Driving back to the country late tonight from Baton Rouge, listening to the exalting “Shine A Light” from the greatest rock album of all time, Exile On Main Street, I was thinking how poor the world would be if Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had never lived, or never met.


I love those magnificent bastards.

And by the way, after I got done with my Stones fix, my 14-year-old, who had charge of the iPhone plugged into the car stereo, said, “I’m going to play the Clash. I love the Clash.” My heart skipped a beat. That’s my boy!

UPDATE: Until Conor Friedersdorf sent it this morning, I had forgotten about this terrific Bill Wyman piece from Slate a few years ago, in which he imagines Mick Jagger’s response to Keith Richards’ bitchy (about him) memoir. It speaks to the inconvenient truth that Keith has all the rock mythology swaddling him, but it was Mick who made things work while Keith was lost in drugs and personal waste. (The rock journalist Bill Wyman is not the same person as the retired Stones bass player Bill Wyman). Excerpt:

By the time of Tattoo You I was exhausted. Entirely drained of ideas. I told Chris Kimsey to ransack the archives. “Start Me Up” was a very old song, with some 20, 30, 40 takes as a reggae … and one with a real rock guitar. It turned out to be our last real hit, and the arc of our career would look a lot different if we hadn’t found it. With it, we could plausibly least claim to be hitmakers in the 1980s. “Waiting on a Friend,” that symbol of our new-found maturity, was, if memory serves, from a centuries-old session with me and Mick Taylor. About our work from the rest of the 1980s and 1990s, the less said the better. Can you sing a single chorus from Dirty Work? Name a single track? We certainly don’t play songs from those records in concert if we can help it.

I go into such detail to describe the arc of our decline accurately but also note this sad corollary: Keith brought something out of me, way back when. Through Exile, I felt I had to rise to his songs. When he checked out creatively, I lost something important. While there is some spark, I guess, in “Some Girls” or “Shattered” or whatever, however contrived, I know most of the other songs sucked. In the 1980s and ’90s it got worse. I could conjure up only the most banal cliché or the most pretentious polysyllabic nonsense. Compare “Sympathy for the Devil” with “Heartbreaker.” One Godard made a film about. The other is a TV movie. I literally wrote a song called “She’s So Cold” and then, a few years later, one called “She Was Hot.”

Now, Keith went through the same thing. I think this is why Keith lost himself with heroin and now drinks: to stave off the pressure to match himself and dull the knowledge that he can’t any more (and, back then, couldn’t). It’s trite, maybe, but there’s a reason a guy spends a decade in a haze, and the three decades since in a stupor. Keith’s rancor is almost entirely based on the fact that it was not, in the end, easy to keep the appearances of what in the public mind is the Rolling Stones, and the process wasn’t always pretty. But I did it, and, among other things, to this day it is hardly in the public mind that Keith Richards hasn’t written a significant rock ‘n’ roll song in nearly 35 years.

For that I get Keith’s book.