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Posted by Mr. Ventilator on May 28, 1999 at 23:19:46:
In Reply to: New Keith vs. old Keith posted by Keef on May 28, 1999 at 20:17:17:
A couple of points..
1. It's good to hear someone say good things about Love You Live, a record which shows how good the Stones were even in an "off" period like '76 - even if they weren't quite as good as they were in '69.
2. Let's talk about the '78 tour for a minute. I think understanding what happened in '78 is the key to this whole thing. There were many dates on that tour where the Stones were just plain terrible. I saw the Oakland show in '78 and the band was clearly very weak. By the midway point in the show the fans were getting ugly and throwing debris up onto the stage. It was hard to see who was playing what, but the total absence of "drive" in the music was plain. Clearly they were relying on Keith, and he was not coming through.
Keith had just kicked heroin, and was probably physically ill for much of this tour. Yet on at least a few dates, the Stones rocked in a way they had never had even when Mick T was in the band. Check out the KBFH boot of the Lexington KY show to hear what I mean. More often, the sound was empty, as Mick and Ronnie couldn't fill the void left by Keith's absence. Check out the Passaic NJ show ("Garden State '78") and compare to the Lex show to hear the incredible difference. Both shows were in small venues, by the way.
There are two theories I have heard on the '78 tour's ups and downs. One is that Mick had to play guitar to try to fill the void left by Keith, who was physically and mentally shattered from kicking a decade-long heroin habit. The other is that Keith chose not to play hard at many gigs in order to show Mick that the band could not be the Stones without Keith.
Could Keith have been afraid Mick was going to kick him out of the band in '78? It's not as farfetched as it seems now. I have read that the Stones originally considered having Ron Wood join as a replacement in 1972 - for Keith, who was having visa trouble (cured by a transfusion?). When Keith saw Mick take up the guitar, he may have thought back to Brian Jones fate, which could not have been a pleasant recollection.
After the '78 US tour it was clear to Mick - the decision maker in the band - that they could no longer rely on Keith musically. Hence the move to a more keyboard/horn dominated sound in subsequent tours. To sell tickets and make money, they needed a bulletproof show, and Mick made sure that's what they would have from then on.
3. In the '81 tour, Keith was playing much better than he was at most of the '78 shows. He played a lot at both of the Candlestick shows I saw. The keyboards, and Ernie Watts' sax, were up in the mix, but Keith still drove the band on most of the songs. It was an excellent, fun show. Yet his play was not up to his pre-78 caliber. See Still Life. Subsequent tours moved to still more reliance on keyboards and horns.
4. Keith has, from what I have heard and read, been drinking extremely heavily in the years since he kicked heroin. Reporters describe him drinking full fifths of bourbon during interviews. It could be an act, of course, but it seems more likely that he has simply been a heavy drinker (alcoholic) for 20 years.
Years of heavy drinking take a terrible physical toll on the mind and the body. Nobody is immune from the effects of chronic alcoholism, not even the legendary Keith Richards. In many ways alcoholism is actually more devastating than heroin addiction .
I realize that part of the attraction that Keith holds for many fans - myself included - is the image of the die-hard rebel who can take ubeleivable quantities of every dangerous substance known to man and still Rock and Roll all night. But that's just an image, folks. Keith Richards is real person just like everyone else. And real people cannot drink fifths or quarts of bourbon every day for 20 years and not suffer serious physical consequences in things like hand-eye coordination and dexterity. Do I have to spell it out?..
5. So why is it so hard to beleive that Keith's skills have not deteriorated? It would be astonishing if they had not. The answer is that we don't want to believe it. We want to think that someone can cheat the grim reaper of death and decay. We root for Keith. We don't dare do the things he has done, so we live vicariously through him. We want him to get away with it all. So we ignore the evidence of our own ears and tell ourselves he's as good as he ever was.
6. That's the real magic of the Stones, I guess. It's not how well they play or don't play, it's how they make us feel when they play Jumpin Jack Flash one more time. Sure, I wish the "new" Keith was as good as the "old" Keith, but that's not the point. For me, the magic is still there. But I know that the magic of these shows is the magic I bring to them myself.
Have a good night - I think I'll go listen to that '79 Lexington show, real loud..