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Keith Richard: The Rolling Stone Interview

Page 24 of 24

Too much trouble or what?
I can't imagine doing it, you know? I can't imagine making an album just like that. I've never had an urge to be a solo. Maybe I can get together one song, two songs a year, that I really feel that I want to sing. And so I do it and I put it on the Stones album. Because it's cool. If I feel, if I become more productive, I'll just collect things. I'll just wait until I've got enough things.

Shit, man, I was just a hired guitar player when I started. Things grew out of that and I learned how to write songs just by sitting down and doing it. For me it seems inconceivable that any guitar player can't sit down and write songs. I don't see how a cat can play a guitar, really, and not be able to lay something down of his own in some way.

But that's the way I feel because I happen to be able to do it. For some guitar players it's inconceivable that nobody can play the guitar, you know, that anybody can't just pick it up just like that.

Because to them it's a second . . . you know. If it's sort of in you, and it's something that you've got together, it's simple, you can't explain it, it's easy. How do you write a song? It's fucking easy, man. I'll come back in a few minutes and lay one on you. But if you're one of these cats that sat down for fucking weeks and months and tried desperately to produce something and nothing ever comes out, it must seem like the greatest task in the world.

I mean, I've desperately tried to remain anonymous. The state the world is in today it's much more of an advantage to remain anonymous than it is to be identifiable or recognized.

As a musician?
Fucking Chuck Berry wrote "Let It Rock" under E. Anderson, man, and it's one of the best things he ever did. And yet he put it out, you know he's got some tax publishing hassle, he puts it out under some middle name: Charles A. Berry, Edward Anderson, or whatever. He should have got recognition for it, and as far as I'm concerned he should definitely be recognized as the writer for "Let It Rock." Would the U.S. Internal Revenue kindly bear it in mind.

How do you feel about the music business?
How can you check up on the fucking record company when to get it together in the first place you have to be out on that stage every fucking night, you have to get out there every night in front of the people saying here I am and this is what I do. You can't keep a check on it. Someone else is handling all that bread.

We found out, and it wasn't years till we did, that all the bread we made for Decca was going into making little black boxes that go into America Air Force bombers to bomb fucking North Vietnam. They took the bread we made for them and put it into the radar section of their business. When we found that out, it blew our minds. That was it. Goddamn, you find out you've helped to kill God knows how many thousands of people without even knowing it.

I'd rather the Mafia than Decca.

Anita: I mean, Mafia than the CIA, man. But if you've got to be on that stage every night, there's no possible way of checking up on all those people.

Gram Parsons told me a great story about the Mafia. What they're really into now is growing tomatoes. Tomatoes is the only business in America that you can still get cash on the nail so that if you drive up with a truck-load of tomatoes, you get money right off. So they have the whole tomato business sewn up.

Gram had an uncle who was growing a thousand acres of tomatoes and one day some guys came down in a limousine and got very heavy with him and said, "Why don't you switch to citrus fruits and leave the tomatoes to us."

Anita: Leave the tomatoes to us.

Keith: It gets so weird, one has to think about everything. I mean, they're running it. They're running America.

Anita: That's why in an interview with the Daily Mirror Keith said he was ready to grow tomatoes.

Keith: A subliminal message to the Mafia. "Come see me, I'm ready to grow tomatoes."

What is the conjunction of show business and crime?
A lot of money in entertainment. The criminal element is there for the bread. And where there's crime, there's cops. They're both in the same business, right? Who else deals with crime but criminals and cops? They're the only two that are hung up on it.

Anita: And Italians.

Anita's seen it all, from another viewpoint. I mean, I'm always in the middle. I've heard incredible Rolling Stones stories I know nothing about. I don't know if I was asleep in my room or . . . why did I miss out on that one?

This story is from the August 19th, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone.


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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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