Keith Richards': 19 Insane Tales of Rolling Stones' Guitarist - Rolling Stone
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Keith Richards’ Wildest Escapades: 19 Insane Tales From a Legendary Life

Amazing moments of excess, abandon and infinite good luck from a life well lived

Keith Richards

Michael Putland/Getty

Keith Richards may have mellowed with age, but as anyone who has read his memoir can attest, the iconic Rolling Stones guitarist has raised enough hell to fill several lifetimes. We look back on the wildest and weirdest moments in Richards’ 50-plus-year tear through the limelight.

You already know about the time Keith snorted his deceased father’s ashes. (“My dad wouldn’t have cared, he didn’t give a shit,” said Richards of the infamous incident.) But what about when he jumped out of the window of a burning Laurel Canyon house wearing only a “short T-shirt”? Or stayed up for nine straight days during the recording of Some Girls? Those tales and many more await you in our comprehensive Keith-lore roundup.

[Find Keith Richards book, ‘Life, here]

Keith Richards

Guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones during an interview at Atlantic Records in London, England in August 1974. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Michael Putland/Getty

Giving Hef the Hotfoot (1972)

In 1972, on a tour stop in Chicago, Richards and saxophonist Bobby Keys were invited to stay at the Playboy Mansion by Hugh Hefner and nearly set it ablaze while doing drugs in a bathroom. "Bobby says, 'It's smoky in here,' " Richards recalled in Life. "And then a little later there's a thumping at the door, waiters and guys in black suits bringing buckets of water. They get the door open, and we're sitting on the floor, our eyeballs very pinned." The house was saved, but, as Richards notes, Hefner would relocate the Playboy Mansion to Los Angeles.

Keith Richards and John Lennon

From left to right, Eric Clapton, John Lennon (1940 - 1980) and Keith Richards performing together at the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus, Internel Studios in Stonebridge Park, Wembley, December 1968. (Photo by Andrew Maclear/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Andrew Maclear/Getty

Keith in the Sky With Diamonds (1967)

In Life, Richards recalled heavy experimentation with psychedelics in 1967 and 1968. But there's one LSD trip in particular he regards as truly special. After meeting up with John Lennon one day, the pair embarked on what the Stones guitarist described as an "acid-fueled road trip" over the course of two or three days that took them to the English towns of Torquay and Lyme Regis. Relying heavily on the memory of Kari Ann Moller, who later married Jagger's younger brother Chris, Richards recalled driving in circles (either with or without a chauffeur) and visiting Lennon's country house, where they "said hi to [Lennon's wife] Cynthia." Years later, when Lennon and Richards met up in New York, Keith recalls the ex-Beatle asking, "What happened on that trip?"

Keith Richards

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 11: Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards leaves the Ascot Hospital following brain surgery May 11, 2006 in Auckland, New Zealand. Richards has been in Auckland receiving medical attention for the last two weeks following a fall from a tree while on holiday in Fiji. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Phil Walter/Getty

D’oh! (2006)

During a break from the Bigger Bang tour, Richards and a small group flew to a private island off Fiji. After an afternoon swimming with Ronnie Wood, he perched himself on a tree — a "gnarled low tree that was basically a horizontal branch" about seven feet off the ground. As he tried to jump off the tree to go to lunch, he slipped and hit his head on the trunk. Richards didn't feel any serious pain until days later, when he suffered a "blinding headache" on a boat ride. That night, he had two seizures in his sleep, and his wife, Patti, frantically called for medical attention. After enduring an excruciating four-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand, he was operated on by neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Law. "I woke up feeling great," Richards said. "And I said, 'Well, when are you going to start?' Law said, 'It's all done, mate.'" Richards was back onstage in six weeks, with Dr. Law (his "head man") by his side.

Chuck Berry and Keith Richards

CHICAGO - 1986: Rock and roll musician Chuck Berry performs onstage with his Gibson hollowbody electric guitar and guitarist Keith Richards of the rock and roll band "The Rolling Stones" plays a Fender Telecaster at the Chicago Blues Festival in 1986 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by James Fraher/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

James Fraher/Getty

Berry Scary (2014)

In 2014, while promoting his children's book Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar, Richards appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, where the host asked him about an infamous instance in which rock & roll legend Chuck Berry allegedly punched Richards in the face. "I was back in a dressing room," Richards said. "He went up to collect the money, I think. His guitar was laid out in its case like, 'Aw, c'mon, Keith,' you know, 'just a touch.'" When Richards picked up the instrument and innocently strummed an E chord, Berry came in yelling, "Nobody touches my guitar" and promptly slugged Richards in the face. As Richards joked to Fallon, "That's one of Chuck's biggest hits."

Keith Richards

Left to right: Ron Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones at the Historic Atlantic City Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall) in Atlantic City, N.J., during the Steel Wheels Tour, December 1989. The group played three nights at the venue from 17th - 20th December 1989. (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

Paul Natkin/Getty

Hey, the Man Likes Pie (1989)

The 1989 Steel Wheels tour was the Stones' biggest yet, but Richards still likes things homey. In Toronto in December, the catering setup had re-created an English pub, complete with a jukebox, cricket bats and standard pub food. When Richards arrived late to find that the shepherd's pie he'd been looking forward to had been dug into, he refused to go onstage until another one was produced. Jagger was furious, but the concert was still delayed until Keith got his special meal. "It's now famous, my rule on the road," he wrote. "Nobody touches the shepherd's pie till I've been in there. Don't bust my crust, baby."

Keith Richards

English musician and singer Keith Richards at his home in upstate New York, 1978. The picture was taken during the period of his drug bust in Canada, pending his trial for possession of heroin. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Michael Putland/Getty

Naked and Afraid (1978)

During the late Seventies, Richards struck up a relationship with a Swedish blonde named Lil Wergilis, whom he described in Life as "incredibly funny, very witty and a great lay." One night, they were staying in a rented house in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon, when Wergilis woke him in the middle of the night because a fire had broken out in another room. (The cause of the fire remains undisclosed, though the guitarist told the Telegraph in 2010 that he'd accidentally set it aflame.) "We had a few seconds to jump out of the window," Richards wrote in Life. "I'm dressed in a short T-shirt only, and Lil is naked." A cousin of Anita Pallenberg picked them up and brought them to safety. When they returned to the house the next day, they found a "large sign stuck in the blackened grass that read, 'Thanks a lot, Keith.'" The guitarist said his only possession that survived was a chest of drawers containing his passport, his favorite tapes, jewelry and a gun with 500 rounds of ammunition. After recounting the story, he asked, "So what am I supposed to gather from my life? That I'm blessed?"

Keith Richards

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood celebrates with friends in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, after his wedding to girlfriend Jo Howard, 3rd January 1985. Accompanying the happy couple are best men and fellow Stones Charlie Watts, left, and Keith Richards. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Dave Hogan/Getty

Some Blow, Keith, a Baby Shower … What Could Go Wrong? (1970s)

In It's Only Rock 'n' Roll: 30 Years Married to a Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood's ex-wife Jo Wood remembers first encountering Richards in a Paris hotel room in 1977. "Keith reached into his bag and took out a silver spoon, a bottle of pills and a lighter. In a matter of seconds, he'd crushed some of the pills with a bit of water, cooked them up, then filled a syringe and stabbed it straight through his shirt." Moments later, Richards smiled: "He looked up at me [and said], 'Hello, my dear. I've heard so much about you!'" Jo was unfazed: "I adored Keith from the start — which was lucky, because he and Ronnie came as a pair … One of the first things I loved about him most was his naughtiness." But Richards' behavior tested even Jo. At a baby shower in the late Seventies, Jo asked Richards not to do cocaine in front of her mother. Unsurprisingly, her request went ignored: "[After dinner] suddenly Keith declared, 'And now for dessert!' With that, he pulled out a big bag of coke and slammed it on the table." Mortified, her mother fled the room. "He's been doing it for years," Jo told her mom. "I can't stop him. It's just his way of life."

Keith Richards

Guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones arives at the Big Apple Circus at the Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park with his wife Patti and their daughters Theodora and Alexandra, November 1988. (Photo by Tom Gates/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Tom Gates/Getty

The Pirate of Weston (1991)

After decades of drugs, sex, arrests and legendary insanity, the only way left for Richards to truly shock people was to settle down. And in 1991, that's exactly what he did, moving with his wife, Patti, and their two young daughters from Manhattan to leafy Weston, Connecticut. "The woods have a primeval serenity about them that would suit the ancestral spirits," he says in Life, going on to write at length about enjoying his private surroundings and large library. In 2002, he gave Rolling Stone an account of his gentlemanly country life: "I'd get up at seven in the morning," he said. "I read a lot. I might have a little sail around Long Island Sound if the weather is all right. I do a lot of recording in my basement — writing songs, keeping up to speed. I have no fixed routine. I wander about the house, wait for the maids to clean the kitchen, then fuck it all up again and do some frying. Patti and I go out once a week, if there's something on in town — take the old lady out for dinner with a bunch of flowers, get the rewards."

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