Keith Richards has lived a thousand lives, The Rolling Stones guitarist has more anecdotes than the entire music industry put together. It’s nothing short of a miracle that Richards is still alive today and, with that, he has had countless near-death experiences over the years throughout his hedonistic filled 1970s. However, after surviving that period, Richards could get through and his very worst drug experience sounds like a living nightmare.
It wasn’t just Richards who was using drugs incessantly, chasing the high became The Rolling Stone’s primary motive for a number of years which led to the band’s output not being the sound of their best. There aren’t many things you will read about Keith Richards that will shock you these days, after all, the guitarist has done his best efforts to check most things off his rocker bucket list. Remember, this is the man that has crushed up his father’s cremated remains and snorted them along with a bit of cocaine which, somehow, isn’t even his worst drug-related story.
Mick Jagger, speaking with Rolling Stone, put the band’s prior creative lull in the ’70s 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.”
Richards has racked up five drug charges since the start of his career which never deterred him to take the path to sobriety like so many of his contemporaries who swap the substances for smoothies. Instead, his reason for packing in the habit was boredom. Speaking to the Telegraph in 2018, Richards was asked about his well-known hedonistic tendencies, “Drugs are not interesting these days,” he said. “They are very institutionalised and bland. And, anyway, I’ve done ’em all,” he boasted.
“I’m not saying I’m definitely off all of this stuff,” he also admits. “In six months’ time, I might be on it again. But at the moment, for a couple of months, I haven’t touched it,” before going on to say he finds sobriety “novel”.
It’s incredible that it was boredom rather the following moment that happened on a European tour that put an end to Richards’ drug career, “Someone put strychnine (pesticide) in my dope,” he once recalled. “It was in Switzerland. I was totally comatose, but I was totally awake. I could listen to everyone, and they were like, he’s dead, he’s dead, waving their fingers and pushing me about. I was thinking I’m not dead,” the guitarist astonishingly admitted.
“I was number one on The Who’s list of people who were likely to die for 10 years. I mean, I was really disappointed when I fell off the list,” he semi jokingly stated.
Thankfully, Keith’s life has slowed down somewhat now compared to his debauched heyday and after surviving a nightmarish experience as he did in Switzerland then he was primed to survive absolutely anything that life threw at him.