My fiance was thoughtful enough to get me Keith Richards’ Life for (yes) Christmas, a book I’ve been meaning to read ever since not-that-Bill Wyman imagined Mick Jagger’s response, so I’ve spent my day tearing through it. Much like the Rolling Stones’ career, the end drags on forever, giving the impression that the author(s) are pressing along because no one considered how to gracefully bow out; I’m 15 pages away from the end of a 547-page text, and everything from about page 475 on is so turgid it feels like Keith is toying with your attention. There’s an editing lesson here, one I’ll return to in the coming days.
Page 525, for instance, begins “My Recipe For Bangers And Mash.” Keith reveals that he learned late in life from food television that you’re supposed to cook dinner sausages in a cold pan. Which, admittedly, is a useful tip, but my interest in this book mostly concerns the origins of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” or whether someone who progresses from Mandrax to Merck-grade cocaine to “Mexican shoe-scraping” heroin can responsibly assess the damage he’s done to other people’s lives. The Food Network on Christmas excels at teaching me how to cook sausages, and should I be unable to find a useful tip, I can Google it. As it happens, Richards has a lot of narrative fun with the vanity-borne mistakes of Mick Jagger’s solo career in the 1980s, so it wouldn’t be outrageous for him to consider that a reader can get a full picture of his life without its culinary aspects.
Still, I’ll spare the truly curious $29.99, because this recipe turns out to be pretty indicative of the book:
1. First off, find a butcher who makes his sausages fresh. [Thanks!]
2. Fry up a mixture of onions and bacon and seasoning. [Really? You’re going to offer a recipe and then tell me I should include some “seasoning”? What if I were to tell you that for the perfect high, you ought to consider “doing drugs”?]
3. Get the spuds on the boil with a dash of vinegar, some chopped onions and salt (seasoning to taste). Chuck in some peas with the spuds. (Throw in some chopped carrots too, if you like.) Now we’re talking. [We’re certainly expending words!]
4. Now, you have a choice of grilling or broiling your bangers or frying. Throw them on low heat with the simmering bacon and onions (or in the cold pan, as the TV lady said, and add the onions and bacon in a bit) and let the fuckers rock gently, turning every few minutes.
5. Mash yer spuds and whatever. [Sublime.]
6. Bangers are now fat free (as possible!). [Except for all the fat they contain? And didn’t you just advise me to cook them in bacon? How the fuck can they be fat free?]
7. Gravy if desired.
8. HP sauce, every man to his own.
This recipe takes up half a page. It gives away to three and a half pages of additional reflections on how none of the Stones’ road crew is allowed to eat any Shepherd’s Pie until Keith cuts the crust. That gives way to a discussion of Keith’s dogs. Meanwhile, Keith gets through the death of Brian Jones in a page and a half and Bill-Wyman-the-bassist’s departure from the Stones after 30 years in two paragraphs.