Merry Keithmas!: Keith Richards goes “under review” in this 2007 UK music documentary

By on December 18, 2017

The arrival of December 18th marks another trip around the sun for Keith Richards — he was born a week before Christmas Day in 1943 — so we thought we’d celebrate “Merry Keithmas!” (or Happy Keithday!) this year by sharing a 2007 UK music documentary, Keith Richards: Under Review, which you’ll find streaming in our Under Review section over on Night Flight Plus!

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We have no doubt that wherever Keith Richards is celebrating his 74th birthday today, he’s doing whatever he wants and having a great time doing it.

After all, this is the man who told fellow Sagittarius Bobby Keys (also born on December 18, 1943): “We’re half man and half horse, and we got a license to shit in the streets,” which means if you’re walking behind Richards today, you better watch your step.

This cat with at least nine lives won’t live forever, of course, but the fact that he’s still with us in the year 2017 is kind of miraculous, innit?

In fact, his longevity has been the punchline to quite a few groaners, including an oft-repeated joke about how, if a nuclear apocalypse happens, the only survivors will likely be cockroaches and Keith Richards.

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The late comedian Bill Hicks, in fact, liked to point out that despite the U.S. government’s anti-drug messaging — which reached its zenith during the 1980s — and despite all drugs he’d taken, Keith Richards was still very much alive.

More recently Bill Maher joked that “Airplane black boxes should be made out of Keith Richards.”

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“I’ve no pretensions about immortality,” Richards told England’s NME in 2007. “I’m the same as everyone else – same as you, same as everybody, I’m the same old bugger, just kind of lucky. I was Number one on the Who’s Likely To Die list for 10 years, I mean I was really disappointed when I fell off the list.”

Five years earlier, in an interview for Rolling Stone (“Will Keith Richards Bury Us All?“), Richards said:

“To me, life is a wild animal. You hope to deal with it when it leaps at you… I just hope to wake up and it’s not a disaster.”

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Read more about Keith Richards and Keith Richards: Under Review below.

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If you’re looking for biographical info about Keith Richards, we really recommend that you check his memoir, Life, which was published in October 2010.

The New York Times review of the book said:

“He gives us an indelible, time-capsule feel for the madness that was life on the road with Stones in the years before and after Altamont; harrowing accounts of his many close shaves and narrow escapes (from the police, prison time, drug hell); and a heap of sharp-edged snapshots of friends and colleagues — most notably, his longtime musical partner and sometime bête noire, Mick Jagger.”

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Richards was born on December 18, 1943, in Dartford, Kent, an only child growing up in the bomb sites of a unassuming post-war suburb southeast of central London.

By the time he’d entered Sidcup Art College (after first being expelled from Dartford Technical School for skipping class), he was already well aware that he wanted more than anything to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

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In 1961, he had one of those life-changing epiphanies when he crossed paths with Mick Jagger on a Dartford railway platform.

Richards and Jagger — who already had a band with Dick Taylor — would later team up with Brian Jones, piano man Ian “Stew” Stewart, bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts to assemble the first lineup of what is arguably the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band of all-time.

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Keith Richards on the set of the UK TV show “Ready, Steady, Go!,” June 26, 1964

This nearly two-hour documentary film — an outstanding retrospective of the long and storied career of the Stones’ “musical director” — features both live and studio recordings of Rolling Stones classics like “Satisfaction,” “Jumping Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Start Me Up” and several others.

You’ll hear how Richards was always open to exploring new influences, like his discovery of country & western music through his friendship with Gram Parsons (resulting in 1969’s Let It Bleed).

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In addition to the occasional vintage interview clip with Richards himself, his career is assessed by a panel of esteemed experts, including: Keith Richards biographers Kris Needs and Alan Clayson; Rolling Stones biographer Robert Greenfield; former Stones P.A. Keith Altham; rock journalists Robert Christgau and Anthony De Curtis (from Rolling Stone); celebrity guitar coach Wolf Marshall; original Rolling Stones band member Dick Taylor; ex-Melody Maker writer Chris Welch; musician and collaborator Bernie Worrell; and several others.

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Keith Richards: Under Review delves into the early formation of the Stones, and how they were early on influenced by rock ‘n’ roll legends Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.

Richards’ very first solo release under his own name, in fact, was his version of Berry’s rockin’ Christmas tune “Run Rudolph, Run,” which charted in the Top 100 (#69) in December of 1958.

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Richards also paid tribute to Chuck Berry by participating in Hail! Hail! Rock N’ Roll, a 1987 music documentary built around two 1986 concerts celebrating Berry’s 60th birthday.

Richards learned the hard way never to touch Berry’s guitar, after picking it up in the legendary rocker’s dressing room and strumming a chord: Berry returned and punched Richards in the face.

Keith Richards: Under Review finishes up with the Stones induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and some additional discussion about his appearance in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, playing the father of Johnny Depp’s popular pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (a character Depp based partially on Richards).

Merry Keithmas and Happy Keithday to Keith Richards! Watch Keith Richards: Under Review on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.