Why I loved the Keith Richards documentary Under the Influence

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Uncategorized
Photo of Keith Richards by J. Rose.

Photo of Keith Richards by J. Rose.

I know, I know, this is my Habs blog but hey hockey and rock’n’roll go together like beer and chips, so here are my thoughts on that new Keef movie.

I just loved the Netflix documentary Keith Richards: Under the Influence, which I watched last night. ‘You’re not grown up until they put you six feet under,’ says Keef. Now I know a few of you who think I could do some growing up but the great thing about this documentary directed by Morgan Neville – the guy who also made the brilliant Oscar-winning doc Twenty Feet From Stardom – is to be able to get to watch and listen to Keef, at 71, showing the same excitement about the music he loves as he did at 16 when he first met Mick on the train and realized this fellow had a couple of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters albums under his arm. He still lives for the music (and Mick doesn’t, which is a big part of the reason they hate each other but that is another post/story). There’s a great moment where he starts talking about how boring rock became. He calls it marching music and he just nails the dullness of post-1970 rock.

His point is that it was missing the pulsing, throbbing beat of the original rock’n’roll and blues that cranked his switch back in the mid-’50s.

‘Excuse me but I like the roll,’ he says and then bursts into that trademark smoky laugh that’s the symbol of this chap’s unlikely eternal youthfulness (even if his face looks like it’s been carved out of the side of Mount Rushmore).

What’s great about Under the Influence, as my pal Harm-Harry Duzink pointed out last night, is that, in spite of what the title might suggest, this is about the music that influenced Keith, not the drugs. One of the key figures here is Muddy Waters. We see him performing with the Stones in ’81 in a classic clip and then Richards drives up to Muddy’s former home in Chicago, where he reminisces about a party he went to there back in the day (he remembers arriving but is a little less clear on how he left, remembering only that he ended up waking up in Howlin’ Wolf’s house round the corner).

There’s also great stuff with his idol Chuck Berry, behaving like a total tool of course, and lots of conversation about the blues, country and reggae artists that changed Keith’s life. Oh and he explains how he got that extraordinary guitar sound on Street Fightin’ Man (he used an acoustic guitar mic’d with a rinky dinky cassette recorder). So if you care in the least about the history of modern music, you ought to have a look at this.

And best of all, Mick barely makes a cameo appearance.


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