Keith Richards, one of the founding members of the Rolling Stones, has had a long and storied career. Considered by Rolling Stone magazine to be one of the top 100 guitarists of all time, Richards is known for his innovative rhythm lead styling. He has created signature lead-ins to classic songs such as “Satisfaction,” “Honky-Tonk Women,” and “Brown Sugar” that gave him the nickname, “The Human Riff.”
Keith Richards: Under Review is the latest of the under review series that focuses on this remarkable talent. Running 118 minutes, this video is an outstanding retrospective of the career of the Stones’ songwriter.
It begins with a brief introduction about Richards and then moves into the early days when he met up with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones. The documentary talks about the early formation of the Stones and how they were influenced by the likes of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. It also talks about the differences between the styles of Richards and that of Brian Jones.
Early in their career, the Stones spent a lot of time doing cover songs of other artists. Management convinced Jagger and Richards to follow the likes of Lennon and McCartney and write their own songs. This eventually led to a number one hit in 1965 – “Satisfaction.”
With Richards taking so much control of the music, Brian Jones was feeling less and less needed in the band and compensated by learning a lot of different instruments. This led to some of their more exotic music such as Paint it Black. Jones also began using more drugs and alcohol, which fueled his moods.
When Richards ran off with Jones’ girl friend, Anita Pallenberg, it was the final straw in their relationship. Richards comment on the subject was,”…hell, shit happens.” On June 8, 1969 Jones was fired from the Stones because he could not get a U.S. working permit as a result of his drug arrests. On July 3, 1969 Jones was found motionless at the bottom of his pool; the cause, “death by misadventure.”
Richards met up with Gram Parsons, the person said to have influenced the country movement of Dylan, The Byrds, and others, and the direction of the Stones music also began to inherit the style. Other events that took place during this time was the tragedy at Altamont Speedway and the Stones going into tax exile in France which eventually led to the album Exile on Main Street.
By 1972, Richards’ drug life became more out in the open and had him on the run. It was during this time that he gained his reputation as the bad boy of rock and roll. Everyone thought he was heading for a fall, but they would soon find out this cat had nine lives. By the early 1980’s, Richard began delving into some solo work. It was at this time that he recorded the Chuck Berry song “Run Rudolph, Run.” This also led to him working with Bo Diddley and eventually Tom Waites.
Richards then took on the project of creating a tribute to Chuck Berry by doing the film Hail! Hail! Rock N’ Roll. Berry was known to be impossible to work with and would always blame the band for mistakes on stage even when it was Berry doing something like changing keys in the middle of the song. There is a film clip where Berry goes over to Richards while playing on stage and tells him to change the key of the song they were playing and you can see Richards giving Berry an emphatic no. Berry just laughs.
The film finishes up with the Stones induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the some discussion about Richards appearing in the third Pirates of the Caribbean film as Jack Sparrow’s father.
I have viewed a number of the under review series and this one, Keith Richards: Under Review, is by far the best. It contains a lot of information about one of the greatest influences on modern music, and it is done in a very complete and satisfying manner. The contributors have very detailed information and the presentation flows very smoothly.
A welcomed addition to Keith Richards: Under Review is the Celebrity Guitar Coach, Wolf Marshall. Throughout the film, he comes in with guitar in hand and explains by showing what was so unique about Richards playing style and how it sounded. This made a lot of difference, contributing to the excellence of the documentary.
I can highly recommend Keith Richards: Under Review for anyone who loves music, loves the history behind the music, or just wants to be entertained for a couple hours.
Kris Needs – Richards’ Biographer
Alan Clayson – Richards’ Biographer
Robert Greenfield – Stones Biographer
Keith Altham – Stones’ P.A.
Robert Christgau – Rolling Stone Magazine
Anthony Decurtis– Rolling Stone Magazine
Wolf Marshall – Celebrity Guitar Coach
Dick Taylor – Original Stones member
‘When Kris met Keith’ – Kris reminisces about his personnel encounters with “the human riff.”
The hardest Keith Richards interactive quiz
Full Contributor biographies