It was 12:30am on a weeknight. Tuesday or Wednesday last week. I was still wired from all the work still to do to move clients off our platform and onto other sites. ‘Too tired to think. ‘Too wired to sleep. So I started flippin’ through my Netflix list when I realized I still had the Keith Richards: Under the Influence to watch. I had been meaning to watch it, but with all the weird shit going on in the world, I had been gravitating towards political stories and epic dramas. I realized that watching The Crown or anything was going keep me up till Sundown – or until I could smell Armadillo Willy’s woodfire brisket Pied Pipering into our patio – so I went with something I thought would be more subdued.
Idiot move. I had to pull myself away after an hour because all I wanted to watch the rest of the show, play Chicago blues on Spotify, wipe the dust off my Martin, tune her up, poor a glass of scotch, and play guitar on the patio until sunup for the first time in too-fuckin-long-too-remember.
Keith Richards: Under the Influence doesn’t just tell his side of The Stones adventures. The movie is not about his hedonism or the over-the-top antics that made him the poster child for self-destructive guitar greats. The story is a passionate, inspired adventure through Keith Richards’ musical influences and how they inspired and saved him through parts of his life.
Had I known of the depths to come, I would have sat down and watched this months ago.
The film takes us to the south side of Chicago where a lot of blues legends lived and played. They shoot pool with Buddy Guy in his iconic Blues club and hang about some old haunts. Richards is also filmed from the stage from Ryman Auditorium, where the Grand Ole Opry ran for years. While there, Richards talks about trying to listen to the shows in England as they were piped in through pirate radio stations. They go to his home and discuss the years he lived in Jamaica as the Reggae scene was starting to burst internationally.
I was wired, plugged in, and inspired when watching it. And I didn’t really sleep much afterward. It was pretty fuckin’ incredible.
Below are a few moments that caught me double-taking and rewinding to watch again:
1 – Willie Dixon gave Richards a ride to Muddy Waters house for a party, and Richards woke up at Howlin’ Wolf’s house with no idea how he got there.
Let’s do that again. Because in a blur of an evening, Keith Richards hung out with the three biggest blues icons of the Chicago Blues scene. Three of the most influential men in Rock & Roll. Blues god Willie Dixon, the Hoochie Coochie man himself, takes Richards to Muddy Waters’ house for a party. To the Mannish Boy’s house. The writer of Rollin’ Stone, from where The Stones got – and paid handsomely to use – the name. Richards ends up waking up the next morning in Waters’ rival’s house – Howlin’ Wolf. The Wolf. The man Muddy Waters fought over songs, clubs, musicians, everything with. How does that even happen? Then, he doesn’t remember how he got there. Holy. Shit.
By the way: What the Fuck, Chicago?
Somehow, the city of Chicago hasn’t turned Muddy Waters home into historical landmarks. Neither with Wolf or Dixon. Once Chicago’s done letting gangs kill each other for shit, shits & giggles, and can get their finances within sight of the black side of the ledger, they can fix this tragedy.
2 – The Rolling Stones got Howlin’ Wolf his first public appearance in America
Talk about a continued tragedy in society: how the Hell Howlin’ Wolf doesn’t get a public appearance until The Stones have to make a stand to get him to come on stage? The show was “Shindig!” May 20th. 1965. The Stones essentially said, “If he ain’t allowed to play with us, we ain’t goin’ on.” If they don’t do that, America doesn’t get their first glimpse. And, trust me, it was a glimpse.
Here’s the clip where they introduce Howlin’ Wolf.
Here’s the rest of their performance from that night on “Shindig”.
See kids, there’s a difference between the art of music as opposed to the commerce of music. One inspires, the other addicts. Make sure you continue to recognize the differences as the marketplace continues to explode with choices.
3 – Oh, yeah, Richards & Jagger had [have] quite the feud.
Richards somewhat gets into the feud he had [has?] with Jagger that nearly ripped The Rolling Stones apart in the 1980s, but he doesn’t get into the dirt with it. He’s British and, therefore, smarter than that. He talks about how he started to do solo work because the studio was his home and the Stones weren’t coming home. So, he started to lead his own band. From it, he talks about how he was better able to see Jagger’s point of view. He indirectly contributes the solo work as a way he began the healing process.
4 – Richards didn’t speak to his father for 20 years, then took his father everywhere he went for the last 20 years. Everywhere he went.
His parents split, and for 20 years he didn’t talk to his father. But after Richards had established his place among the gods, he felt it was time, so he hit his father up. And from there, it turns into a beautiful story of reconciliation. One that evolves into the difference between his stage image vs. his personal life, and with it, the family he’s grown. The footage comes complete with the way he beams about his grandchildren.
5 – I’m not the only one who thinks there’s a difference between “Rock” and “Roll.”
This might have been my favorite part. It’s that part that makes me think I’m on the right track. Richards does a blurb about how he was tired of how “Rock & Roll” was mistakenly grouped into “Rock” music. He likes his “Rock & Roll,” with a little more roll. Fuck. Yeah.
Netflix has Keith Richards: Under the Influence for the foreseeable future.
It’s definitely worth the watch. When I went back to finish the last 20 minutes of it, Katie watched it with me. She got as enthralled into the music history as I was. So, we’re planning to watch it again shortly, if for nothing else than to see him realize he’s now considered one of the iconic old bluesmen he dreamed about as a kid.
And for detractors, you’ll love how The Stones got arrested in Georgia for topless bathing because the domestics that called the police though the band was a bunch of girls due to the length of their hair.