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Keith Richards: No Regrets

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Think of all the potential hits that might be lying around.
Yeah, and we probably don't even recognize half of them. I mean, you just don't know after a while. I'm the guy who said "Satisfaction" wasn't a single. That's what I know.

I gather you don't take the music business very seriously.
There's nothing to be taken seriously. No way. If you look at the music business over a long period of time, it's always put out mostly shit.

Is that why people aren't buying as much music as they used to? Is it a combination of shitty music and a bad economy?
Music is a luxury, as far as people are concerned. I'm not sayin' I believe that, but to people who haven't got work, and haven't got money, music will seem a luxury. In actual fact, music is a necessity, because it's the one thing that will maybe bring you up and give you just that little bit extra to keep on going, or. . . . Who knows what music does?

Apparently, you and Mick are still writing about whatever's happening to you at the moment. "Hang Fire," for instance, is explicitly about England, right?
Yeah: " . . . where I come from, nobody ever works, nothing ever gets done." They're going through their little traumas over there. It serves them right for kickin' us out.

What's happening to England?
It's coming to terms with a whole lot of problems that have been brewing for years, and the only thing it needed for these problems to come to a head was for the money to get tight. Everybody tolerates everything while they're doin' all right, Jack; but when they're not, it's "What the fuck . . . ?" Now they gotta deal with that.

How do you feel about the situation there politically? Are you at all political?
No. I watch it, you know. It's the height of cynicism for me to watch that whole power play go down. Just to see such hams get away with such a bad act over and over again, you know. I mean, it's an ongoing soap opera of the worst kind, but people still watch it.

Do you care? Do you think there may be some sort of ideal remedy?
No, there's no ideal thing. People are people, and they're pressured into one corner or another. What is politics? Politics goes down in everything. It's always ugly. Politics is an ugly word these days, and the only people who make politics an ugly word are politicians, because they're ugly people. Not necessarily ugly to start with — I'm givin' them the benefit of the doubt — but even if they aren't, they will be after a couple of years in Washington or Moscow or London, in that circle they move in. I always look upon it as, "Yeah, these are the guys who couldn't play Biloxi."

Do you get back to England very often?
Fairly regularly. This year I haven't, but for the past couple of years I've gone back around August for two months or so. After about a week in London, I tend to drift out to the country, where things never change. I go to a little village where there are only about three people who have ever been to London, you know — and it's only seventy miles away. "Oh, London? No, never been there. Too many people." It's kind of timeless there. It's a real great anchor for me. It still sticks in my throat a little that I can't, you know . . . what do you mean I make too much money to live here? You mean I can't afford to live in England? It's just kind of vindictive. I mean, I can't consider us part of the brain drain or anything like that, but they certainly flushed us down their john, you know? "In the bathroom of your heart, I've been flushed, dear. . . . "

"Neighbours" seems to be another slice of life — yours, I gather. Weren't you and Patti evicted from your Manhattan apartment earlier this year for playing music too loud?
Oh, a couple of them. Yeah, Patti and I are homeless at the moment. Mick wrote the lyrics to that — and he never has trouble with neighbors.

Just a quiet guy, right?
No, he's not. He's just smart. He got himself into a good old building with very thick walls and nobody particular around. I have a knack of finding a whole building of very cool people, you know, but there'll be one uncool couple — they're always a couple. And my apartment will always be either just above them or next door to them or just below. And they're the kind of people who'll knock you up at six in the morning, while you've just sort of got a little bit of music going. You're trying to be cool, 'cause you're aware of it, you know? By now, I'm aware that I can't blast the sounds. So I'm trying to be cool about it. And these people come up to our door saying, "We can't even hear Bugs Bunny on our TV, your music's so loud! Turn the kettledrums down!" So, I mean, I'm plagued by that kind of thing. I swear they're the same couple everywhere I go. They just follow me around: "Let's bug him; he's an asshole, he deserves it."

"Neighbours" is the first song I think Mick's ever really written for me. It's one I wish I'd written, that.

You and Mick appear to have one of the great friendships of our era. Is it really as solid as it seems?
Yeah. It's a true friendship when you can bash somebody over the head and not be told, "You're not my friend anymore." That's a true friendship. You put up with each other's bitching. People will think we're having these huge arguments and say, "Oh, will they split up?" But it's our way of working, you know? He's my wife. And he'll say the same thing about me: "Yeah, he's my wife."

I think the popular perception is that Mick is probably the better businessman of the two. Have you handled your money well?
I make it and I spend it, but it's set up in a way. Mick is pretty good at business. He's not as good as people think. He's probably not as good as he thinks. And he's probably not as bad as I think. Mick wants to know about every angle of everything, you know? Which is admirable — I certainly don't have the time or the inclination to find out those things. But we pool our information.

Do you ever feel you've become too rich to relate to your audience?
I just feel there's an audience out there,and as long as they want to hear it, I guess we'll go on making it.

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