Keith Richards on Mick Jagger: 'Sometimes I miss my friend.'


When I interviewed Keith Richards, I was going insane writing How To Be A Woman, and working seven-day weeks for months on end – but couldn’t let pass the opportunity to meet the man who, more than any other on Earth, could claim to be rock’n’roll on two, very thin, legs. I mean, really thin legs. It’s like two bits of string covered in denim.

This was another time I was attempting to give up smoking, but was derailed by someone legendary offering a fag. The next time I tried to give up, it was when Benedict Cumberbatch, dressed as Sherlock, offered me a Marlie outside 221b Baker Street. WHO WOULD EVER SAY NO TO THESE CIGARETTES?

I meet Keith Richards on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It feels only right to inform him of this.

‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day?’ Keith says, with his wolfy grin, wholly amused. ‘ARRRGHH! ARRRHHH! Oh, I can’t do it without the eye patch,’ he sighs, mock-petulantly. ‘I can’t speak like a pirate without an eye patch. Or being pissed – HARGH! HARGH!’

Keith Richards.

But of course, he can: to be frank, everything Keith Richards says is in the cadence of Pirate. With his black eyes, bandana and earring, even at sixty-seven, he has the air of a rakish gentleman forced to steal a frigate and abscond from polite society – due to some regrettable misunderstanding about a virgin daughter, a treasure map and a now-smouldering Admiralty building. You can see why he was the inspiration for Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. Richards apparently taught Depp how to walk around a corner, drunk: ‘You keep your back to the wall at all times.’

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Today, Richards is a pirate in on-shore mode. The mood is tavern- ish. Even though we are in the Royal Suite of Claridge’s, which has a grand piano (‘Shall I have a go? You can bootleg it – HARGH HARGH HARGH’), and so many rooms we never even go in half of them, Richards still brings an air of a man who’s left his parrot, cutlass and Smee in the hallway – lest he need to make a quick getaway. On walking into the room he spots me, and does a double-take.

‘I had no idea I was going to talk to a lady,’ he says, ordering a vodka and orange. ‘I need a drink when I do that.’

Spotting a packet of Marlboro on the table, he eschews them, and brings out his own supplies.

‘Those are the ones that say they’ll kill you,’ he says, pointing at the pack on the table, with their large ‘SMOKING KILLS’ label. ‘They are English, and they would kill you; they’re bloody awful.’

‘Are they different to American ones?’ I ask.

‘Oh yes. You take them apart, if you’re going to roll a hash joint, and there’s bits of stalk and crap in there. It’s unacceptable to a smoker.’

Keith Richards and Charile Watts.

He takes one of his own out of his pocket, and lights it. The smell of the smoke mingles with his cologne.

‘What have you got on?’ I inquire.

‘I’ve got a hard-on – I didn’t know you could smell it,’ he says – and then starts laughing again, in a fug of smoke. ‘That’s a rock’n’roll joke – one of Jerry Lee Lewis’s,’ he explains, almost apologetically. ‘We’re at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, and Jerry’s got his rig on – frilly shirt and tuxedo – and he’s coming down the steps and this chick rushed out and was like, “You smell great – what have you got on?” And Jerry says, “I’ve got a hard-on – I didn’t know you could smell it.” Pure rock’n’roll.’

Keith takes another drag on his fag, beaming.

‘’Ere,’ he says, suddenly concerned, looking at the cigarette smoke. ‘I hope you’re not ... allergic.’

Keith on stage in 1990 with the Stones. Image via Facebook.

Apologising for a hard-on joke, and worrying that a journalist might develop a tickly cough from passive smoking is a long way from Richards’ interviews in his outlaw hey-day – he once spent forty sleepless hours with the NME journalist Nick Kent, ‘pinballing’ around London in a Ferrari, and consuming ferocious quantities of cocaine and heroin – a cocktail quaintly referred to, by Richards, as ‘the breakfast of champions’.

But then, Richards has mellowed considerably, over the years – possibly out of necessity, if one considers how difficult it would be to parallel-park in modern-day London on a 1.5mg speedball. Giving up heroin in 1978, after his fifth bust, Richards reveals today that he’s finally given up cocaine, too – in 2006, after he fell from a tree in Fiji, and had to have brain surgery.

‘Yeah – that was cocaine I had to give up for that,’ he says, with an equanimous sigh. ‘You’re like – “I’ve got the message, oh Lord.” He raps on the metal plate in his head. It makes a dull, thonking sound.

‘I’ve given up everything now – which is a trip in itself,’ he says, with the kind of Robert Newton-esque eye-roll that indicates how interesting merely getting out of bed, sober, can be after forty years of caning it. Not that Richards is disapproving of getting high, of course:

‘I’m just waiting for them to invent something more interesting, hahaha,’ he says. ‘I’m all ready to road-test it when they do.’

Richards’ image is of the last man standing at the long party that was the sixties – and the man who’d invited everyone over in the first place, anyway. During his junkie years, Richards spent over a decade on the ‘People Most Likely to Die’ list – ‘I used to read it, check I was still on there. I was on it longer than anyone else. Badge of honour, hur hur.’

Keith Richards was sentenced to one years imprisonment for allowing cannabis to be smoked on his premises, 1967. Image via Getty.

But having spent from 1968–1978 with everyone expecting him to keel over in a hotel (the classic Richards quote: ‘Which I never did: it’s the height of impoliteness to turn blue in someone else’s bathroom’), Richards has now, ironically, gone on to be one of those people we now think will just ... live forever. His tough, leathery, indestructible air gives the suggestion that heroin, whisky and cocaine, when taken in large enough quantities, have a kind of ... preservative quality. Richards has been cured in a marinade of pharmaceuticals. He both gives off the aura of, and bears an undeniable physical resemblance to, the air-dried Inca mummies of Chachapoya.

‘Well, I’m not putting death on the agenda,’ he says, with another grin. ‘I don’t want to see my old friend Lucifer just yet, hurgh hurgh. He’s the guy I’m gonna see, isn’t it – I’m not going to The Other Place, let’s face it, HARGH!’

Keith's book.

We’re here today because having – resolutely, persistently and, in many ways, unfeasibly – not died, Richards has finally published his autobiography, Life.

When Richards announced the project, he was subject to a massive bidding war that ended with Richards getting a £4.8m advance – acknowledgement of the fact that, barring Bowie or McCartney deciding to write their stories, Richards’ was the motherlode, in terms of understanding that most incredible of decades – the sixties – from the inside; recounted by one of the very people pinballing the psychedelic charabanc off the bounds of ‘decent’ society.

‘Have you read it?’ he asks – trying to look casual, but unable to suppress an incongruous note of eagerness.

‘Oh God, yes,’ I say. ‘Oh man, it’s a total hoot. Really, really amazing.’

Mick and Keith on stage in the 70's - via Getty.

‘Oh good,’ he says, relaxing. ‘You know, you start off thinking you can spin a few yarns – and by the time you get to the end of it, it’s turned into something much more. One memory triggers another, and before you know it, there’s 600 rounds per second coming out.’

‘Did you want to write your version because other books on you, and the Stones, had got it wrong?’ I ask.

‘I read Bill Wyman’s book, but after three or four chapters – where he’s going [assumes dull, priggish Wyman monotone] “And by that point, I only had £600 left in Barclays Bank” – I was like, “Oh, Bill.” You know what I mean? You’re far more interesting than that; do me a favour. And Mick attempted it once, and ended up giving the money back. It was ten, fifteen years ago, and he’d keep ringing up and going [does Mick impression], “’Ere, what were we doing on August 15th nineteen-sixty- somefink?” I’d be like, “Mick, you’re writing it. I can’t remember.” And knowing Mick, there would have been a morass of blank chapters because there would have been a lot of stuff he would have wanted to put to one side, hur hur.’

Richards is dismissive of Stones books written by non-Stones – claiming the authors would have been ‘too scared’ to write the truth: ‘Who’s really going to put Mick Jagger, or Keith Richards, up against a wall and say “I demand you answer this?”’ he says, eyes suddenly flashing black.

‘Because, you know...’ He takes a drag on his fag. ‘You end up dead like that.’

Image via Facebook.

The reason Life attracted such a bidding war is because the life of Keith Richards and the Stones is one that – even in today’s modern, anything-goes pop-cultural climate – takes in a still-astonishing amount of, for want of a better word, scandal. ‘Would You Let Your Daughter Marry a Rolling Stone?’, the Redlands bust, Marianne Faithfull in her fur rug, ‘Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?’, the still-controversial death of Brian Jones, the Hell’s Angels running amok at Altamont, the Marianne Faithfull/Mick Jagger/Anita Pallenberg/Richards four-way love-rectangle, numerous arrests, heroin, cocaine, acid, whisky, infidelity, groupies, Margaret Trudeau, riots, billions of dollars, and four decades of sweaty fans, screaming without end.

And, at the centre of it all, arguably the greatest rock’n’roll band that ever existed. ‘Gimme Shelter’, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, ‘Wild Horses’, ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Start Me Up’, ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, ‘Satisfaction’ – each one with the ability to alone answer the question, ‘Mummy – what is rock’n’roll?’, and, when taken en masse, the reason why Keith Richards is referred to, almost factually, as ‘The Living Riff’.

For those expecting an explosive story, Life certainly doesn’t disappoint: it opens in 1975, with Richards in a diner in Fordyce, Arkansas, about to be busted for the fourth time. Written like a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with infinitely more resources for getting wasted – Richards is driving to the next gig because he’s ‘bored’ of the Stones’ private jet – it joins Richards at the high point of his caner years.

Keith, driving in his Bentley. Image via Facebook.

As Richards describes it, he is the sole long-haired man in a room full of rednecks, and is basically wearing a hat made of drugs (‘There was a flap at the side in which I’d stowed hash, Tuinals and coke’), and driving a car made of drugs (‘I’d spent hours packing the side-panel with coke, grass, peyote and mescaline’).

High on cocaine (‘Merck cocaine – the fluffy, pharmaceutical blow’ as he describes it, lovingly), Richards is arrested, dragged to the courthouse, and becomes the centre of an international news incident (‘There were 5000 Stones fans outside the courthouse’) – until Mick Jagger sweet-talks the local governor, and bails him out.

‘Mick was always good with the locals,’ Richards writes, half-admiringly, half-condescendingly – like a pirate captain commending a handsome cabin-boy who has the ability to ‘talk posh’ to the gentry.

The following 620 pages scarcely let up from there. Although things tail off in the mid-eighties – as they invariably do in the stories of sixties icons. By then, they are retired from the heart of the storm to their mansions, and are merely watching Madonna from the sidelines, puzzled – the first half of Life, up until 1984, is in a league of its own. As rock memoirs go, only Bob Dylan’s imperial, awe-inspiring Chronicles can beat it.

The Rolling Stones in 1971.

Sitting in Richards’ agent’s office, reading it – the secrecy around it is immense; I have to sign confidentiality agreements before I can even see the manuscript – was like getting into a TARDIS, and being witness to events only ever previously recounted by hearsay.

One of the first stories is one of the most amazing – Richards quoting from a letter he sent his aunt in 1961: ‘This morning on Dartford Station a guy I knew at primary school came up to me. He’s got every record Chuck Berry ever made. He is called Mick Jagger.’

It’s like discovering Cleopatra’s page-a-day diary, and the entry: ‘Tuesday, 4.30pm: meeting with Mark Antony.’

And so it goes on from here – recruiting all the Stones one by one, Bill Wyman sighingly tolerated because he has a better amp than anyone else. They work hard, but it comes ridiculously easy: the first song they ever write together – locked in the kitchen by their manager, until they come up with something – is As Tears Go By, which both goes to number one, and bags Jagger the beautiful Marianne Faithfull as a girlfriend. They buy houses. They buy drugs. Here’s the Redlands bust, recounted by the man who owned the house: casually mentioning another guest – David Schneidermann, the acid dealer. As the inventor of both the Strawberry Fields acid and the Purple Haze acid, Schneidermann dosed the charts with two of the greatest psychedelic singles ever made.

Keith can tell us the Marianne Faithfull/Mars Bar story is a myth – but adds, casually, that he was the man who left a Mars Bar on the coffee table, as a snack, for when he was stoned.

Here’s John Lennon – ‘Johnny. A silly sod, in many ways’ – coming round with Yoko, and keeling over in the bathroom.

‘I don’t think John ever left my house, except horizontally,’ Richards sighs, having found Lennon – godhead for a generation – lying by the toilet, murmuring, ‘Don’t move me – these tiles are beautiful.’

John Lennon and Keith Richards performing together in 1968. Image via Getty.

On another night with Lennon, Richards tries to explain to him where The Beatles – the fucking Beatles! – have been going wrong all these years: ‘You wear your guitar too high. It’s not a violin. No wonder you don’t swing. No wonder you can rock, but not roll.’

Redlands burns to the ground, and Richards – high – escapes with only ‘a cutlass, and a box of goodies, hur hur. Fuck the passports’.

Allen Ginsberg – the high priest of beatnik – is regarded as a bit of a twat: coming over to Keith’s house, he ‘plays a concertina and makes “ommmmmm” sounds’, as Richards relates, still sounding beleaguered by an unwelcome house guest, thirty years later. Brian Jones is dismissed as little more than ‘a wife-beater’.

In this rollercoaster blur, Altamont – where the Hell’s Angels, high on LSD and speed, stab Meredith Hunter to death – is merely an incidental point. For generations of lazy documentary makers, it’s been seen as the point that the sixties turned sour: the moment that Flower Power ideal- ism dies; the undeniable beginning of the darkness.

To the man on stage at the time, however, playing Under My Thumb as Meredith dies, it’s a story that merits little more than two paragraphs. The first Stones fan to die had been back in 1965 – plunging from the balcony of an early gig. By 1969, Keith Richards had seen it all. He couldn’t be surprised by anything.

But for all the drugs, car chases, jets, stadiums, Presidents, fist-fights and deaths, the core of Life is a small, human, timeless story. The story of Keith Richards’ life revolves around two things: the friend he never quite understands, and the girl who got away: bandmate Mick Jagger, and former wife, and mother of three of his children, Anita Pallenberg.

Reading Life, I was shocked by how candid Richards is about his relationship with both Jagger and Pallenberg. Indeed, I gasped at two of the stories. My thought was, as I read them, ‘Keith Richards – you’re going to be in trouble.’

The Rolling Stones in Paris recording Some Girls.

‘In trouble?’ Richards says, laughing. ‘Hur hur. Why?’

Well, let’s take Mick Jagger.

You reveal that your secret nickname for him is ‘Your Majesty’, or ‘Brenda’ – and that you openly had conversations with the other Stones, in front of Mick, referring to ‘that bitch Brenda’.

Your review of Mick’s solo album, Goddess in the Doorway – which you refer to as "Dogshit on the Doorstep" – is ‘It’s like Mein Kampf – everyone had it, but no one read it’. You describe an annoying pet mynah bird as ‘like living with Mick’. There’s a chapter that starts, ‘It was the beginning of the eighties when Mick started to become unbearable.’ There’s quotes like, ‘Mick plays harmonica from the heart – but he doesn’t sing like that.’ ‘Mick Jagger is aspiring to be Mick Jagger.’ ‘I think Mick thinks I belong to him.’ ‘I used to love Mick, but I haven’t been to his dressing room in twenty years. Sometimes I think, “I miss my friend.” I wonder, “Where did he go?”’

Has Mick read the book?

Keith seems resolutely unfazed.

‘Yeah!’ he says, equanimously. ‘I think it opened his eyes a bit, actually.’ ‘Were there any bits he asked you to leave out?’ I ask.

Mick and Keith.

Keith starts laughing again. ‘WURGH WURGH WURGH.’ It sounds like a crow stuck in a chimney.

‘Yeah! Funnily enough, it was the weirdest thing he wanted taken out. I mean, look. You know, I love the man. I’ve known him since I was four years old, right. But the bit he wanted taken out was how he used a voice coach.’


‘Yeah! And everyone knew it anyway. It’s been in a million interviews, but for some reason, he was like, “You know – could we leave that out?” And I went, “No! I’m trying to say the truth here.”’

I pause for a minute. I clear my throat.

‘So he didn’t ask you to take out the bit about how small his cock is, then?’ I ask, in a rather prim voice.

‘Hey – I was only told that by others,’ Keith says, with a wolfish smile and a shrug.

This is the height of disingenuousness, because the ‘other’ Richards is referring to is Marianne Faithfull – Jagger’s girlfriend at the time – and a story that is one of the key ‘OH MY GOD!’ moments of the book.

Rumours have long circled about just what was going on in 1969 – the year the world’s two most glamorous couples were Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, and Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull.

Keith and Anita.

As Pallenberg and Jagger started work on Performance, in the roles of lovers, Richards was convinced that director Nicolas Roeg – whom he hates – is trying to get Mick and Anita together for real, so that he can have ‘hardcore pornography’ in his film.

In one of the most evocatively written passages in the book, Richards describes how the jealousy and fear that he’s losing Anita to Jagger, coupled with his escalating heroin abuse, results in him writing Gimme Shelter on a filthy, stormy day – staring out of the window of his house, waiting for the sound of Anita’s car. It never arrives. She doesn’t come home that night. He presumes she lies in his bandmate’s bed.

Partly in retaliation, Richards then goes about bedding Marianne Faithfull. Despite the undeniable dark, fratricidal overtones of screwing Jagger’s girlfriend, Richards’ account of it in Life is recounted in Pirate Tavern mode, concluding with his joy at having ‘my head nestled between those two beautiful jugs’.

Marianne Faithfull.

When Faithfull and Richards hear Jagger returning home, Richards jumps out of the window, like Robin Askwith in Confessions of a Window Cleaner, leaving his socks, and his cuckolded bandmate’s girlfriend, behind him. As a final stab, forty years later, Richards adds:

‘[Marianne] had no fun with [Mick’s] tiny todger. I know he’s got an enormous pair of balls – but it doesn’t quite fill the gap.’

For a Stones fan, it’s a real double-or-quits moment. On the one hand, as a description of what it’s like to be inside a legendary song as it makes landfall, Keith Richards’ recollections of writing Gimme Shelter are without parallel. On the other hand, there is the massive risk that – after reading the chapter – every subsequent listening of the song will be haunted by the image of Mick Jagger’s allegedly tiny todger, nestled on a pair of gigantic testicles.

It’s one of those side-effects of rock’n’roll that no one ever warns you about.

‘Well, I did say he had enormous balls,’ Richards says now, generously. ‘I’m sure he’s had worse thrown at him by women. I mean, Jerry Hall pretty much decimated him anyway.’

‘It does seem like you’re trying to ... wind him up,’ I say.

‘We’ve had our beefs but hey, who doesn’t. You try and keep some- thing together for fifty years,’ Richards says, palpably not caring.

There is similar, breathtaking candour in his recounting of his relationship with Anita Pallenberg. In a physically abusive relationship with fellow Stone Brian Jones, Pallenberg has the hots for Richards, and Richards has the hots for Pallenberg. When Jones gets hospitalised with asthma, Richards and Pallenberg end up together in a car, being driven from Barcelona to Valencia. Without a word ever being exchanged, Pallenberg kicks off their relationship by silently unzipping Richards’ jeans, and giving him a blowjob.

‘I remember the smell of the orange trees in Valencia,’ Richards writes, still sounding post-coital, forty years later. ‘When you get laid by Anita Pallenberg for the first time, you remember things.’

‘Oh – the great blowjob in the car?’ Keith says today, when I bring it up – again, quite primly.

‘What was your chauffeur doing all this time?’ I ask, incredulously.

‘He’s got to keep his eyes on the road,’ Keith shrugs. ‘I should imagine he was going “about time”, to be honest. It had been in the air for ages.’

Although it was Richards who eventually called time on the marriage, when Pallenberg’s subsequent heroin addiction got out of hand, Pallenberg still comes across as ‘unfinished business’ in Life – with Richards repeatedly addressing Pallenberg directly from the pages; calling on her to think of what would have happened if they’d managed to stay together; in rocking chairs together, ‘watching the grandkids’. Although Richards is now married to, and has two children with, Patti Hansen, Pallenberg recurs throughout the book like perfume; melody; a ghost. While Richards rails at Jagger, he sighs over Pallenberg. The girl that gave herself away.

Perhaps you keep coming back to Anita and Mick, I suggest to Richards, because as an artist, there’s nothing to say about the people you love and understand. It’s the ones who mystify you that you need to write songs and books about. That’s how you try and figure them out.

Anita Pallenberg and Mick Jagger in 1970.

‘Yeah.’ Richards nods. ‘You’ve got nothing to say when it’s all understood.’

It’s the best inference to make – because any other suggests Richards is still a little in love with the woman whose clothes he’s wearing on the cover of Their Satanic Majesties Request.

At sixty-seven, having come into life-transforming wealth and fame in one of the most controversial bands of the counter-cultural era, one could easily assume that Keith Richards became a pirate because of rock’n’roll – around the time the Stones went out on the road, and never really came back: ‘A pirate nation, moving under our own flag, with lawyers, clowns and attendants.’

But the other revelation of Life is that this was how Richards was raised: Richards has always been a pirate. He describes post-war Dartford as somewhere where ‘everyone’s a thief’. Dartford – where the highway- men would hold up the stage to London, explosions from the fireworks factory ‘would take out the windows for miles around’ and patients from the lunatic asylum would regularly abscond.

‘In the morning, you’d find a loony on the heath, in his little night-shirt,’ Richards recalls, fondly.

Richards’ family were not respectable, or God-fearing. They numbered musicians, actors and prostitutes: his mother would ‘cross the road’ to avoid the priest, and divorced his father to marry a younger lover.

Richards’ mother, Doris, was a classic, working-class matriarch – her last words to Keith, as he played to her on her deathbed, were ‘You’re out of tune’ – and as an only child of a poor, bohemian couple, the only things Richards was brought up to respect were the local library, and music. When he got his first guitar, he slept with it in his bed.

Twenty years later, guests to Redlands recall Richards’ guitar collection being on every sofa and chair, and being left with nowhere to sit but the floor.

So when you come and talk to Keith Richards, this is who you feel you are meeting: not a millionaire Rolling Stone, with houses in Suffolk, Connecticut and Turks and Caicos – but the guy from Dartford who would always have been out of kilter with normal society, however his life had turned out. You get the very strong feeling that this is what Keith Richards would be like even if we were down the pub, instead of Claridge’s, and Keith had got here on the bus – not least because his bandana is, on closer inspection, quite grubby, and he’s wearing a pair of shattered trackie bottoms, and the kind of incongruously bright-turquoise trainers you often see on meths-drinking tramps.

Ask him about his daughter – twenty-four-year-old Alexandra – doing a nude shoot for Playboy, and he seems truly baffled by the notion he could have been disapproving.

‘You know – my girls are like me,’ he says. ‘They try to avoid work as much as possible, hehehe. A bit of modelling is a bit of freedom. Hey, baby – with a frame like that, flaunt it.’

The story of how he came to work with Johnny Depp on Pirates of the Caribbean is a case in point.

‘It took me two years before I realised who he was,’ Keith says, lighting another fag. ‘He was just one of my son Marlon’s mates, hanging around the house playing guitar. I never ask Marlon’s mates who they are, because you know, “I’m a dope dealer”, hahaha. Then one day he was at dinner’ – Richards mimes Johnny Depp holding a knife and fork – ‘and I’m like, “Whoa! Scissorhands!” Hahaha. Then I find out he’s an actor, and like one of the biggest Keith Richards fans in the world – and how do I deal with that? “Get over it, Johnny.” HURGH HURGH.’

Depp and Richards are currently shooting Pirates of the Caribbean 4, where Richards plays, for the second time, Captain Jack Sparrow’s father – ‘It takes two hours to put the wig and make-up on. Back into the hairy prison. “Ooooh, sorry about my sword, babe,” hahaha.’

Filming a bar-room scene, Richards has roped in "a couple of mates. Well, it’s a bar-room, innit?"

Keith Richards starring in pirates of the Caribbean.

In between the last film and this, Depp has been shooting a documentary on Richards: "Kinda behind-the-scenes stuff. Johnny does interviews. Dunno when it’s going to be finished." He shrugs again. The idea of being followed around by a documentary crew, and one of the most famous actors in the world, seems resolutely normal.

Possibly because of his upbringing – "I’m just a retarded gangster, really. Maybe that’s what I should have called the book. Retarded Gangster" – Richards seems genuinely at ease with his fame. He lives now, as he always has since a child, ‘in a world outside most others’ – he doesn’t watch TV (‘Lovejoy’, he says, finally, having struggled to think for some minutes about his favourite show), exists on old-fashioned comfort food (the book includes his recipe for bangers & mash: "Put the fuckers in the pan and let them rock"), has never voted ("I suppose democracy is the best there is to offer. But for a lot of people, it’s like telling the slaves they’re free. 'Hey man – where’s the next meal coming from?'"), and as for when he last travelled by public transport, he wrinkles his forehead and asks, mistily, "Have they still got trams?"

This leaves him at ease in the company of other infamous people ("My favourite head of state? Václav Havel. Very impressed with the man. He had a telescope in his office, trained on his old prison cell. He used to refer to it as 'my old house'. I liked Clinton. He’s a lousy sax player. A little indiscreet, but as a guy – I’d take him on any time. He’s great." As for Tony Blair: "I wrote him a letter [about the Iraq war], telling him he had to stick to his guns. I got a letter back, saying 'Thanks for the support'." He views the recent imprisonment of George Michael with equanimity, and not a little amusement.

"Fame has killed more very talented guys than drugs," he says, sighing. "Jimi Hendrix didn’t die of an overdose – he died of fame. Brian [Jones], too. I lost a lot of friends to fame. There’s that bit in the book, where I talk about how I cope with fame, and say 'Mick chose flattery, and I chose junk'. Because I kept my feet on the ground – even when they were in the gutter.

"You know what? I bet George Michael is loving it. I say, 'Stay in jail, George'. There’s probably some dope, and some gays. He probably won’t want to leave – it’s the best place for him. He’s playing around with fame. I can’t remember a song of his. I don’t want to knock the guy, but I’m an immortal legend, according to some," he shrugs.

The implication is that, however wasted Richards got, he wouldn’t have crashed into a branch of Snappy Snaps on something as lightweight as a joint.

Keith Richards is a man without regret. When I ask him if – given the chance to do it all over again – he’d start taking heroin, he doesn’t pause. "Oh yes. Yes. There was a lot of experience in there – you meet a lot of weird people, different takes on life that you’re not going to find if you don’t go there. I loved a good high. And if you stay up, you get the songs that everyone else misses, because they’re asleep. There’s songs zooming around everywhere. There’s songs zooming through here right now, in the air."

He looks up, as if he can see them, hovering over the grand piano. ‘You’ve just got to put your hand out, and catch them.’

During our whole chat, the only time he seems roused to genuine annoyance is when I ask him what I think might be the most amazing question of my entire journalistic career. Thanks to a meeting at a party last year, I am able to say to Keith Richards – one of our greatest living rock stars – "Keith, I met Noddy Holder last year, and he’s convinced you wear a wig."

Author, Caitlin Moran.

"Not yet!" he says, looking genuinely indignant. "Hey man, what’s his problem with wigs?"

"He thinks both you and Mick wear them," I say, with mock-disapproval.

"Get out of here!" Richards roars. He pulls down his bandana and shows me his hair – grey, a little wispy, but looking undeniably real. "Hey Noddy, you know, there are more important things in life than hair. Mick definitely doesn’t wear a wig. I KNOW! I’VE PULLED IT! What’s Noddy’s problem?"

"I think Noddy’s just very proud he’s still got a gigantic afro," I offer. "Well, that’s about all he’s got," Keith says, sniffily. "Well done, Nod." Our hour is up. Keith is off to get ready for another day of shooting on

Pirates – possibly the most high-profile busman’s holiday in showbusiness. "Any plans for the future?" I ask, as he picks up his cigarettes – still eschewing the British ones on the table.

"Well, you know, we’ll be on the road again in the future," Keith says, pocketing his lighter. "Yeah. On the road. I think it’s going to happen. I’ve had a chat with ... Her Majesty. Brenda."

And Richards leaves the room, laughing. He’s at it again. Winding up Mick; doing what he wants; being Keith Richards, for the sixty-seventh year in a row.

"I had to invent the job, you know," he said, earlier. "There wasn’t a sign in the shop window, saying, “Wanted: Keith Richards”."

And he’s done a bloody good job of it.

This post was originally published in Caitlin Moran's Moranthology which you can buy here and has been republished here with full permission.