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Keith Richard: The Rolling Stone Interview

Page 3 of 24

We did say, "Hey Tony, d'y'know any bass players?" He said. "I do know one." "Tell him come to next rehearsal." So we all turned up and in walks . . . Bill Wyman, ladies and gentleman. Huge speaker he's got, and a spare Vox eight-thirty amp which is the biggest amp we've ever seen in our lives. And that's spare. He says, "You can put one of your guitars through there." Whew. Put us up quite a few volts goin' through there.

He had the bass together already. He'd been playin' in rock bands for three or four years. He's older than us. He knows how to play. But he doesn't want to play with these shitty rock bands anymore because they're all terrible. They're all doing that Shadows trip, all those instrumental numbers, Duane Eddy, "Rebel Rouser." There was no one who could sing very good.

Also, they don't know what to play anymore. At that point, nobody wants to hear Buddy Holly anymore. He's an old scene already to the rock and roll hip circuit. It's that very light pop thing they're all into . . . Bobby Vee was a big scene then. You wouldn't dream of going to play in a ballroom. They'd just hurl bricks at you. Still have to stick to this little circuit of clubs, back rooms for one night, a shilling for everyone to get in. For people who didn't want to go to ballrooms. Who wanted to listen to something different.

Most of these clubs at the time are filled with dixieland bands, traditional jazz bands. An alternative to all that Bobby Vee stuff. There was a big boom in that: the stomp, stompin' about, weird dance, just really tryin' to break the ceiling to a two beat. That was the big scene. They had all the clubs under control. That's where Alexis made the breakthrough. He managed to open it up at the Ealing Club. Then he moved on to the Marquee and R&B started to become the thing. And all these traddies, as they were called, started getting worried. So they started this very bitter opposition.

Which is one reason I swung my guitar at Harold Pendleton's head at the Marquee thing, because he was the kingpin behind all that. He owned all these trad clubs and he got a cut from these trad bands, he couldn't bear to see them die. He couldn't afford it.

But Alexis was packin' em in man. Jus' playing blues. Very similar to Chicago stuff. Heavy atmosphere. Workers and art students, kids who couldn't make the ballrooms with supposedly long hair then, forget it, you couldn't go into those places. You gravitated to places where you wouldn't get hassled. The Marquee's a West End club, where we stood in for Alexis a couple of times.

With Charlie drumming?

No. Our first gig was down at the Ealing Club, a stand-in gig. That's the band without Charlie as drummer. We played everything. Muddy Waters. A lot of Jimmy Reed.

Still living in Chelsea?
Yeah. We had the middle floor. The top floor was sort of two school teachers tryin' to keep a straight life. God knows how they managed it. Two guys trainin' to be school teachers, they used to throw these bottle parties. All these weirdos, we used to think they were weirdos, they were as straight as . . . havin' their little parties up there, all dancing around to Duke Ellington. Then when they'd all zonked out, we'd go up there and nick all the bottles. Get a big bag, Brian and I, get all the beer bottles and the next day we'd take 'em to the pub to get the money on 'em.

Downstairs was livin' four old whores from Liverpool. Isn't that a coincidence. "'Allo dahlin', 'ow are ya? All right?" Real old boots they were. I don't know how they made their bread, working . . . They used to sort of nurse people and keep us together when we really got out of it.

The cat that supported Brian, this is a long story. He came from Brian's hometown. He got 80 quid a year for being in the Territorial Army in England, which is where you go for two weeks on a camp with the rest of these guys. Sort of a civil defense thing. They all live in tents and get soakin' wet and get a cold and at the end they learn how to shoot a rifle and they get 80 quid cash depending on what rank you've managed to wangle yourself.

This cat arrived in London with his 80 quid, fresh out of the hills, from his tent. And he wants to have a good time with Brian. And Brian took him for every penny, man. Got a new guitar. The whole lot.

This weird thing with this cat. He was one of those weird people who would do anything you say. Things like, Brian would say, "Give me your overcoat." Freezing cold, it's the worst winter and he gave Brian this Army overcoat. "Give Keith the sweater." So I put the sweater on.

"Now, you walk twenty yards behind us, man." And off we'd walk to the local hamburger place. "Ah, stay there. No, you can't come in. Give us two quid." Used to treat him like really weird. This cat would stand outside the hamburger joint freezing cold giving Brian the money to pay for our hamburgers. Never saw him again after that.

No, no, it ended up with us tryin' to electrocute him. It ended up with us gettin' out of our heads one night. That was the night he disappeared. It was snowing outside. We came back to our pad and he was in Brian's bed. Brian for some reason got very annoyed that he was in his bed asleep. We had all these cables lyin' around and he pulled out this wire. "This end is plugged in, baby, and I'm comin' after ya."

This cat went screaming out of the pad and into the snow in his underpants. "They're electrocuting me, they're electrocuting me." Somebody brought him in an hour later and he was blue. He was afraid to come in because he was so scared of Brian.

Brian used to pull these weird things. The next day the cat split. Brian had a new guitar, and his amp re-fixed, a whole new set of harmonicas.

I guess the craziness comes from the chemistry of the people. The craziness sort of kept us together. When the gigs become a little more plentiful and the kids started picking up on us was when we got picked up by Giorgio Gomelsky. Before he was into producing records. He was on the jazz club scene. I don't know exactly what he did, promoting a couple of clubs a week. He cottoned on to us and sort of organized us a bit.

We still didn't have Charlie as a drummer. We were really lacking a good drummer. We were really feeling it.

All I wanted to do is keep the band together. How we were going to do it and get gigs and people to listen to us? How to get a record together? We couldn't even afford to make a dub. Anyway we didn't have a drummer to make a dub with.

By this time we had it so together musically. We were really pleased with the way we were sounding. We were missing a drummer. We were missing good equipment. By this time the stuff we had was completely beaten to shit.

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