Saturday, December 18, 2010

Got To Scrape The Shit Right Off Your Shoes



Today, Keith Richards turns sixty-seven in mortal human years. To say he's an "old soul" is an understatement--he's more like an embalmed soul--one who's avoided death more times than the combined lives of an entire litter of kittens. Despite topping the notorious NME's Most Likely to Die list for 10 solid years--while those around him perished or wasted away--Keith kept nodding along, making some of the greatest (and a few not so great) rock and roll records along the way. You can read all about it in his extended 550 page interview/auto-biography, Life, which is alternately, a gripping and fascinating read, and at other times, a grandiose tale of a supreme denial.

The inside cover flap reads: "This is the life. Believe it or not, I haven't forgotten any of it." And while that's partially true, and the best parts of the book--the first 350 or so pages-- are filled with incredible details on the emerging Rolling Stones and their dedication to music and their initial goal: to be the best blues band in London--something they quickly achieved and far exceeded--becoming the greatest rock and roll band on the planet. Keith's lucidity and ability to remember takes a vacation sometime after the '72 tour, and while this is understandable considering his extreme condition in the mid-70s, it seems the year 1974 pretty much eludes his memory.

But enough about the book.

2010 has been a banner year for Richards, starting in May with the re-release of his greatest achievement, 1972's Exile on Main Street--the sprawling Rolling Stones classic recorded in Keith's sweaty basement in the south of France; his book, of course; a reissue of his long out of print Wingless Angels recordings; and a collaboration with Jerry Lee Lewis of the Rolling Stones' "Sweet Virginia" for an album of duets. Lewis also collaborates with fellow Stones, Ronnie Wood on the title cut "Mean Old Man," and with Mick Jagger on a lackluster and tentative sounding version of "Dead Flowers," but it's the duet with Keith that rises amongst the heap.

This isn't the first time Keith and the Killer have teamed up, and it's clear, that the two of them share a mutual admiration for one another. And while they seem to be from two separate generations of rock 'n rollers, the 50s and 60s, respectively, they are only eight years apart in age, still active, and were both at the top of their game throughout most of the 60s and 70s. Lewis was born into the Pentecostal Deep South during the Great Depression, and Richards, outside of London during the final wave of the German Luftwaffe attacks of World War II. Lewis began recording in 1957, and the Rolling Stones were in full swing with the acquisition of Bill Wyman and his amp by 1962--a mere five year difference--a blip in the grand scheme of rock and roll time. I see them as contemporaries, as well as kindred spirits, both who have openly shared a fondness for (among other things) firearms, whiskey, controlled substances, the songs of Chuck Berry, Harold Arlen, and Hank Williams, as well as the possession of an instantly recognizable and singular voice in their instrumental style.

When I first heard the new version of "Sweet Virginia," I was disappointed to hear that Lewis had changed the word "shit" in the chorus to "shine." It's one of the Stones' great throwaway lines, and the word substitution actually changes the meaning of the song in subtle ways. But Lewis--who knows shit from Shinola--is prone to all kinds of profanity in conversation, he is, however, not one to record such language. During the recording sessions for "Great Balls of Fire" at Sun in 1957, Jerry Lee, became weary and convinced in his drunkenness that he was going to go to "H-E-L-L" if he sang that song. Sam Phillips and Jack Clement went to great lengths to convince him that he had to do it. In speaking about his 1974 version of the Stones song "Satisfaction," he humbly remarked, "They done that one so good that me singin' it would be like stickin' a greasy noodle up some critter's ass." In 1977, when Keith holed up in a Toronto recording studio at a piano, while awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges that threatened to put him away for several years, he recorded a suite of still unreleased tracks, some that he had learned and played with his then dead running buddy Gram Parsons, and some other old favorites, among those, two Jerry Lee Lewis numbers.

With the promise of a bonus disc of unreleased Stones tracks announced prior to this year's re-release of Exile (which I dutifully bought for the fourth time) I was excited and ultimately let down to find that it was largely a hoax, which I'll get into another time. It did, however, contain a rough version of "Soul Survivor" with Keith making up lyrics as he goes along. It's full of profanity, makes no sense at all, and I love it. Jerry Lee wouldn't have sung it that way, but that's beside the point. Both of these guys have fished in the same pond for many years, and today, in celebration of Keith's birthday we will listen to both of these old coots.

Happy Birthday Keith.



Download:

"Sweet Virginia" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Richards, 2010.
available on Mean Old Man

"That Kind of Fool" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Richards, 2006.
available on Last Man Standing

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis, 1974.
available on The Complete Session Recorded in London

"She Still Comes Around" mp3
by Keith Richards, 1977.
from Out on Bail (and out of print)

"She Still Comes Around" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis, 1968.
available on Anthology: All Killer No Filler




"Your Cheating Heart" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Richards, 1983.
from Rolling His Own
out of print



"Little Queenie" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Richards, 1983.
from Rolling His Own
out of print

"Little Queenie" mp3
by the Rolling Stones, 1972
from Exiles Afternoon Revisited
out of print

"Little Queenie" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis, 1959.
available on Sun Recordings 1956-1963



"Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" mp3
by Keith Richards, 1977.
from Out on Bail (and out of print)

"You Win Again" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis, 1979.
available on Complete Palomino Club Recordings

"You Win Again" mp3
by The Rolling Stones, 1977.
from Place Pigalle
out of print

"You Win Again" mp3
by Keith Richards, 2001.
available on Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute

"Over The Rainbow" mp3
by Keith Richards and Bobby Keys, 1981.
from Rolling His Own

"Over The Rainbow" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis, 1980.
Anthology: All Killer No Filler

"Soul Survivor (alternate take)" mp3
by The Rolling Stones, 1971.
available on Exile on Main Street

top photo: Jerry Lee Lewis, Memphis, 1997. © Ted Barron, 2010

7 comments:

Karate Boogaloo said...

Loved this post, Ted...thank you. I'll be passing it on to several folks. - Tim

Anonymous said...

another great post. cheers.

Anonymous said...

An excellent post, even by your usually high standards, (and as I say this as someone who admires Keith R but is by no means a member of the cult of Keith!). W.

plasticsun said...

Great post - the word change in Sweet Virginia is a bit jarring to the ear, but it's a cool version.

Pauline said...

Many thanks

Ian Anthony said...

I didn't have a clue that Keith and the Big Bopper ever performed together!!

Great vids and some timeless music.
Thanks.

drfeelgoed said...

Just finished reading Keith's Life, as you say it has quite a few 'gaps' (Peter Tosh!), but it's amazing that he remembers anything at all! Great post by the way, thanks for the tracks.