Keith Richards: No Regrets

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How do rich people have the blues?
I don't know. I've never met a rich person yet who's felt rich. Because from my own experience, the bigger things get and the more money you make, the more it takes to run the whole show. Especially tax attorneys. And therefore, the more you have to go out and make more money to pay them to give you . . . it's a diminishing return, you know? I've never felt rich. I've never really thought about it. All I'm worried about is having enough to keep the show on the road, you know. As long as that's there, then it's all right. The rest of it — what am I gonna do with it anyway? I spend half my life in the studio, and when I'm not there, I'm hustling to get on the road again. So, I mean, I can spend it, but I don't know where it goes.

Do the Rolling Stones ever socialize with each other anymore?
Yeah, we're always in touch. Charlie bounces into New York or wherever once every couple of months. As far as I'm concerned, I'd just say that I'm continually thankful — and more so as we go along — that we have Charlie Watts sittin' there, you know? He's the guy who doesn't believe it, because he's like that. I mean, he doesn't think that his contribution is as —

Yeah. There's nothing forced about Charlie, least of all his modesty. It's totally real. He cannot understand what people see in his drumming.

That's amazing.
I think so.

What about Ron Wood? He's been part of the act for about six years now, but I think some people still tend to dismiss him as a kind of Keith Richards clone.
I was the one who was most apprehensive about taking Ronnie into this. He's a very good friend of mine, and I've worked on his solo albums. But he doesn't play like me. To me, Ronnie's keeping together that idea of the Stones sound that Brian and I had. That's how I feel about Ronnie. He has an instinctive feel for what Brian and I originally worked out as far as guitars and the music go. Siamese twins — they both play. Look at it like this: there's one guy, he's just got four arms. That's the way I like to feel about it. Because when it comes out, it doesn't matter how many people are playing and who's doing what. When that sound comes out, does it hit you between the eyes and does it grab you?

Brian's been dead for twelve years now. Do you still think about him?
Yeah, I think about him every time we play "Time Is on My Side," or when I'm playing his guitar licks on "Mona." Brian, in many ways, was a right cunt. He was a bastard. Mean, generous, anything. You want to say one thing, give it the opposite, too. But more so than most people, you know. Up to a point, you could put up with it. When you were put under the pressures of the road, either you took it seriously or you took it as a joke. Which meant that eventually — it was a very slow process, and it shifted and changed, and it is so impossible to describe — but in the last year or so, when Brian was almost totally incapacitated all of the time, he became a joke to the band. It was the only way we could deal with it without gettin' mad at him. So then it became that very cruel, piss-taking thing behind his back all the time. It all came to a head when ... he was with Anita at the time, and he started beating her up and kickin' her around. And I said, "Come on, darlin', you don't need this. Let's go. I'll just take you away." I didn't give a shit. I wasn't involved in it at the time. Just, "Let's go. I'll take you out of this, at least, then you can do what you want." So we split. It was very romantic — Marrakesh, tramping through the desert and all that crap. I mean, Brian was so ludicrous in some ways and such a nice guy in some ways. It was like they used to say about Stan Getz: "He's a nice buncha guys." You just never knew which one you were gonna meet.

The Brian-Anita-Keith triangle is a centerpiece of Up and Down with the Rolling Stones, by Tony Sanchez, which came out in 1979. Sanchez described himself as, among other things, your drug procurer, and his description of your lifestyle in those years — late Sixties, early Seventies — is one of almost total dissipation and addiction. Is any or all of this true?
Spanish Tony's book? Let's put it like this: I couldn't plow through it all because my eyes were watering from laughter. But the basic laying out of the story — "He did this, he did that" — is true. Tony didn't really write it. He had some hack from Fleet Street write it; obviously, Tony can hardly write his own name, you know? He was a great guy. I always considered him a friend of mine. I mean, not anymore. But I understand his position: he got into dope, his girlfriend ODed, he went on the skids and . . . it's all this shit, you know? As far as that book's concerned, as far as, like, a particular episode, just the bare facts — yeah, they all happened. But by the time you got to the end, it was like Grimm's Fairy Tales — with emphasis on the grim. It's really all old stuff. You know, there are certain showbiz cliches that always seem to hold true. One is that there's no such thing as bad publicity, and the other is that the show must go on, right?

Have you seen Sanchez since the book came out?
Yeah, a couple of years ago.

Did you punch his lights out, or what?
No. I showed him a new shooter I'd gotten. I haven't seen him since.

What's become of Anita? Is she all right?
Yeah, she's fine, man. She's fine. I don't consider myself separated from Anita or anything. She's still the mother of my kids. Anita is a great, great woman. She's a fantastic person. I love her. I can't live with her, you know? I don't know if I really see that much less of Anita now than I ever have. She's in New York.

Doesn't it drive you nuts to live your personal life out in public?
Usually it's not from within — not from Anita or Patti or myself. It's other people saying, "Oh, we should play this down." Which I'm not interested in doin', because the only way I've ever been able to survive any of this crap is by saying: "Anything you put on your front page, I can top it." Because I'll give you the real lowdown, which is far more interesting. The last thing I want is to seem that I'm hiding anything, or playing a role. Sure, you don't want to call up the Daily News and say, "Well, last night I screwed . . . " but at the same time, I don't want anybody to think it's worth snooping around in my backyard thinking they're gonna pick up anything that they wouldn't learn by asking me.

As far as my relationships go, with Anita or anybody — I don't understand the meaning of separation. It's a legal phrase, that. And since I've never done anything legally, or never considered whether it's legal or not . . . I mean, I do what I do. The only areas of illegality that I've been involved in are ones that are questionable. Like, the question of victimless crimes. You can say that being a junkie is not really being a criminal, because it's just a law. But then again, junkies are the ones who buy the stuff from the dealers, the dealers make the money off the junkies, and dealers are the ones who go and corrupt the other kids, da, da, da. So where does the responsibility begin and end? I don't know. I don't really care, because it's a fact of life. I mean, all those questions are talked about by people who know nothing about it, as you well know. They're the ones who decide to put every patient they get on Methadone — to force them into the belief that if you've taken dope at all, you'd better get on Methadone right away, because you're always gonna need it. But they don't mention that for every patient those clinics get, they get bread from the feds.

You've tried Methadone?
Only when I couldn't get nothin' else. What a dopey drug, you know — dopey in the sense of nondope. What a dopey nondope.

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