4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
A great story about Mr Bobby Keys, from Slaton, in the north part of Texas (population in 2010 – 6,100), just outside Lubbock, Texas (population in 1960, when Keys left there – 128,000), who was born on the same day as Keith Richards (December 18th, 1943) and raised by his grandparents, his grandmother murdered one day later on by her grandfather who got away with it, who grew up with the Crickets before they were famous, got into trouble, picked up the saxophone and just blew!!!
Of course he talks about getting into trouble as a teen, joining his first shows, joining his first tours, leaving Texas for the first time, and never looking back; he seems to have had a reasonably good childhood, not sure why he was so anxious to leave Texas behind, and he doesn’t get into it. And like so many other rock ‘n’ rollers, he got his first taste of rock ‘n’ roll full blast watching Blackboard Jungle in 1955 when he was 12 years old, which featured the music of Bill Haley and the Comets, and he started listening to music compulsively from then on.
But people were against rock ‘n’ roll, as it was considered the devil’s music. “All sorts of things were attributed to rock ‘n’ roll.” On an early Buddy Knox tour he went across Canada, from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia “with every little jerk town in between, and there are a lotta jerk towns in Canada.”
He lived in some interesting times, and he lived through some interesting times. For one three-week period he was a getaway driver for a guy who was a hustler at pool, but that got dangerous and people who’d been ripped off started shooting at them as they peeled out (“I will never set foot in the town of Mankato, Minnesota, again for as long as I live”, he writes – I wonder if his book will be sold there!). Well, yes - there are a lot of ups and downs in life, and “not every night ended on a stage. Sometimes you had to take a job driving the getaway car for an alcoholic pool hustler just to make ends meet. So I tried to look at it as an adventure. And it was an adventure, but in the end it wasn’t furthering my saxophonic career any. Plus, I didn’t like getting shot at.” Yes, who does.
Interesting anecdote about how Janis Joplin watched Delaney and Bonnie perform a version of “Piece Of My Heart” that surpassed hers on a bill that she was headlining, and she got very upset because that was her showcase song!! There’s a nutty anecdote about how Bobby Keys and Jim Price were flown over to England to be a part of Derek And The Dominoes, but Eric palmed them off to George Harrison, who used them on All Things Must Pass. Not a terrible compromise if you think about it, although a bit cold.
He went to New York, played with Levon Helm, hung out with JJ Cale, met the Stones on their first tour, got in with Joe Cocker, Delaney and Bonnie, which led to more gigs with the Rolling Stones, and his first song with them was “Live With Me” from Let It Bleed (and so, unlike Nicky Hopkins, he never played with the Stones when Brian Jones was with them). Seems that Bobby was in a studio recording with Delaney and Bonnie when he ran into Mick Jagger, with whom he had once lived (and been very good friends with even before he was friends with Keith Richards), doing the Let It Bleed sessions, who asked him to come and play on “Live With Me” (page 110), and so a long relationship was formed that led to Keys playing on several Stones albums, several tours, getting burned out and leaving mid-tour, before slowly getting back into the fold – things are still frosty, apparently (“nobody leaves the Stones”) – but getting better. Bobby talks about the “Mick camp” and the “Keith camp” within the Stones, and he somehow straddled both, at least until he let the band down by leaving mid-tour (for legitimate reasons – to prevent death-by-burnout). Keys notes that Bonnie Bramlett had originally been asked to sing the “Gimme Shelter” female vocal part, but her husband Delaney Bramlett wouldn’t allow it, so the immortal part went to Merry Clayton. Wow!! He explains the anecdote about the bathtub full of champagne, and anecdotes about recording Exile On Main Street in the south of France (from page 140). And then the subsequent tour!!
“[The tour of 1972] was so exciting. We were all in our twenties then, except for Charlie and Bill. At that point, I’d been playing saxophone for about fifteen years. My graduating class was 1961, which I didn’t make, but that’s what it would ‘ve been, and in 1972, eleven years later, I was playing with the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the goddamn solar system. So that was a pretty quick rise.”
It also led to some ego tripping, and for a while he turned down good jobs on the assumption that the Stones would always come calling. Which didn’t always happen.
“When you’re not on the payroll and you want to continue the Beverly Wiltshire lifestyle, but you’re only geared for a Holiday Inn existence, things are gonna catch up to you. I was on a different page than the rest of the world. I just didn’t consider the fact that this fartin’ sleigh ride was ever gonna end. And then the snow melted. Nothin’ left but mud.”
Keys talks about working with Carly Simon, and introducing her to Mick, who spent a night with her; and Keys claims the song “You’re So Vain”, which Mick sang with Carly on, is actually about Mick. Not sure how it could be, since Keys also says that the two were introduced when the song was all ready to go and being recorded in the studio – maybe some day we’ll know for real.
Keys talks a lot about his friendship with Harry Nilsson, and how smart he was, as well as their motto: “uncommonly smart, extremely good-looking, and capable of making career decisions.” Nice. Talks about being in the New Barbarians with Keith and Ronnie, and being introduced by Dan Akroyd, “a guy who’s always got good pot. He’s a big, big pothead. I’ve always liked him even more for that. He’s a good guy. Very knowledgeable, music-wise.” He mentions that the New Barbarians never put out an album but, well, actually they did (see review on this page). One promoter was saying that the New Barbarians would be playing with Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart to pump up sales, but Keith roughed him up, put a knife to his throat, and said that if he ever saw him again he’d put a bullet between his eyes. “There was a helicopter out there within thirty minutes. He was on that helicopter and he was gone and we never saw him again.” Wow! For a while he managed Ronnie Wood’s nightclub in Miami, which he thought was a money laundering operation, so he got out of there too. “Everybody was wearing bright linen jackets with the sleeves rolled up and lots of chains, and just coke everywhere. I never did that. Wear the bright jackets with lots of chains, that is.” Bobby gives his version of the story of rejoining the Stones touring band, which Keith also gives in Life, which involves Bobby waiting in the parking lot for hours, and then sneaking backstage onto stage to play. After all these years, and so many albums and tours with them, Keys has a very interesting way of describing the Rolling Stones, and their drummer Charlie Watts, who he describes as “one of the greastest drummers in rock ‘n’ roll”:
“With Charlie and with Keith, Charlie’s the engine and Keith’s the driver, the conductor. Charlie holds it all together. I’ve been onstage before with the Stones where everything else has broken down except for Charlie. Like, if the electricity goes off, or when the electricity goes off in people’s minds – sometimes it goes dark onstage but the lights are still burning – either way, Charlie knows where the light is.”
The book is very chatty, and being from Texas you do get a lot of quaint expressions like “I was poopin’ in tall cotton and fartin’ in silk sheets”, meaning he was having the time of his life. It also has intermittent passages from friends of Bobby, such as Joe Cocker, who talks about how they tried to recruit Jimmy Page into one of his bands, but Jimmy was forming his own band, ha ha, and we know all about that one.
The book is complemented at the end by a discography, filmography (only six films), list of notable tours, and an index! There’s a great section of photos too, his 1961 high school pic, and onstage photos from 1961, most of which were with Keith, Ronnie, and the rest of the Stones, but also a great rooftop picture of Bobby with John Lennon and Jimmy Iovine. Wow!
If you want to read a bit more about this world, check out also And on Piano ...Nicky Hopkins: The Extraordinary Life of Rock's Greatest Session Man, which includes a fair bit of commentary from Bobby Keys - some of it overlaps his own book, some of it is new (including some choice words about Sir Mick!).