Today is Keith Richards’ seventy-second birthday. Let’s skip all the worn-out jabs about how unlikely and scientifically contradictory his continued existence is. I would suggest that rather than being surprised by Keith’s longevity, we should instead be appreciative of it. Mellowing with age like fine bourbon, Richards and fellow Brit guitarists Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton have become distinguished and respectable ambassadors of the Old Guard, venerable links to the early days of blues-rock’s emergence from the dusky pubs of London.
In a break with tradition, tonight’s video is not a live musical performance, but an interview. Fear not, there is some mighty fine guitar playing contained within. And the interview itself, an installment in Matt Sweeney’s Guitar Moves series, is priceless. Attempting an interview with Keith Richards has been at times a risky and unpredictable adventure and often marred by boredom, indifference or self-parody, and peppered with raspy guffaws, conspiratorial sidelong glances and rambling anecdotes spoken in a colorful but undecipherable vernacular. However, in this exchange with Matt Sweeney Keith is charmingly congenial and admirably, though coarsely, articulate. Keith plays “Malaguena”, the very first song he learned to play, and tells the story of how his grandfather Gus taught it to him. Keith also explains the five string open G tuning that he used to create the best riffs in rock history, and demonstrates with a few bars of “Street Fighting Man.” There are also several juicy anecdotes involving some noteworthy names, all told in Keith’s inimitable style. Treat yourself on Keith’s birthday to sixteen minutes of conversational excellence. I promise you will not be disappointed.