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The Rolling Stone 20th Anniversary Interview: Keith Richards

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What was your favorite edition of the Stones – with Brian Jones, Mick Taylor or Ronnie Wood?
The most fun is Ronnie. He's also the most open. However, I think some of our best work was probably with Mick Taylor. Ronnie's incredibly underrated in a lot of ways. He's got a lot more to him than you think, 'cause he's a very sort of superficially flippant character. But he's got a lot more depth to him than most people think. And I've always enjoyed working with him very much. I love his enthusiasm. And he's been with the Stones longer than any of the others. That was the amazing thing while we were doing Dirty Work: "Do you realize, Ronnie, that you've been in this band longer than Brian was? Longer than Mick Taylor? And you're still the new boy." [Laughs.]

How do you look upon some of the guitar players who were your peers – Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page?
Eric is a lovely player. Jimi, I would have loved to have heard what he was just startin' off to do. I saw him a few weeks or months before he died, and he was very eager to lay down some new stuff. He wanted to put the whole psychedelic thing behind him. He was almost embarrassed by some of his recorded work up to that point.

The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time: Keith Richards

Did he play you any of his new material?
No. You see, he was just talking about it, and he was in the middle of putting a band together when he kicked it. If you could have hung on for another year, Jimi . . . I would have loved to have heard it, man.

Did you ever get to jam with him?
Dressing rooms a couple of times, just piddling about. In those days, everybody was always on the road, and you'd sit around maybe a couple of evenings here and there, and that would be it. And also you'd be out of it, you know? "I gotta call my dealer. . . . "

And Eric . . . I love to play with Eric. He came in for a number on the Chuck Berry movie. Did a lovely job. I hadn't heard him play so well. I have a feeling about Eric that when he's running his own show, there's nobody to kick him up the ass, you know? And in a way, I have a feeling that he does need that. Because he really pulled out some things in those couple of days in St. Louis that really knocked me out.

Going back to the Sixties again, were you ever seduced by "flower power" and all that?
Personally, no. I mean, you paid a fair amount of lip service to it at the time – peer pressure, etcetera. But I am quite proud that I never did go and kiss the maharishi's goddamn feet, you know?

Does it all seem pretty funny to you now?
Absolutely. I mean, it was like theater of the ridiculous. If it hadn't been promoted so hard – like, by the Beatles, especially- maybe it wouldn't have reached quite the insane proportions that it got to. The basic drive behind it, I suppose, one had to like. But the amount of people that were suckered into it . . .

Like "All you need is love"?
Yeah - try livin' off of it.

And yet the Stones had their hippie-trippy moment, too - with Their Satanic Majesties Request. Was that realty nothing more than a response to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper?
Really, yes. That was the bowing to the peer pressure. Suddenly everybody was stoned – all of us got this new stuff called LSD, man. And the Beatles were singin' about it, and Mick was goin' off to see the maharishi, and I'm thinkin', "Uhhh, I ain't too sure about this shit."

Back then, the Stones and the Beatles were always portrayed as polar opposites – they were the good guys, you were the bad guys. Was the reality ever anything like that?
No. I mean, we probably felt more of a kinship, because we were basically the same age, we liked basically the same' kind of music, and we wanted to do what we were doin'. There probably weren't more than a few other groups of guys that had more in common, you know? There was a healthy bit of competition, but it was incredibly civilized. I guess from the outside, it seemed like they were the fresh-faced fab mop tops and we were totally the other end of the spectrum.

But they were just as filthy as we were, really. And . . . I mean, Brian Jones used to wash his hair three times a day, man, you know?

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