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Keith Richards details his turn to drugs


If there is one rock star synonymous with the drug-fueled lifestyle that has become a genre cliche, it would be Keith Richards. Through nearly 60 years with The Rolling Stones, Richards has seen, smoked, snorted, and shot up just about everything that anyone could possibly turn into a psychoactive substance. His infamous drug busts helped solidify the Stones as ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Rock Band’, with Richards becoming the poster child for illicit ills and bad behaviour.

In his documentary Under the Influence, Richards reflects on the infamous persona that has been built around him after six decades of perceived excess. “An image like a ball and chain. It’s not like a shadow, cause it’s there 24/7. When the sun goes down it don’t disappear,” Richards observed. “You can’t buy a persona. You can either make it up or you can be it. My idea of actual heaven, is to be a rock and roll star that nobody ever sees. Totally anonymous.”

That being said, Richards has never shied away from his notoriety. He’s never downplayed the role that drugs have played in both his writing and his public reputation, and if you ask him about his past drug use, Richards will likely give you a straightforward and honest answer. He’s not ashamed or sensationalising what he’s done: he’s simply relaying what happened, without glamour or flash.

According to his own recollections, Richards only got into drugs because the quality of pharmaceuticals and other illicit substances were remarkably high during his youth. “That’s when I first got in touch with cocaine, pure May & Baker, right out of the bottle,” Richards observed in his autobiography Life. “It used to say on it ‘pure fluffy crystals.’ On the label! And then a skull and crossbones saying ‘poison.’ It was a beautifully ambiguous label. That’s how I got into all of this.”

“And the reason I’m here is probably that we only ever took, as much as possible, the real stuff, the top-quality stuff,” Richards continued. “Cocaine I only got into because it was pure pharmaceutical – boom. When I was introduced to dope, it was all pure, pure, pure. You didn’t have to worry about what it was cut with and go through all that street shit.”

Richards admits that he wasn’t always able to keep up with the high standards that he started off with, especially once his addiction reached its height in the early 1970s. “With Gram Parsons I really went low. Mexican shoe scrapings. But basically, my introduction to drugs was all creme de la creme.”

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