It Ain't Easy Being Keith Richards: Inside the New Issue

Rock's pirate king speaks candidly about Mick, mortality and more in new cover story

Keith Richards gives one of his most revealing interviews in years in new issue of Rolling Stone. Credit: Theo Wenner

Keith Richards gives one of his most revealing interviews in years in the new issue of Rolling Stone (on stands Friday). For the in-depth cover story, the Rolling Stones guitarist invited associate editor Patrick Doyle to hang out with him at Luc's in Ridgefield, Connecticut – an unassuming French bistro near Richards' house where he's a regular – and at the downtown New York studio where he recorded much of his new solo album, Crosseyed Heart.

Richards also invited Doyle to tag along with him as he promoted the album (at a radio interview, Richards told a producer he didn't want to see questions beforehand: "The only question I need to hear is, 'How do you plead?'" he joked). Along the way, the guitarist opened up about his friendship and adversity with Mick Jagger, his outlaw image, his plans for the next Stones album and what it's been like for him getting older.

Revelations from the story include:

Richards recently suffered a very painful injury, which he's been keeping secret.
When RS first caught up with Richards in Connecticut in mid-August, he had just come off the Stones' summer stadium tour. At the band's July 4th show in Indianapolis, Richards was running down the catwalk toward to stage during the sax solo of "Miss You" and tripped face-forward. "Somebody tossed a red straw boater hat, and it landed right in front of my feet," Richards says. "I kicked it aside – 'All right, that's out of the way' – and it fucking bounced back in front of me, and I hit the floor. And suddenly I'm on my hands and knees in front of 60,000 people. My bracelet came off from the shock. It was, 'OK, get out of this one, pal!"

"I might've cracked a rib," he says, placing his hand on his right side. "There's nothing doctors can do about it. I thought, 'Shit, if I let them know how much I'm hurting, the doctors and the insurance companies will be like, 'Cancel the next gigs.' Fuck it. I'll live with it. After 50 year on the stage, you're going to fall over occasionally and take a knock."

He opens up about being a grandfather.
Richards has five grandchildren, age one to 19. "A couple of my grandsons, all they want to do is go on the road with me now," he laughs. "Well, maybe that isn't the best idea." One of them is Orson, who is 15 and looks like a young Keith, except with blond hair. "He likes to hang with me, but he got to go to school still," Richards says. "So I play scrabble with him, on my computer. It's the only thing I use the thing for. I give him the worst words I can think of: shithead, asshole." 

Richards pokes fun at Donald Trump.
Richards recently ran into Trump at Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary party. Backstage at a radio interview, Richards does his best Trump impression, hunching down and pursing his lips. "You're the greatest," he says, mimicking Trump saying hello to him and then swooping around to shake someone else's hand. "You're the greatest."

The previous night, Richards watched a Trump rally in Dallas on TV. "It was the Donald Trump show. He's got 'em by the balls right now. I don't know how long he can keep that show without changing the set list, but that's another thing. Meanwhile, his closest runner-up is a black neurosurgeon. Between the two of them, they've really smashed up the Republican party."

His 2006 brain injury was more serious than he let on.
Richards discusses at length the aftermath of his 2006 accident in which he fell off a branch in Fiji. "You take a blow like that, you kind of feel stunned for another year or two afterward, really," he says. "You know, you suddenly realize you've been semiconscious." One consequence of the accident was Richards had to stop using cocaine before gigs, and reduce his alcohol intake. Richards says it's helped with his post-show recovery time. "Take cocaine onstage, and you're drenched. Now, half an hour, drive me home, and I'm ready for anything."

Since reconciling with Mick Jagger and heading out on the road with the Stones in 2012, Richards has returned with a new attitude.
The guitarist has been working with Jagger on choosing the set lists for each show, which he hadn't done for years. "[Keith] is the first one in the rehearsal room and the last one to leave," says Pierre de Beauport, Richards' longtime guitar tech. "Nothing is going to happen without him there."

The Stones have agreed to record their first new album since A Bigger Bang – and Richards is talking to Mick Jagger about how to open up the Stones' sound:
"I think Mick Jagger is probably the best blues-harp player that I've ever heard," Richards says. "He's up there with Little Walter – he amazes me. So we have this conversation: 'You phrase like that – why don't you try to sing more like that?' And Mick would say, 'It's two totally different things!' And my reply is, 'It's just blowing air out of your mouth.' When Mick is singing, he tends to phrase pretty much the same way as the record goes. Whereas on harp, he'll let it fly. That's basically what we talk about, and probably our bone of contention."

Also in this issue: Tim Dickenson on the right-ring rebels who overthrew John Boehner, Jonah Weiner on Joanna Newsom, Damon Tabor on Russia's largest motorcycle gang, Peter Travers on Steve Jobs, plus Madonna's biggest tour ever and 'My Life in 10 Songs' with Elvis Costello.

Look for the issue on stands or download it on Friday, October 9th.