Few can say they’ve done or seen as much as The Rolling Stones’ axeman Keith Richards, a man described by famed hellraiser Robin Williams as “the only man who can make the Osbornes look fucking Amish.”
We’ve rounded up some of the most insane stories of Richards’ life. From ingesting the dead to mix-ups with a Mars bar, here are the blootered blues pirate’s most rock ‘n’ roll moments.
A country manor, some blue dwarves
Richards bought his Sussex country estate Redlands for £22,000 back in 1966. While enjoying a lovely lunch of cocktails and LSD there, Richards (along with Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull) answered the door to what Keef describes as “a whole lot of dwarves” who seemed very angry about something. What he failed to realise in his intoxicated state, was that it was the police, who’d been tipped-off by a tabloid about a ‘raucous drugs party’, and had come to nick the lot of them.
The papers turned what Keith says was “a scene of pure domesticity” into a narcotic-fuelled orgy in which Faithfull was found naked by officers with a Mars bar in a ‘compromising position’. All hokum of course.
‘We are not concerned with petty morals’
After the events at Redlands, the ‘Glimmer Twins’, as Mick and Keith were known, were eventually brought up on drugs charges. Facing years in the slammer, the pair appeared in court in June 1967 to plead their case. Except Keef had other ideas…
When asked by the judge whether he had any remorse for his actions, Richards replied, “We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals.” The old man on the bench clearly was though, and handed down stiff sentences all round. They were eventually acquitted on appeal but the lesson to take from this is, never suggest that the judiciary don’t party.
Do you feel golfy, punk? There’s no worse thing you can do to Keith after a heavy all-nighter than land a perfect hole-in-one in his breakfast, as sax-man Bobby Keys found out the hard way when touring with the Stones in the ‘90s.
While enjoying an early morning round on the golf course adjacent to where Richards had just sat down to Eggs Benedict, Keys belted one smack bang onto Richards’ plate, and he wasn’t happy.
No siree. He whipped out his pistol and blew that ball to kingdom come, screaming, “That’s a ten-stroke fucking penalty, and if you ever do it again I’ll do the same to you! You ruined my fucking breakfast!”
A shocking turn of events
Richards is renowned for his electric performances, but one night in the 60s he literally found himself wired up to the mains.
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Playing in front of 5,000 fans in Sacramento, California in 1965, promoter Jeff Hughson remembers seeing Keith’s guitar knock into a mic stand that was accidentally live-wired, and an electrical surge causing him to “fly into the air backward.”
He was rushed to hospital and later regained consciousness laughing, “Well, they either wake up or they don’t”. It goes without saying that the guitarist returned to the stage the following night.
A snort too far
Scientists are still desperately trying to formulate a substance that Keith Richards hasn’t already shovelled up his hooter in large quantities, but the revelation in 2007 that he’d ingested his own dad made front-page headlines.
Speaking to NME, Richards revealed, “I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn’t resist.” A unique send-off admittedly, but deeply touching in a drug-salute sort of way.
A blow-out baby shower
Ronnie Wood joined the Stones in 1975 and he and Richards soon became inseparable. So when Wood’s wife Jo invited him to their baby shower in the late seventies, she wisely asked him not to engage in any unseemly activities in front of her mother. Always the respectful fellow, after dinner Richards promptly whipped out a huge bag of cocaine and plonked it on the table. “And now for dessert!” he declared triumphantly. Oh Keith.
Smashing his coconut
Such is Keith’s propensity to turn a chill sesh into a crisis that even a relaxing mid-tour holiday in Fiji in 2006 ended in near-death drama. Perched in a tree after a tranquil afternoon swimming with Ronnie Wood, Keef took a tumble and bumped his noggin on the way down. A few days later he complained of “blinding headaches” and was rushed to hospital (again) in New Zealand.
Miraculously, the guitarist woke up a few days later post-brain surgery “feeling great”, and rejoined the band six weeks later. Will this man ever die?
Boy Scout brute
Even as a child, Keith was eager to earn his Troublemaker badge. A member of the Boy Scouts in his youth, or ‘Beaver Patrol’ as he nicknamed them, Richards got into trouble on one camping trip for smuggling booze in to his fellow scouts.
“Soon afterwards there were a couple of fights that went down between us and some Yorkshire guys,” he revealed to writer Victor Brockis. It was mostly his fault though, since he “went to slug one guy but hit the tent pole… and broke a bone in my hand!” No wonder he was expelled a few weeks later when he tried to knock out “some dummo recruit.”
Don’t touch my stuff
They say never meet your idols, but in Keith Richards’ case they should say ‘never get punched in the face by your idols’. Keith had long admired original rocker Chuck Berry’s bluesy riff-making and so, when he found himself alone in a dressing room with Berry’s guitar, couldn’t resist a crafty stroke.
Appearing on ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’ Richards revealed, “His guitar was laid out in its case like, ‘Aw, c’mon, Keith,’ you know, ‘just a touch.’” Storming back in with a face like thunder, Berry yelled, “Nobody touches my guitar” and promptly slugged the youngster in the face. “One of his greatest hits”, quipped Keef.