Remembering the moment Hunter S. Thompson interviewed Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, 1993
If there was ever one man equipped mentally, physically and chemically to hang tough with The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards it would have to be the Gonzo journalist and writer extraordinaire, Hunter S. Thompson.
The writer is a semi-deity here in the Far Out Magazine offices so we were thrilled to happen upon this wonderful piece of footage which sees Richards and Thompson interview one another back in 1993. The Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas writer is delightfully confusing at every step.
The 10-minute clip below is, and we don’t say this lightly, perfect. It begins with a rambling monologue from Dr Thompson whereby he accuses the audience of not having any history, in comparison to him and Keef, which is actually probably quite fair. The pair, after a fun little segment which sees them jovially jousting about money, soon get to grips and talk about everything from J. Edgar Hoover to The Beatles and that infamous Altamont incident.
The interview is held at the Ritz Carleton in Aspen but was originally scheduled to take place under the watchful eye of MTV in New York. That plan was scuppered when Thompson “came down with a virulent flu” so instead they tried to lure Richards out to Colorado. Wayne Ewing was in charge of the shoot for ABC’s In Concert and he notes that the recording process wasn’t very easy to complete.
In a 2009 introduction to notes that he took down on the day after the March 15th shoot. Ewing notes that Thompson was incredibly agitated prior to the shoot and was often angry about “college sophomores on ski vacations demanding autographs… holding out soiled napkins with pens for a record of their momentary brush with fame.” He was clearly nervous to be on camera with Richards and have such an open discussion. As head of the shoot, Ewing was suggesting different ideas to add to the shoot to which Thompson authentically replied “it’s not your movie! It’s Keith’s!”
This sentiment rings true too, as after Thompson greets Richards at the door with a megaphone—something Richards reacts to with his own equally loud alarm device—Hunter keeps the questions relative and conversational, clearly interested in the man sitting in front of him. Thompson has long been a lover of music and Richards would’ve likely been an artistic comrade in his mind.
Starting off with the idea of reincarnation, discussing the possible next life of J. Edgar Hoover (Richards suggest “a fart”), and moving on to The Beatles. Richards is happy to admit: “There was very little difference between The Beatles and ourselves.” He continues: “There would be no Stones without The Beatles. Have to take my hat off to John, he was the strong one. If they hadn’t kicked the door in there wouldn’t be a way through the door.”
What follows is a series of “where were you on Christmas Eve…”, starting with 1962, Richards offers up a very humble beginning. Then 1966, a little more glitz, then Thompson talks about ’69. Obviously, in 1969, Keith’s answer was a little different as he opens up about the tragedy at Altamont and the heavy hands of the Hell Angels, with whom Thomspon has had many confrontations.
The tragic event will forever go down in musical history and while its history is black, Richards chooses to acknowledge the gravity but also add humour to the event. While one person died at the hands of the Hell’s Angels who were running security, one baby was born too. Richards quips, “The same amount of people left as came.”
That line is the basis of this interview. Both men are candid, both clearly in awe of one another and their talent, but both strike a humourous friendship the way only slightly twisted artists can. They chuckle through cigarette phlegm and muse on the different beautiful moments of their life experiences. They do it with a dark smirk of knowing, a gentle nudge towards the razor edge and with the constant fear that at any point they could well decide to blow the entire thing off.
As a piece of television it may be, well, somewhat indiscernible, but as a piece of historic content looking at two of the world’s wildest and weirdest artist – it’s perfect. Thompson ends the segment as only he could; “It’s nice to have you in my confidence. I am Babawahwah and you are not. You’re just a little rock and roll punk”
Watch Hunter S Thompson interview The Rolling Stone’s Keith Richards below.