“Not in this band, we all just follow Keef”

Not sure how true this story is but nice all the same.

Muso sits in with the Rolling Stones. Starts muttering how odd it seems. “Usually, you know, the drums and bass lay down the beat, the swing. The rhythm guitar follows then you layer up from there” sorta muttering.

“Not in this band, we all just follow Keef”.

Which might be the secret not that I’m musician enough to know. The one standout musical talent in there being Richards. Sure, it would be nice if Jagger could actually sing – yes, he’s got the charisma etc but even Rod Stewart has been unkind about his singing voice and his attempt at an American accent in Midnight Rambler is simply cringeworthy – and he knows his way around chords and keys. Jones was a multi-instrumentalist, Charlies Watts a fine drummer – although even there You Can’t Always Get What You Want was done by Jimmy Miller as Watts just couldn’t pick up the groove – and Wyman a perfectly servicable bassist but again, that really stand out bass line on Sympathy was done by Keef. Mick Taylor a very fine blues guitarist. Ronnie Wood excellent again.

But the one who is different. Who has something more and better. Original if you prefer. Something that other entirely fine, even excellent, musicians don’t have, that’s Richards. In the way that Clapton had with lead, Billy Cobham on drums. Perhaps the comment about BB King solos – he doesn’t play many notes, does he? Nope, but they’re always the right ones.

Not quite sue why this thought strikes on a Monday morning but there we are. The one thing that makes the Rolling Stones different is Keith Richards.

3 thoughts on ““Not in this band, we all just follow Keef””

  1. I think it comes down to musicality or musical sense. Too many brilliant players want to show off their virtuosity rather than playing ‘For the Song’. I once watched a masterclass with Billy Cobham and he actually said: ” It’s not what you put in, it’s what you leave out”.

  2. He lives down the road from us. He’s meant to be a nice bloke and is often seen around, although I’ve never seen him.

  3. Dennis, Who Wonders If Blue Men Can Sing The Whites

    Richards had a tone and he had a technique. Those are the elements that make for a great guitarist.

    Clapton? Maybe he’s regarded as the definitive lead guitarist in Britain, but here the lead guitar was defined by Jimi Hendrix. A whole generation of great guitarists took their lead from Hendrix, but none of that same generation patterned themselves after Clapton. Why? Clapton’s tone was, more often that not, shit (especially on the Cream studio albums). And his best work in Cream was live, and everyone tired of 30 minute songs with 15 minute solos pretty fast. Yeah, he was a virtuoso amongst virtuosos, but that in and of itself doesn’t sustain interest. He never developed the sort of unmistakable tone that lesser guitarists – King, Townshend, Zappa, for example – had in spades.

    B.B. King often said his style came about because he couldn’t play chords and he couldn’t play fast. So he developed a technique to overcome it. Townshend did the same with the power chord because he is a very limited guitarist technically. Clapton didn’t have to solve problems, and so he – like Blackmore, Beck and Page – ultimately ended up being less interesting in the long run. There were no guitar problems he had to puzzle over. Technically, nothing was beyond him. In rock, as in jazz, it’s often the musician of limited ability that does the best work; Miles Davis couldn’t play trumpet for shit, but Good Lord, could the man play jazz.

    So it is with Keef. A good but not great technician who happened to be a great (not good) musician. He got American blues better than most Americans. He was able to sound sloppy without being sloppy (which is the key to a lot of American blues), and he was able to get the rest of the Stones to do the same. That’s why he lead the Stones and the rest followed. They were a blues band and Keef was the best bluesman they had.

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