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The problem Keith Richards had with punk


When punk arrived in the late 1970s, it riled against bands like The Rolling Stones, groups that had now become the establishment that they too once tried to dismantle. However, Keith Richards believed the scene lacked originality and, musically, it lacked genuine quality.

There was a gaping cultural hole in Britain, and punk arrived to fill it. It was a counterculture movement similar to the swinging sixties. However, the world had moved on, and the message had progressed in line with the country’s industrial landscape. The generational problems they faced were incomparable to that of the ’60s, and Keith Richards couldn’t comprehend its success. 

Punk was deliberately provocative. Producing an immediate reaction was the primary function of bands like The Sex Pistols, and they didn’t care if you loved them or loathed them. One emotion that nobody felt, however, was indifference. They represented a school of like-minded souls who were tired of the status quo and pushed for a changing of the guard.

The youth of the late ’70s couldn’t relate to opulent groups like The Rolling Stones anymore. They were now multi-millionaire celebrities, seemingly out of touch with the everyday struggles of society. Instead, music fans sought representational voices.

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After the walls of punk came crashing down in 1981, The Stones guitarist offered his eulogy to Rolling Stone: “Yeah, there was a certain spirit there. But I don’t think there was anything new musically, or even from the PR point of view, image-wise. There was too much image, and none of the bands were given enough chance to put their music together, if they had any,” he said.

Richards continued: “It seemed to be the least important thing. It was more important if you puked over somebody, you know? But that’s a legacy from us also. After all, we’re still the only rock & roll band arrested for peeing on a wall.”

Punk bands resented The Rolling Stones, but Richards brushed it off, believing it was all for show. He explained: “That’s what we used to say about everything that went before us. But you need a bit more than just putting down people to keep things together. There’s always somebody better at puttin’ you down. So don’t put me down, just do what I did, you know? Do me something better. Turn me on.”

Richards was hurtling towards middle age and living a luxurious sun-drenched existence in California. If punk had connected with him, then it was missing the mark. The movement was about more than just the music, it was a statement of intent designed to shake up the system, and it did just that.

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