While scandal-seeking Rolling Stones fans may be dis- appointed that this autobiography from guitarist Keith Richards features few previously unreported tales of rock & roll hedonism, they surely won’t be surprised. After all, as someone once said, you can’t always get what you want. And the Stones saga has already been detailed in a multitude of books often by people whose brain cells have likely been given less of a narcotic hammering than those that reside in the Richards noggin.
What Life offers instead is Keith’s very, well, Keith-ian version of events. Co-writer James Fox presumably did the heavy lifting research-wise, but Richards' authorial voice is evident on almost every page and, like his singing one, it is both an entertaining and an ever-wandering instrument. Richards revisits all the infamous chapters of the Stones story, from his embarking on a relationship with Brian Jones’ girlfriend Anita Pallenberg during a continent-hopping road trip (''For a week or so, it’s boinky boinky boinky, down in the Kasbah'') to his decadelong addiction to heroin (''Mick picked up the slack; I picked up the smack''). But he is just as much fun when discussing his love for bangers and mash a recipe is provided or the time he nearly lost his hand to a crocodile in Africa. Occasionally Richards’ piratical roguishness acquires a nasty edge, as when he describes the best way to slash someone with a knife. Yet he also writes movingly and desperately about the 1976 death of his son Tara while the band was on tour: ''Leaving a newborn is something I can’t forgive myself for. It’s as if I deserted my post.''
Is the devilish guitarist asking for our sympathy? Not really. Richards mostly wants to prove that he not only has the best tunes, he also knows how to tell the best tales. B+