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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Thursday, December 18, 2008


Congratulations to Rolling Stone Keith Richards on rolling into pensionable age today. A good hook on which to hang his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Richards, Keith [1943 - ]
Keith Richards was born in Dartford, Kent on December 18, 1943 and grew up to be one of THE ROLLING STONES, co-writer with MICK JAGGER of the Stones’ self-penned hits, a great guitarist and inventor of riffs, and over time shifting from an amiable-looking mod with the street-cred cool of a bewildered pet rabbit, through the long heroin-happy years as Britain’s licensed bad boy, to the extraordinary figure he cuts today as everybody’s favourite cadaver.

What’s really extraordinary is how long his dark, hip makeover took him. Look at any photograph right up to 1975 - right on past the time when RON WOOD joined the group - and Keith is still nowhere close to Jagger, as a persona. Mick’s right in your face with his cold green eyes and his drain-unblocker lips, pouting away with consummate ease: and Keith’s there with his spiky hairdresser’s hair gone all tufty and uncertain, and underneath it the ill-advised eyeliner and the stance of a provincial adolescent trying to look tough, as if he’s just been caught smoking in school.

Their early manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, had made Keith change his surname to the singular Richard - though it wasn’t, of course, singular at all, and merely made Britons wonder if perhaps he were related to Cliff: not an ideal image for a Rolling Stone.

He and Bob Dylan have had, aside from Dylan-Stones conjunctions, two memorable professional encounters: using the word ‘professional’ loosely, especially in the case of LIVE AID, the first of the two - except that though you wouldn’t know it, they had rehearsed beforehand, on July 10-12 1985, at Ron Wood’s New York home, with Keith and Bob sharing vocals on ‘Girl of the North Country’ and Keith playing guitar throughout.
They reconvened at the Guitar Legends Festival in Seville, Spain, on October 17, 1991. After Dylan had played with others - primarily RICHARD THOMPSON - on ‘All Along the Watchtower’, ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’, ‘Across the Borderline’ and ‘Answer Me (My Love)’, then he and Keith, backed by a posse of musicians, performed the early R&B/rock’n’roll classic ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’, sharing vocals.

It was a gift to Dylan: he went into one of his classic guesting-on-stage routines, a masterly piece of theatre that can be savoured on the film footage, on which he mimes faultlessly the high comedy of making out that he’s woken to find himself on stage with certifiable lunatics it might be best to humour (Keith & co.) and has never heard anything as mystifying as ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ in his life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, Have you heard Dylan read 'twas the night before christmas?

2:17 am  

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