Posted by: nickwardscenarios | December 13, 2010

Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1

Started Dec 13th 2010

I am gripped by ‘LIFE’ by Keith Richards (with James Fox) – Weidenfeld Nicolson, 2010.

Here’s an extract starting on p.106 (initially on Bo Diddley and Keef’s early days of pure experimentation and copying):

‘…you had to take it all apart and put it back together again, from your point of view. We need a reverb. Now we’re really in the shit. We need an amplifier. Bo Diddley was high tech.

Jimmy Reed was easier. He was straightforward. But to dissect how he played, Jesus. It took me years to find out how he actually played the 5 chord, in the key of E – the B chord, the last of the three chords before you go home, the resolver in a twelve-bar blues – the dominant chord, as it’s called. When he gets to it, Jimmy Reed produces a haunting refrain, a melancholy dissonance. Even for non-guitar players, it’s worth trying to describe what he does. At the 5 chord, instead of making the conventional barre chord, the B7th, which requires a little effort with the left hand, he wouldn’t bother with the B at all. He’d leave it open.

A note ringing and just slide a finger up the D string to a 7th. And there’s the haunting note, resonating against the open A. So you’re not using root notes, but letting it fall against a 7th. Believe me, it’s (a) the laziest, sloppiest single thing you can do in that situation, and (b) one of the most brilliant musical inventions of all time. But that is how Jimmy Reed managed to play the same song for thirty years and get away with it.

I learned how to do it from a white boy, Bobby Goldsboro, who had a couple of hits in the ’60s. He used to work with Jimmy Reed and he said he’d show me the tricks. I knew all the other moves, but I never knew that 5 chord move until he showed it to me, on a bus somewhere in Ohio, in the mid-’60s. He said, “I spent years on the road with Jimmy Reed. He does that 5 chord like this.” “Shit! That’s all it is?” “That’s it, motherfucker. You live and learn”.

Suddenly out of a bright sky, you get it! That haunting, droning note. Absolute disregard for any musical rules whatsoever. Also absolute disregard for the audience or anybody else. “It goes like this.” And also very haunting songs. They might be based on a seemingly simplistic bedrock, but you try “Little Rain”.

‘KEEF 2010′ (water-colour by Nick  – and below on the bus from Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds, pics by Sylvie.)

Or ‘Keith Richards in the Other Place’.

added 7/1/2011
Only got around to listening to the first half an hour of the amazingly interesting BBC Radio 2 Paul Sexton interview with Keith Richards last week (broadcast on 28th December) – and I set aside this morning to excitedly listen to the rest of it only to find out that its no longer on the BBC Radio 2 programme archive. What a crazy policy on the part of BBC bosses – this is such a significant piece of work  it should be permanently available – its not as if the internet makes for shelf-space problems. Mmmm. Brilliantly constructed too on the part of Sexton: bringing in the tracks from links provided by the man himself… I was totally freaked out  to hear, in the first few minutes of the show,  that Johnny Depp has, according to Keef, been sending him paintings of Keith Richards with a Rizla cigarette-paper component…

Are we seriously to believe that the portraits that Keith loves so much he has them adorning the wall of his  Connecticut hideway are really by Depp?.. No way, Johnny! I’m seriously flattered that my uncredited tracing-paper paintings copied from the Murdoch Times have hit Keef’s spot, and thanks to the charistmatic actor-producer-film-director and more than ok-guitarist Johnny Depp for making the leap.

Wow! What a spin out!
I was so inspired that I did another Rizla-tracing paper painting last night (to the sounds of Bob Dylan’s ‘Desire’ (1976, running time 56.17) and ‘Slow Train Coming’ (1979, running time 47.02) and I’m calling it  ‘Keith Richards Family’ which is a search-term that’s been cropping up on the Nick Ward Scenarios dashboard. Come back tomorrow! :
Here they are the photographic originals (included in ‘Life):

Johnny Depp and Keith Richards

Alexandra and Theodora (must be the genes)

Here’s the Tim Adams review of the Sexton-Richards interview published in the Observer on Sunday 2nd January (my birthday, as it happens):

Richards, interviewed at his Connecticut home (Keith Richards at Home), where he keeps his “two or three thousand guitars”, was in more expansive mood. A child of the 50s, he recalled how his determination to make music had come from hearing his parents talking about the golden times “before the war” and always “wondering where this wonderful place was”. The version of those good times that the Stones subsequently created for themselves quickly became, he suggested, a cross between The Goon Show and a Hieronymous Bosch painting: nightly mayhem involving audiences of teenage girls “perspiring heavily and with their dresses up”.

It all began to go wrong, in his eyes, in about 1980, when Mick’s great betrayal of the band began. “I don’t think Mick realised how deep a cut that was up until now,” Richards said. “But I thought if we can get over this then we are a real band. And this stuff happened 30 years ago.”

great news, woodie – 2-4pm every day – who needs the touring, man – long as you can pay the bills?

search term(13.1.2011): ronnie wood i feel like playing

and we all get to learn from the master water-rat of rock and roll – yipee – rip rolling stones –


to be continued – about to be time-out on a Cambridge City Library computer – good thing too – if I was on-line at home I’d never get any painting, poetry, music-making and play-writing together… see ya tomorrow


Are you sitting comfortably?

Then I’ll begin…

1980. Keith has just fallen in love with Patti Hansen: ‘Life’ (p. 432): ‘ It was good that I had such a distraction of the heart at that time because there was a bitter current beginning to flow between me and Mick. Its onset seemed quite sudden, and it was shocking to me.

It dated from the the time I finally kicked heroin. I wrote a song called ‘All About You’ which was on Emotional Rescue and on which I sang one of my then-rare vocals. It’s usually taken by the lyric watchers to be a song of parting from Anita. It seems an angry boy-girl song, a bitter love song, a throwing in of the towell:

If the show must go on

Let it go on without you

So sick and tired

Of hanging around with jerks like you

There’s  never one thing a song’s about, but in this case if it was about anything, it was probably more about Mick. There were certain barbs aimed his way. It was at a time when I was deeply hurt. I realized that Mick had quite enjoyed one side of my being a junkie – the one that kept me from interfering in day-to-day business. Now here I was, off the stuff. I came back with the attitude of, OK, thanks a lot. I’ll relieve you of the weight. Thank you for carrying the burden for several years while I was out there.

I’ll make recompense in time. I’d never fucked up; I’d given him some great songs to sing. The only person it fucked up was me. ‘Got out of there, Mick, by the skin of my teeth’, and he’s got out of a few things by the skin of his teeth too. I think I expected this burst of gratitude: sort of, thank God, mate.

But what I got was, I’m running this shit. It was that rebuff. I would ask, what’s happening here, what are we doing with this? And I’d get no reply. And I realised that Mick had got all of the strings in his hands and he didn’t want to let go of a single one. Had I really read this right? I didn’t know power and control were that important to Mick.

(14.2.2011) search-term of the day: tigger loves you

I always thought we’d worked on what was good for all of us. Idealistic, stupid bastard, right? Mick had fallen in love with power while I was being…artistic. But all we had was ourselves. What’s the point of struggling between us? Look how thin the ranks are. There’s Mick, me and Charlie. There’s Bill. The phrase from that period that rings in my ears these years later is ‘Oh, shut up, Keith’… it was so fucking rude. I’ve known him so long he can get away with murder like that. At the same time, you think about it; it hurts’.

love hurts as the man said x

spell-checked on Good Friday 2012


  1. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 […]

  2. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 « Nick Ward Scenarios […]

  3. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 « Nick Ward Scenarios – Cached You +1′d this publicly. Undo […]

  4. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 […]

  5. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 […]

  6. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 […]

  7. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 Share this:ShareFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  8. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 […]

  9. […] Keef’s musical workshop – pt 1 Share this:ShareFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]


%d bloggers like this: