser, who had pleaded guilty to heroin possession. He had to do his porridge. I think that the experience in the King’s African Rifles had more effect on him than Wormwood Scrubs. He’d thrown loads of guys into jankers – army for the glasshouse – which is slopping out the bogs or digging new latrines. It wasn’t as if he had no idea about confinement and punishment. I’m sure Africa was a bit rougher than anywhere else. He went in very bold. Never flinched. I thought he came out very bold too, bow tie, cigarette holder. I said, “Let’s get stoned.”
The same day we were released, the strangest TV discussion ever filmed took place between Mick – flown in by helicopter to some English lawn – and representatives of the ruling Establishment. They were like figures from Alice, chessmen: a bishop, a Jesuit, an attorney general and Rees-Mogg. They’d been sent out as a scouting party, waving a white flag, to discover whether the new youth culture was a threat to the established order. Trying to bridge the unbridgeable gap between the generations. They were earnest and awkward, and it was ludicrous. Their questions amounted to: what do you want? We’re laughing up our sleeves. They were trying to make peace with us, like Chamberlain. Little bit of paper, “peace in our time, peace in our time”. All they’re trying to do is retain their positions. But such beautiful English earnestness, this concern.
It was astounding. Yet you know they’re carrying weight, they can bring down some heavy-duty s***, so there was this underlying aggressiveness in the guise of all this amused curiosity. In a way they were begging Mick for answers. I thought Mick came off pretty well. He didn’t attempt to answer them; he just said, you’re living in the past.
Me and my female fans, 1962
Maybe it happened to Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley. I don’t think it had ever reached the extremes it got to around the Beatles and the Stones time, at least in England. It was like somebody had pulled a plug somewhere. The Fifties chicks being brought up all very jolly hockey sticks, and then somewhere there seemed to be a moment when they just decided they wanted to let themselves go. The opportunity arose for them to do that, and who’s going to stop them? It was all dripping with sexual lust, though they didn’t know what to do about it. But suddenly you’re on the end of it. It’s a frenzy. Once it’s let out, it’s an incredible force. You stood as much chance in a f***ing river full of piranhas. They were beyond what they wanted to be. They’d lost themselves. These chicks were coming out there, bleeding, clothes torn off, p***ed panties, and you took that for granted every night. That was the gig. It could have been anybody, quite honestly. They didn’t give a s*** that I was trying to be a blues player.
What are you going to do at that age when most of the teenage population of everywhere has decided you’re it? The incoming was incredible. Six months ago I couldn’t get laid; I’d have had to pay for it.
One minute no chick in the world. No f***ing way, and they’re going la la la la la. And the next they’re sniffing around. And you’re going wow, when I changed from Old Spice to Habit Rouge, things definitely got better. So what is it they want? Fame? The money? Or is it for real? And of course when you’ve not had much chance with beautiful women, you start to get suspicious.
I’ve been saved by chicks more times than by guys. Sometimes just that little hug and kiss and nothing else happens. Just keep me warm for the night, just hold on to each other when times are hard, times are rough. And I’d say, “F***, why are you bothering with me when you know I’m an asshole and I’ll be gone tomorrow?” “I don’t know. I guess you’re worth it.” “Well, I’m not going to argue.” The first time I encountered that was with these little English chicks up in the North, on that first tour. You end up, after the show, at a pub or the bar of the hotel, and suddenly you’re in the room with some very sweet chick who’s going to Sheffield University and studying sociology who decides to be really nice to you. “I thought you were a smart chick. I’m a guitar player. I’m just going through town.” “Yeah, but I like you.” Liking is sometimes better than loving.
Mick and Anita, Marianne and me
I wrote Gimme Shelter on a stormy day, sitting in Robert Fraser’s apartment in Mount Street. Anita was shooting the film Performance at the time, not far away, but I ain’t going down to the set. God knows what’s happening. As a minor part of the plot, Spanish Tony was trying to steal the Beretta they were using as a prop off the set. But I didn’t go down there, because I really didn’t like Donald Cammell, the director, a twister and a manipulator whose only real love in life was f***ing other people up. I wanted to distance myself from the relationship between Anita and Donald. Donald was a decadent dependent of the Cammell shipyard family, very good-looking, a razor-sharp mind poisoned with vitriol. He’d been a painter in New York, but something drove him mad about other clever and talented people – he wanted to destroy them. He was the most destructive little turd I’ve ever met. Also a Svengali, utterly predatory, a very successful manipulator of women, and he must have fascinated many of them. He would sometimes take the p*** out of Mick for his Kentish accent and sometimes me, Dartford yokel. I don’t mind a good putdown now and again; I come up with a few. But putting people down was almost an addiction for him. Everybody had to be put in their place. Anything you did in front of Cammell was up for his ridicule. He had a fairly developed sense of inferiority in there somewhere.
When I first heard of him, he was in a ménage à trois with Deborah Dixon and Anita, long before Anita and I were together, and they were all jolly jolly. He was a procurer, an arranger of orgies and threesomes – in a pimpish way, though I don’t think Anita saw it like that.
One of the first things that happened between Anita and me was the s*** of Performance. Cammell wanted to f*** me up, because he had been with Anita before Deborah Dixon. Clearly he took a delight in the idea that he was screwing things up between us. It was a setup, Mick and Anita playing a couple. I felt things through the wind. I knew Mouche – Michèle Breton, the third one in the bath scene in the movie; I’m not totally out of this frame – who used to be paid to “perform” as a couple with her boyfriend. Anita told me Michèle had to have Valium shots before every take. So he was basically setting up third-rate porn. He had a good story in Performance. He got the only movie of any interest in his life because of who was in it, and Nic Roeg, who shot it, and James Fox, whom he drove round the bend. The normally pukka-voiced Fox couldn’t stop talking like a gangster from Bermondsey on and off the set until he was rescued by the Navigators, a Christian sect that claimed his attention for the next two decades.
Donald Cammell was more interested in manipulation than actually directing. He got a hard-on about intimate betrayal, and that’s what he was setting up in Performance, as much of it as he could engineer. He made only four films, and three of them ended the same way – with the main character getting shot or shooting someone they were very close to. Always the watcher. Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director of Ready Steady Go! in its early days and later of the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus, told me that when he was shooting Let It Be, the rooftop swan song of the Beatles, he looked over to another nearby roof and there was Donald Cammell. In at the death, again. The final film Cammell made was a real-life video of him shooting himself, the last scene in Performance again, prepared elaborately and filmed over many minutes. The person he was very close to in this case was his wife, who was in the next room.
I met Cammell later in LA, and I said, you know, I can’t think of anybody, Donald, that’s ever got any joy out of you, and I don’t know if you’ve ever got any joy out of yourself. There’s nowhere else for you to go, there’s nobody. The best thing you can do is take the gentleman’s way out. And this was at least two or three years before he finally topped himself.
I didn’t find out for ages about Mick and Anita, but I smelled it. Mostly from Mick, who didn’t give any sign of it, which is why I smelt it. The old lady comes back at night complaining about the set [of the film Performance, in which she was co-starring with Jagger] and about Donald and blah blah blah. But at the same time, I know the old lady, and the odd time she didn’t come home at night, I’d go round somewhere and see another girlfriend.
I never expected anything from Anita. I mean, hey, I’d stolen her from Brian. So you’ve had Mick now; what do you fancy, that or this? It was like Peyton Place back then, a lot of wife-swapping or girlfriend-swapping and… oh, you had to have him, OK. What do you expect? You’ve got an old lady like Anita Pallenberg and expect other guys not to hit on her? I heard rumours, and I thought, if she’s going to be making a move with Mick, good luck to him; he can only take that one once. I’ve got to live with it. Anita’s a piece of work. She probably nearly broke his back!
I’m not that jealous kind of guy. I knew where Anita had been before, and where she’d been before that with Mario Schifano, who was a successful painter. And with this other guy who was an art dealer in New York. I didn’t expect to put any reins on her. It probably put a bigger gap between me and Mick than anything else, but mainly on Mick’s part, not mine. And probably for ever.
I gave no reaction at all to Mick about Anita. And decided to see how things would pan out from there. It wasn’t the first time we’d been in competition for a bird, even for a night on the road. Who’s going to get that one? Who’s Tarzan round here? It was like two alphas fighting. Still is, quite honestly. But it’s hardly the basis for a good relationship, right? I could have given Anita s*** for it, but what was the point? We were together. I was on the road. By then I was so cynical about that stuff. I mean, if I’d stolen her off Brian, I didn’t expect Mick not to knock her off, under the direction of Donald Cammell. I doubt whether it would have happened without Cammell. But, you know, while you were doing that, I was knocking Marianne, man. While you’re missing it, I’m kissing it. In fact, I had to leave the premises rather abruptly when the cat came back. Hey, it was our only time, hot and sweaty. We were just there in, as Mick calls it in Let Me Down Slow, the afterglow, my head nestled between those two beautiful jugs. And we heard his car drive up, and there was a big flurry, and I did one out the window, got my shoes, out the window through the garden, and I realised I’d left my socks. Well, he’s not the sort of guy to look for socks. Marianne and I still have this joke. She sends me messages: “I still can’t find your socks.”
Anita’s a gambler. But a gambler sometimes makes the wrong bets. The idea of status quo to Anita, in those days, was verboten. Everything must change. And we’re not married, we’re free, whatever. You’re free as long as you let me know what’s going on. Anyway, she had no fun with the tiny todger. I know he’s got an enormous pair of balls, but it doesn’t quite fill the gap, does it? It didn’t surprise me. In a way I kind of expected it.
The first time I took heroin
I have no clear recollection of the first time I had heroin. It was probably slipped in with a line of coke, in a speedball – a mixture of coke and smack. If you were around people who were used to doing that in one line, you didn’t know. You found out later on. “That was very interesting last night. What was that? Oh.” That’s how it creeps up on you. Because you don’t remember. That’s the whole point of it. It’s suddenly there.
They don’t call it “heroin” for nothing. It’s a seductress. You can take that stuff for a month or so and stop. Or you can go somewhere where there isn’t any and you’re not really that interested; it’s just something you were taking. And you might feel like you’ve got the flu for a day, but the next day you’re up and about and you feel fine. And then you come into contact again, and you do it some more. And months can pass. And the next time, you’ve got the flu for a couple of days. No big deal, what are they talking about? That’s cold turkey? It was never in the front of my mind until I was truly hooked.
It’s a subtle thing. It grabs you slowly. After the third or fourth time, then you get the message. And then you start to economise by shooting it up. But I’ve never mainlined. No, the whole delicacy of mainlining was never for me. I was never looking for that flash; I was looking for something to keep me going. If you do it in the vein, you get an incredible flash, but then you want more in about two hours.
And also you have tracks, which I couldn’t afford to show off. Furthermore, I could never find a vein. My veins are tight; even doctors can’t find them. So I used to shoot it up in the muscles. I could slap a needle in and not feel a thing. And the spank, the smack, is, if you do it right, more of a shock than the actual injection. Because the recipient reacts to that and meanwhile the needle has come and gone. Especially interesting on the butt. But not politically correct.
My hero Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison! What a beacon in the southernmost gloom. The amazing Roy Orbison. He was one of those Texan guys who could sail through anything, including his whole tragic life. His kids die in a fire, his wife dies in a car crash, nothing in his private life went right for the big O, but I can’t think of a gentler gentleman, or a more stoic personality. That incredible talent for blowing himself up from 5ft 6in to 6ft 9in, which he seemed to be able to do on stage. It was amazing to witness. He’s been in the sun, looking like a lobster, pair of shorts on. And we’re just sitting around playing guitars, having a chat, smoke and a drink. “Well, I’m on in five minutes.” We watch the opening number. And out walks this totally transformed thing that seems to have grown at least a foot with presence and command over the crowd. He was in his shorts just now; how did he do that? It’s one of those astounding things about working in the theatre. Backstage you can be a bunch of bums. And “Ladies and gentlemen” or “I present to you,” and you’re somebody else.
© Keith Richards 2010. Extracted from Life by Keith Richards with James Fox, to be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on October 26 (£20)