Monday, December 27, 2010

Ozzy and Keith

I love to read.  Most of what I read is non-fiction and a lot of it is in the genres of science/nature/travel.  Occasionally, however, I'll read biographies and autobiographies and I recently read two that surprised me - both from infamous British rock stars.

Keith Richards Life (Little, Brown, & Company, 2010) reads like much of it was transcribed from recordings and could have benefited from some editing to tighten it up (the book is over 500 pages).  Many of the stories are simply recitations of what he did when which I found boring to read after a  while.

The thing that surprised me the most, not having read much about the Rolling Stones in the past, was how Keith Richards is a complete narcissistic jerk.  From the decades of self-indulgent drug use, to criminal child neglect of his son Marlon (who he crashed a car into a tree with when wasted and who he took on tour), to his misogynistic treatment of women, to leaving audiences waiting an hour or more whil he sleeps off his latest drug cocktail, to cheating on his wives, to threatening people with knives who dare criticize him, to an apparent complete lack or sorrow or remorse for all the people he hurt in his life.

In Richard's world, the cops and customs inspectors are all assholes because they keep busting him for drugs and unregistered pistols (which he freely admits to having at the time), women are Kleenex, and his overblown sense of entitlement leads him to expect that a few phone calls will get him out of anything (mostly true - I'd be rotting in prison if I was arrested for the same things).  He's a right git.

There were a few interesting and humorous things in the book but not really enough to justify wading through 500+ pages of drivel.  As a frustrated guitar player (and "player" is too strong a word), it was interesting to read about the open G tuning which gives many of the Stones' songs their distinctive sound.  Keith Richards has also played with a lot of great musicians and there were a few tidbits there.  It was also pretty funny when he described his relationship with Jagger.  Richards once saw a book by an author named Brenda Jagger and would refer to Mick Jagger to other band mates as Brenda (as in "Brenda's on the rag today") - apparently with Mick being in the room and not realizing they were talking about him.  He also talked about having a myna bird as a pet once but had to get rid of it because it was always yelling and screeching at him ("It was like having Mick in a cage in my room", he said).

Can't say as I would recommend the book.  It would only be of interest to die-hard fans and, quite frankly, I'm puzzled by a number of the good reviews of it on Amazon.  No accounting for taste.

The other book was I am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne (Grand Central Publishing, 2010).  I have to say, in contrast to Keith Richard's dreck, I enjoyed this book quite a bit.  The book is very readable and humorous and Ozzy comes across as a likable guy even though he did a lot of bad things in his life.  He came a long way from the dyslexic kid who always got in trouble from a lower-class working family in Birmingham, England.

Like Richards, Ozzy had his troubles with drugs and alcohol but claims to be clean now.  It's clear he is sorry for the people he hurt (especially his wife Sharon) and does have remorse for stupid things he's done in the past.  Even though he did many of the same types of things Keith Richards did, he still comes across as a more decent character.

Lots of interesting and amusing stories about people and events.  Ozzy going into a store the first time in America asking for 20 "fags" (slang for cigarettes in England) and the lady going "What do you want 20 fags for? Get the hell out of here you pervert!"  Ozzy also had the reputation for being into satanism which was completely not true and he says it got real tiring dealing with people who took it all seriously (the guys from Black Sabbath wanted to write "scary" music).  Once saw a group of satanists in a circle with candles at his hotel. Ozzy goes over to them, blows out the candles, and starts singing "Happy Birthday".  Ozzy telling a doctor about all the drugs he did and the doctor turns to him and asks "Why are you still alive?"  Sharon telling him to "Fuck off!" first time he proposed to her.

A good read if you're looking for something light and easy reading.

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