Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In Malibu, a hammerhead shark was swimming near the beach, but lifeguards did not close the beach because “The shark did not seem aggressive." You want to know how I can tell if a shark is aggressive? If it’s a shark.

In San Diego, a 100-year-old man, Don Pellmann, set world records in the 100-meter dash, the high jump, long jump, shot put and discus. He also set a world record in the “Going to the Bathroom by Himself Without Dying” event.

There are a lot of plans for when Pope Francis comes to New York. For example, they are going to give the Pope a fresh slice of hot pepperoni pizza delivered personally by the Pizza Rat.

Volkswagon has been caught falsifying their emissions results. Hard to imagine Volkswagon getting caught doing something illegal. Besides making cars for the Nazis.

Brian Williams covered Pope Francis’s arrival for MSNBC. Williams recalled fondly when he and the Pope were bouncers for that club in Buenos Aires and they repelled an attack from jungle guerillas.

Thank god for Keith Richards

Rolling Stone, Keith Richards, who has sold over 200 million records, has written a best-selling book, “Life” now has a new album out, “Crosseyed Heart” and a new documentary, “Under the Influence.”

In short, a 71-year-old former ten-year heroin addict who has smoked and drank every day since he was 18 is kicking all our asses. 


Just saw the Keith Richards documentary “Under the Influence” on Netflix and I loved it.

While the title is catchy, it is not about what you think. It is about how Sir Keefers has gathered influences and genres like a pirate scooping up gold doubloons. Turns out K.R is the Zelig and Forrest Gump of all things music. Keefers is a sponge for great music. He is a magnet for musical trends.

Obviously Keefs was there at the start of rock and roll in England. Spotted a skinny Mick Jagger on a train with a copy of Keith’s favorite record, “The Best of Muddy Waters” under his jacket and thus the Rolling Stones were formed. Their mission was to spread the love of blues to England. The fact that they would do it to the US and the rest of the world as well was beyond the Stones' mission statement.

Keith met his all time idol, Muddy Waters, at the Chess Recording studio in Chicago in 1967 while Muddy was painting the ceiling to pick up some extra cash.

K.R. was in Nashville to catch the end of the classic country era influenced by Hank Williams. And he was living in Jamaica in 1971 when Bob Marley hit it big.

“Street Fighting” man is all acoustic guitars. They just recorded the guitar with a tape player and then cleaned it up and blasted it over the P.R. system when they recorded it.

Then “Sympathy for the Devil” was supposed to be a Bob Dylan-like acoustic ballad. There was one problem with it: it sucked.

Then Keith picked up the bass – he thinks he is a better bass player than guitarist – and laid down the bass jam that is “Sympathy for the Devil” and they threw some more juice into it with Charlie Watts on the bongos.

Bingo. Magic.

You want to know the importance of luck, rewriting and re-recording? Keith Richards wrote “Country Honk” as an homage to his pal and country music fan, Graham Parsons when he passed. Someone decided they needed to sexy and juice it up and they came up with one of my favorite songs, “Honky Tonk Woman.”  

Tom Waits says writing a song is something you’re trying to sneak into, like the opposite of Houdini. And every song has three or four other songs in it, i.e. "Country Honk." Keefly says a song is something you have to woo and romance. You can’t poke a sharp stick at it and force it out.

There is a great scene in "Under the Influence" where Keith is playing pool in a bar with one of his idols, the great Buddy Guy. What does Buddy say? He gives the Stones the credit for teaching the producers at Chess Records it is OK to turn up the amps. The look on Keith's face is beyond delight.

And then Keith hits a great shot. Buddy and Keith hug. That is what it is all about. Not fame. Not wealth. Not drugs. It is about being able to appreciate the finer things in life, like a great song, a sip of good whisky and a great shot in pool. 

One love.

Not on “Under the Influence,” but when they are jamming on the outtakes of “Gimme Shelter”, two of the greatest guitarist in history, Keith Richards and the wildly underrated Mick Taylor, sound like a bad high school band doing an awful cover of “Gimme Shelter.” It is clunky and badly timed.

We all know how it ends up, though...

Being in a band and playing well – unless you’re a Clapton or Hendrix – is more about “Groundhog Day.” Rehearse until you can’t get it wrong. Rare few musicians can actually jam. Then a lot of it is done with smoke and mirrors in the studio.

Once I played harmonica in a bar in the Canadian rockies on a boys ski trip in the middle- o- nowhere with a band and they weren’t very good. They knew the songs they knew and that was it. When I suggested we do a blues jam in E, the guitarist became angry. He knew he couldn’t do it. Outside the confines of the songs he knew he felt like he had taken his pants down.

Love the story U2’s the Edge and Bono tell about, just after they had made it big, they were invited to a jam gala with all the English greats. Clapton, Elton John, Keith Richards, Peter Townsend, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison.

The theme of the party was paying tribute to their influences. They were only allowed to play songs by their idols. So Clapton played Robert Johnson, Richards played Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, Elton John played Little Richard, McCartney and Morrison sang Elvis, etc.

The Edge and Bono looked at each other in utter horror. The only songs they knew how to play were the songs they created. That is how they learned to play music. By writing and playing their own songs. They could not play anyone else’s songs but their own.

So they snuck out the back.

For me a great song is like a great smell: you know it in your heart long before you can describe it with your brain. Like oak wood smoke sizzling steaks, or the ocean water on your skin at sunset, or the cinnamon left on your finger tips after you pinch it in your coffee.

The creative process for Keith is a bohemian and sloppy process. Plan a recording session for 8 PM, have the band show up at Midnight, party and joke around, sound like you're tuning up your instruments for a couple of hours and then suddenly something amazing happens.

Somebody once said – OK, it was me – when it comes to surfing, you’ve either ridden on a wave or you have not. Luckily I have. And I thank god for it.

It is the same thing with jamming with a band. Either you have done it or you have not. Along with surfing, I thank god I have.

If there is anything better than jamming with your pals in a band in a cozy bar with a good crowd, I am not sure I know what it is.

Keith Richards just happened to make it his life. And an art form.

Thank god for Keith Richards.