Keith Richards has lived a thousand lives, The Rolling Stones guitarist having more anecdotes than most could ever dream of. One of his most incredible tales comes from 1978, a time when Richards didn’t sleep a single wink for nine days straight as he entered the peak of his hedonism.
The Stones were in a precarious position at this time and were busy working away in the studio on Some Girls, material which arrived as a make or break moment for the band. It sounds silly now, but many people had begun to write them off and incorrectly thought they had nothing left in the tank—which couldn’t be further from the truth with the group still on fire some 42 years later.
Mick Jagger, speaking with Rolling Stone, put the band’s prior creative lull down to one thing, “Everyone was using drugs, Keith [Richards] particularly,” said the frontman in 1995. “So I think it suffered a bit from all that. General malaise. I think we got a bit carried away with our own popularity and so on. It was a bit of a holiday period. I mean, we cared, but we didn’t care as much as we had. Not really concentrating on the creative process.” For the new record, they would have to get their head in the game.
Some Girls was a roaring success, one that their firmly silenced their critics. With tracks like ‘Beast Of Burden’, the project arrived as the perfect way to announce that The Stones were back and on form. However, the recording of the album was anything but a dream with Richards’ drug addiction putting a blight on the whole process.
‘Before They Make Me Run’ from the record was the result of a five-day intense studio session, Keith wrote in Life, “One [engineer] would flop under the desk and have a kip, and I’d put the other one in and keep going.” However, he then went on to boast about the record that he’s most proud of from this drug-fuelled era, “Nine days without a wink,” he said. “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?'”
Thankfully, those days of sleepless weeks rather than days are behind Keith now. Although he was still using heavily during the Some Girls era, following the ‘Beast of Burden’—which is his apology for being a burden to his bandmates—the track helped the Stones turn a corner and cement their brotherly connection that is still going strong today.