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Keith Richards Life

We were going to have a look at Keith Richards’ autobiography “Life” but we decided against it. Someone, somewhere suggested Keef’s memoire was more suited to “the chicks, man” – so we decided to settle for a rather more notorious script instead. “Up and Down with the Rolling Stones” by Spanish Tony Sanchez published in 1979.

Big Hits – High Tides and Green Grass

You can take much from Sanchez’ title – he definitely isn’t wasting time with high concepts or florid statements of intent, just peaks and troughs, uppers and downers – no inbetweeners; the spit and sawdust – the action – and it’s all here, layed out upon the table like a victorian post-mortem – bloody, raw and graphic.

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Sympathy for the Devil

They might be respectable multimillionaire vagabonds these days, but, back in the dark ages of the early sixties the Rolling Stones were a social menace. The media and the public despised their filthy image – together with a little Satanism, a shit-load of trouble, plenty of drug fuelled madness and some blinding hit records, the Rolling Stones clawed their way to the top, fast. It couldn’t have been easy, and Tony Sanchez has cut open the cadaver of history and let it bleed, spilling the guts across 700+ pages of fast living and high times.

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Take me to your Dealer

So, who is Tony Sanchez? Tony Sanchez was a lackey of sorts for Keith Richards, not really a flunkey, more a kind of paid “help”, a hanger-on, and a drug dealer. So, what’s it all about? The dirt between the cracks. The money. The drugs. The cops. The pay-offs. The riots. The Mars bar. The Nazi Mercedes. Coke babies. Stolen guitars. Guns. Rats. Cold Turkey. A Coma. Rape. Revenge. Sanchez paints a vivid, realistic and unflattering picture of the Rolling Stones ascent to success and wealth in tandem with their descent into drugs – a bit of this, alot of that, a blizzard of cocaine and, just for good measure, plenty of nefarious smack.

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Hells Angels

There are plenty of beautiful dead bodies along the way – Talitha Getty, Michael Cooper – and, a portrait of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that isn’t too pretty at all. Sanchez doesn’t waste time on the music at all – and rightly so – the indulgence and the chaos, the people and the madness are a far more exciting fuel. Up and Down is a damn good read, and, you can’t help wondering how the hell they managed to record anything at all. Ultimately Sanchez himself is sucked into the sinking sand of smack addiction along with everyone else.

Let’s Spend the Night Together

What Sanchez’ writing lacks in style is more than made up for with dirt; delivering his memoire as Keith’s footman with the calm detachment of a cool observer – he might have had a good time hanging with the Stones, but he doesn’t waste a word romanticising it.

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Dirty Work

The style is straightforward, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, fly on the wall – he was working for selfish, spoilt, rock star arseholes on a nitrous fuelled, fast track, spitfire, ego trip to oblivion. Tony doesn’t mind  a little bit of self indulgence though, at pains to point out his liaisons – to cash in some smack for a bit of cheap sex with the ladies and stereotypical tosh –  idle boasts of his London gangland connections, old school honour, the usual bollocks – it feels dated, and immature. This kind of forced crap occasionally gets in the way at the start of the book, but Sanchez’ narrative quickly drops the bullshit and rapidly improves – events, get the better of him and he has no choice but to ‘deliver the goods’.

The Death of Brian Jones

The book begins with the Brian Jones “love triangle – power struggle” and a rather damning portrait of his band. Sanchez’ paints Jones as a martyr but Jagger and Richards couldn’t have cared less about his rapid disintegration into paranoia, madness, and his watery death.

“An extremely frightened young man..with suicidal tendencies…”

Of course Brian Jones didn’t help himself one iota – he threw everything down his neck as fast as he could, he was insecure, deeply troubled and completely f*cked up – unable to play. By the time he sorts himself out it’s too late. Oh well.

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Keith Richards

Nowadays Keith Richards manifests the affable kudos of the great rock ‘n’ roll survivor – a charming, eccentric character chock full of personality, hoodoo wisdom and grit. Who hasn’t a sneaky admiration for Keith Richards? Maybe he has Captain Jack Johnny Depp Sparrah to thank for his transition from smacked out denizen of the rock music elite to smooth as you like elder statesman of guitar cool – but it doesn’t matter – Keith Richards got out alive, which is no mean feat at all.

Mick Jagger

Mockney Mick comes off worse – conniving, manipulative, egocentric and bourgeois – “an egotistical creep” – he lives with politicans in Chelsea – scared to let the dope mess with his vanity, and, desperate to prove his mettle as an “actor”. The films, even Robert Frank’s “Cocksucker Blues” are turkeys, but Jagger, is also the switched-on glue that keeps the show on the road – he avoids the skag – receives a knighthood.

“I think it’s completely wrong to get totally fucked up and go out and play.”

Exile on Mainstreet

By the time the Stones hit America Sanchez’ contempt is running high, but the cash is pouring in for the “arrogant greedy” Stones. Desperate to better the Woodstock festival experience Jagger & Co. orchestrate the cultural low of the Altamont disaster, and the death of the Sixties dream. By the time Jagger marries Bianca “the street guerillas who had once menaced the fabric of society had been destroyed by money.” The exile of the band in France hits country gents Wyman and Watts hard but Keith admirably soldiers on with a diet of drugs, lobster, caviar, steaks, and alcohol.

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Bill Wyman – Mick Taylor

“Mick Taylor appeared to have about as much charisma as Bill Wyman (and you can’t have much less than that).”

Authenticity

Whether you take what Spanish Tony says with a pinch of salt or not, if you are curious about The Rolling Stones then ‘Up and Down’ maps their hedonistic ascent to rock ‘n’ roll superstardom  – when rock stars were dangerous and fucked up; ridiculously wealthy, elegantly wasted, edgy and arrogant. If you want the seedy, unsavoury details, the highs and lows – it’s a gas, gas, gas if you can get out alive. If you want something polite and safe you’re in the wrong place, man.

“Spanish Tony can’t even write his own name, let alone a book” – Keith Richards.

 

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