Current rock stars have a constant outlet for their musings in the form of social media, while Keith Richards only got to vent about other artists during interviews for it to find a public forum. It’s impressive that he found so much time to conduct them as he has certainly aired his grievances with some of rock and roll’s most legendary acts.
As the chugging rhythm of The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards has earned his seat at the top table of rock. But while the guitarist has always paid homage to the founding fathers of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, he’s also never been shy about throwing the odd barb or two at his contemporaries.
The Stones man has been known to cast aspersions at not only rival bands and artists but even whole genres. The guitarist in an interview with The Daily News once slammed the genre of rap, stating: “What rap did that was impressive was to show there are so many tone-deaf people out there. All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it and they’re happy. There’s an enormous market for people who can’t tell one note from another.” He concluded “rap—so many words, so little said.”
It wasn’t as if being a rock musician helped any artist grow in esteem for Richards. The guitarist has been most ruthless about some of his rock contemporaries including David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and so many more.
While his comments may have offered up the odd rebuttal, the fact that most of the offended artists have covered one of Richards’ songs at one point or another probably shows that Keef is still king.
While the talents of David Bowie stretch far beyond the personas he created, it’s hard to argue that the visual experience the Starman provided added a lot to his mystique and subsequent legend. It didn’t sit too well with Richards.
After saying in a 2008 interview that ‘Changes’ was the only song from Hunky Dory he could remember, the guitarists went on to say: “It’s all pose. It’s all fucking posing. It’s nothing to do with music He knows it too.”
Richards added: “I can’t think of anything else he’s done that would make my hair stand up.”
Oasis were a band built on the foundations that groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones laid down. But while the Britpop kings had nothing but respect for the past, Richards was less keen on the Gallagher brothers.
After calling them “crap” and Mick Jagger adding: “You can’t dance to it, the new album’s impossible,” Richards summed up the preposterous band make-up by stating: “These guys are just obnoxious. Grow up and then come back and see if you can hang.”
Surely, The Beatles were fans though? Nope. McCartney called them “unhip” and George Harrison had his own damning assessment when he said: “The music lacks depth and the singer Liam is a pain, the rest of the band don’t need him.”
Prince’s influence on music since his 1980 debut is undeniable brilliance which ultimately ended up with the singer opening for The Rolling Stones, it may have been that incident which saw the Purple One go in Keef’s little black book.
He says, damningly: “An overrated midget… Prince has to find out what it means to be a prince. That’s the trouble with conferring a title on yourself before you’ve proved it.
“His attitude when he opened for us… was insulting to our audience. You don’t try to knock off the headline like that when you’re playing a Stones crowd. He’s a prince who thinks he’s a king already. Good luck to him.”
With Elton John’s Rocketman and farewell tour, it feels as though a new generation is finally ‘getting’ Elton John. When comparing John’s touring schedule to The Rolling Stones’ it may be that Richards doesn’t like John because he thinks he’s a little lazy. Either way, he never really got on with the ‘Your Song’ singer, “An old bitch… his writing is limited to songs about dead blondes,” Richards once said.
Elton’s response was pretty decisive too: “It would be awful to be like Keith Richards. He’s pathetic. It’s like a monkey with arthritis, trying to go on stage and look young. I have great respect for the Stones but they would have been better if they had thrown Keith out 15 years ago.”
Keith Richards’ style of music may have been born from some technically gifted players but it’s most certainly rooted in ‘the feeling’—a factor which may be a reason for his disdain of heavy metal behemoth’s Led Zeppelin. The guitarist said in a 1969 interview with Rolling Stone: “The guy’s voice started to get on my nerves. I don’t know why; maybe he’s a little too acrobatic.”
Recently he’s turned his crosshairs to target the iconic John Bonham, telling the same publication: “I love Jimmy Page, but as a band, no, with John Bonham thundering down the highway in an uncontrolled 18-wheeler. He had cornered the market there. Jimmy is a brilliant player. But I always felt there was something a little hollow about it, you know?”
As well as taking on his contemporaries, Richards has also been none too kind to those who cite him as an influence. Two acts in question were Metallica and Black Sabbath, with the former having supported the Stones on tour… surely Richards had a kind word?
He was recently quoted as saying, “Millions are in love with Metallica and Black Sabbath. I just thought they were great jokes… I don’t know where Metallica’s inspiration comes from, but if it’s from me, then I fucked up”
So there you have it. It doesn’t matter if you’re supporting his band, playing his songs or generally citing him as an undying influence on your craft—if Keith Richards doesn’t like your band, he’s going to let you know about it.