It’s not what you think. See, he’s under the influence of music. Director Morgan Neville started out making a bonus feature about Keith’s first solo album recording in over 20 years, which expanded into a full-length documentary about his musical history. His personal history – the heroin use, the fights with Mick, the drama with Anita Pallenberg, – all of that provides context but it’s a story assumed and already told instead of detailed again here. Instead, we see the artist, the obsessive musician and the unwavering passion for music.
He told us this story already in Life, his ghostwritten autobiography but it’s one thing to read it and another to see it, especially when accompanied by his trademark laugh: part growl, part cackle. We see him jam with Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, and hear anecdotes about getting drunk with Howling Wolf. Skinny as ever, craggier than Everest, when the topic is personal, he doesn’t spare himself from ruthless self-assessment – he knows he’s never been an angel – but there are also wistful moments about the consequences of such a life: “To 99.9 per cent of people, it’s Keith Richards smoking a joint, a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand, walking down the road, cursing the fact that the liquor store is closed, Image is like a ball and chain… when the sun goes down it doesn’t disappear.”
He’s still the bad boy of Rock – in the post screening Q&A, the moderator asked him some question using the word ‘organic’ and Keith said he wasn’t comfortable with the word since he’d “done a lot of inorganic things in my life”, reminding us that he may not be wild anymore but he certainly hasn’t been tamed.