November 26, 2003


Keith Richards, secret conservative:

Even at his leaden nadir as a smack addict, Keith was unabashedly proud of a past that would be branded imperialist in today’s Britain. His all-time hero was the second world war fighter ace Douglas Bader. He once named his two favourite films as Reach for the Sky and The Man Who Would Be King ... Just a year or two ago, Keith opened a letter appealing for funds to save his local village hall. The council wondered whether residents might each be willing to donate £30. No problem, said Keith, and wrote out a cheque for £30,000.

Richards turns out to be something of a softie: he remains close to his 87-year-old mother, gets on famously with animals and kids and quietly donates to dozens of charities. He is also chummy with John Major.

John Major?! It gets even better:

His in-laws gave a startling interview in which they portrayed Keith as an ‘enthusiastic disciple of Christ’ and that he ‘embraced Christ as a way of life’. Under Patti’s influence, Richards cut back on drugs, attended church from time to time and even started a gentle exercise regime. ‘She’s a wonderful girl; I ain’t letting the bitch go!’ he confirmed in a speech at his wedding reception. Keith may have written ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ back when, but these days much of his life is spent with a woman who attends a weekly Bible study group and who won’t stand for swearing around the house.

There’s a few things that Keith won’t stand for, too.

Posted by Tim Blair at November 26, 2003 02:48 AM

I really did not expect Keith to be a closet conservative. I'm sure his mother must be proud of him. But how did his sister end up as a loony leftist?

Posted by: Ken Summers at November 26, 2003 at 05:51 AM

All good musicians are Tories underneath. The fact that they don't often come out and say so has more to do with inevitable chorus of disaproval that would ensue. But Keef doesn't have to worry about that as his reputation as a wild man is secure.

Posted by: Toryhere at November 26, 2003 at 06:38 AM

Among famous sayings that are attributed to many different individuals (usually including Churchill) is the one that goes like this: if you're not a communist when you're 20, you don't have a heart and if you're not a conservative when you're 40, you don't have a brain.

Keith twists that a little. His version is more like this: if you're not an addict when you're 20, you don't rock and if you're not a conservative at 60, you don't think.

Posted by: John at November 26, 2003 at 09:03 AM

Is this the same Keith who told High Times magazine that he opposed the legalization of pot because the net result would be a decline in quality? At any way, I always knew the Stones were right wingers at heart. Though they should never have let Mick Taylor leave. Exile and Sticky are still the greatest balls out rock albums ever made.

P.S. Can any guitarists out there tab the lead opening to Sweet Virginia for me? I've almost got it worked out but I'm just not getting the way it's played on the record.

Posted by: S.A. Smith at November 26, 2003 at 09:06 AM

The story didn't surprise me at all. The Stones' songs have always been about such dreadfully conservative things as story and character and they have never shirked from representing the reality of evil. Because their sources both musical and story-wise are in folk tradition, such as stories of the Devil et al, they never seemed to me to be a million miles removed from a great deal of tradition and so-called 'conservatism'. Sympathy for the Devil, for instance, doesn't ask you literally to have sympathy for the Devil; told in Lucifer's own boastful and lying voice, it underscores that there is indeed evil in the world, and that it is dangerous and ruthless. The evangelical Christians who think that the song is sympathetic to Satan are the same literal-minded types who think Harry Potter is evil and CS Lewis' Narnia series was pagan. That is, they can't read.
I always vastly preferred the hardness of the Stones to, say, the soft, inane egocentric totalitarianism of Lennon's 'Imagine'. No-one left in the world bar our John and Yoko..Dear, dear.

Posted by: Sophie at November 26, 2003 at 10:19 AM

Oddly enough, I have also heard that Jagger actually does the books for the band - takes a different flight between gigs to do the books while the rest of the band parties. Can't vouch for the accuracy of the story, but perhaps others can.

Posted by: Ken Summers at November 26, 2003 at 02:19 PM

Yep, I started to twig years ago that the Stones weren't all that left-wing when Sympathy for the Devil indicated that Satan was behind both Nazism and the Russian Revolution. Only a true Tory would link Old Nick to both of those.

Posted by: Noami Kleimpsky at November 26, 2003 at 04:42 PM

Or how about Gimme Shelter? I read it the same way I read Yeats' The Second Coming.

Posted by: S.A. Smith at November 26, 2003 at 05:14 PM

Not surprising at all, quite a few hard rock & metal bands are either Tories or libertarian-leaning ones. As one told me, I was a soft-leftie until I got my first tax bill on personal earnings.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at November 27, 2003 at 01:02 AM

Excellent point, Andrew. It was, after all, George Harrison who wrote Taxman:

Should five percent appear too small, be thankful I don't take it all

Posted by: Ken Summers at November 27, 2003 at 01:47 AM

I don't know if the story about Mick handling the books for the rest of the band is actually true or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was - Jagger is a graduate of the London School of Economics (!!), so he certainly knows his money. I remember a hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch for some years ago where, I believe, the set-up was Jagger (he was the host that week) being interviewed by some dumb MTV VJ. Instead of your typical mindless rockstar answers, Jagger launched into a discussion of Pareto Optimality. Priceless.

Oh, and S.A. Smith, I might have that "Sweet Virginia" tab for you in a little bit.

Posted by: Jeff B. at November 27, 2003 at 04:27 AM


I'd really appreciate the effort. This is a tough tab to come by. NO ONE has put it online and I've looked everywhere I can think of. The chords are pretty easy (C, A7, G, D) but the lead is challenging. I'd be very interested to see what you come up with. Thanks.


Posted by: S.A. Smith at November 27, 2003 at 01:06 PM

I'm not surprised that someone would be a lot less liberal when he realized that it was his money they want to spend rather than theirs (since they don't have any.

Posted by: SDN at November 28, 2003 at 01:59 AM

I doubt he's found religion.In a radio interview a couple of years I heard him mumble how he read not only books about military history, but also the bible. The interviewer expressed surprise, to which he slurred in reply "There's nothing wrong with readng the bible, there's some nice folk tales in there. It's only a problem if you actually believe it." He also mentioned reading the Koran. "There's not a lot in there for women" he noted, stating the bleeding obvious.

Posted by: Clem Snide at November 28, 2003 at 06:46 PM