The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards is likely one of the hardest partiers the rock and roll world has ever seen. Richards has forgotten more wild nights than most of us have ever had. It means that his longest run without sleep is frighteningly impressive.
The guitarist has been an ever-present at the rock and roll royal court ever since he and The Rolling Stones broke out into the music business. But while their music was charged with an uncanny ferociousness it was the same animalistic tendencies they took off-stage too.
Richards and the band weren’t exactly quiet about their raucous behaviour. Neither were the British press who followed the band wherever they went hoping for a bit of salacious commentary for their celebrity columns. It even went as far as to have a newspaper try to set up the band for a police drugs bust. But to no avail.
It’s easy to point the finger at the media but you could hardly blame them. Alongside The Beatles, the Stones were the biggest band in the world but unlike the Fab Four, the Stones had a far more dangerous image. An image they backed up on numerous occasions. Their partying and drug abuse would not only put them on the front pages but also propel them in the charts.
As well as using drugs for that classic trope of artistic inspiration, their substance abuse made them a desirable property to teenagers across the globe. It took its toll on the group and render them pretty useless during the mid-to-late-seventies, with a derisory output of music. But Keith Richards was a machine at being able to push on through and keep working.
“Adrenaline is the most amazing thing we have,” Richards told an interviewer in 1992. And during the recording of ‘Before They Take Me Run’ from Some Girls, he navigated a five-day stint, “One [engineer] would flop under the desk and have a kip, and I’d put the other one in and keep going,” remarked Richards in his memoir Life.
Richards’ record, however, is far longer. The notorious guitarist’s longest time without sleep: “Nine days without a wink,” he bragged. “I fell asleep standing up, eventually … I was just putting another cassette back on the shelf, and I was feeling great, and I turned ’round and fell asleep. I fell against the edge of the speaker. Woke up in a pool of blood, wondering, ‘Is that claret?'”
It’s a testament to Keith’s dedication that he managed to keep going for so long. Whether we’re talking about his drugs or music is up for the debate, and judging by Richards’ command of both, a moot point. We’re just glad Keef gets his 40 winks these days.