ROCKS OFF - The Rolling Stones Message Board
A Bigger Bang Tour 2006

Estadio da Dragao, Oporto, Portugal - 12th August 2996
© Juanillo!!
CHAT ROOM aka The Fun HOUSE Rest rooms last days
ROCKS OFF - The Rolling Stones Message Board
Register | Update Profile | F.A.Q. | Admin Control Panel

Topic: Russell Brand meets Keith - Observer Music Monthly Return to archive
13th August 2006 09:20 AM
Gazza I'm with the band

We sent Russell Brand to see the Stones in Cologne - and to have an audience with rock's greatest icon. Sorry Mick, that's not you

Sunday August 13, 2006
Observer Music Monthly

'Do you want to go to Cologne to review the Rolling Stones and meet Keith Richards for Observer Music Monthly,' asked Nik my agent, excitedly. As I momentarily pondered, I acknowledged Keith Richards, for the first time, as an actual human being whom one could meet as opposed to a living sign, an icon untethered from the quotidian, the embodiment of rock'n'roll. I responded: 'Of course I want to meet Keith Richards.' Even after his recent flirtation with a vaguely comical death it is counter-intuitive to consider Richards as mortal. Bill Hicks joked that Keith lived on a ledge beyond the edge: 'Look, it's Keith, he found an edge beyond the ledge', implying that Richards was beyond death and that dying would somehow be beneath Richards. As someone who was born after the Rolling Stones' greatest work had been achieved, my appreciation of Richards is primarily as a defiant hedonist, an anti-establishment dandy and an indifferent sartorial pioneer. The music, upon reflection, is secondary. This may be because my relationship with music is atypical. I love it, of course, and would kill or die for Morrissey, but I am a comedian and comedy is my rock'n'roll, Peter Cook my Elvis. I've inhaled the Stones myth and apparel almost by osmosis. My mate Matt, my companion for this trip, remarked that when Richards and me meet it will be like a returning Chinese whisper that he uttered in the Seventies turning up for a chat. I was a little apprehensive because I have an inability to align preconception with experience, I always approach the unknown with dangerous and unhelpful assumptions. When asked 'Do you want to meet Keith Richards?' a certain image immediately forms. Are images of this nature reliable? Usually they ain't.
When asked, 'Would you like to go snowboarding?' I envisaged myself in holy Alpine flight, like Christ, with gravity all nonsense. In reality, I was shit at snowboarding. I ended up sat in a cafe at the bottom of a mountain clutching a warm mug like Icarus with a note from his mum, chastising myself for ever imagining that I might conquer the slopes.

This disparity was also evident when I was invited to an orgy. Orgy: it's such an evocative word. It floods the mind. Orgy: muslin drapes delicately teased by an Arabian breeze. Orgy: dancing candle light flicks shadows across Nubian women, entwined like a Henry Moore sculpture. Orgy: Turkish pipe music, like in the Turkish Delight advert. In fact, the whole image has been powerfully informed by the Turkish Delight advert. That ain't what I got when I turned up at a tower block in Paddington. It was depressing. I now know to mistrust my initial reactions to questions like, 'Do you want to meet Keith Richards?'

It was first mooted on Friday evening. Sunday morning we were off. I asked if my mate, Matt, could come. Matt and I have a 'Mick and Keith'-style creative partnership, with me as the strutting, preening frontman and him as the guitarist who's usually off his head. We, too, are small town fellas. I'm from Grays in Essex and Matt's from across the river in Dartford. In fact, he went to Dartford Grammar where Mick went and, until surprisingly recently, was regarded as a grubby stain on the pristine petticoats of the school.

We do a radio show for BBC Radio 6 Music on Sunday morning, which we pre-recorded on Saturday and filled mostly with speculation of what it would be like to see the Stones and meet Keith. Noel Gallagher, a regular contributor to our show and, dare I say, friend, was typically succinct; 'They'll sound great and look shit.' He then added, without a trace of irony, "Give Keith my love. For some reason, he thinks I don't like him.' Our flight left at 9am on Sunday; our friends at OMM cynically and accurately assumed we'd be late so lied about the departure time to give us 30-minute margin of error, meaning we just about caught the plane. We travelled with Andy, OMM's photographer, and Briana, one of the Stones' army of public relations apparatchiks.

The journey passed without event, discounting Matt's disgusting usage of the face freshener tissue distributed by the air hostess which he, without leaving his seat, employed in the most unspeakable fashion and re-inserted into the packet. With impeccable timing, the oblivious Briana leaned over and said Matt wouldn't be able to meet Keith as the access to the backstage is strictly controlled; in my view Matt ought to better control access to his own backstage area. I did not quarrel as heartily as I might have had Matt not just demonstrated manners that would embarrass a tipsy chimp. This restriction was the first example of how cautious the Stones' coterie are when meting out proximity, making the phrase 'rock'n'roll royalty' more and more literal. The band, their image and their legacy are defended more fiercely than the monarchy.

After landing, Matt and I took a cab. 'Are you in a band?' inquired our driver. I've long ago learned not to be flattered by that inquiry, as it's usually pursued by a request for me to sign a photograph of Justin Hawkins from the Darkness. 'No,' I hastily responded, 'we're here to review the Stones.'

'We're journalists!' chirped Matt.

The taxi dispatched us at the door of the Hotel Crystal. I saw the backpackers queuing at the desk and the woefully cramped lobby and snootily declared I wouldn't stay.

'Don't make a fuss, you stuck-up cunt,' said Matt as I asked the receptionist to book us a taxi to the Hilton. 'It's only a night,' he continued. 'We might pull,' I reasoned. He relented. I'd hoped the band might be staying at the Hilton and asked if so when we arrived.

'No, but the England team were here,' said Melanie at the desk. England's World Cup game against Sweden had been at the Rhein Energie Stadium where the gig would take place.

'I should like Mr Beckham's suite,' I requested.

'He had a standard room.'

I paused.

'I shall take the suite regardless.'

And so to bed to rest our weary bodies and my exhausted ego. After a quick hours sleep, Briana and Andy arrived, sans luggage, to take us to the concert. Andy presented us with a disposable camera to take snaps of us inside, having been informed, belatedly, that unauthorised photography is forbidden inside the venue. It seems the band's management are sensitive about their fans being photographed. As the band's age increases so does that of their fans and the brand association is not a positive one. I must confess to being surprised by the control and neurosis present in these matters. It's the Rolling Stones, for christ's sake. As omnipresent as the sky, worshipped across the globe for almost half a century. Surely they can afford to relax about their image? They are what they are, one would think. The objective truth, their continued brilliance, their catalogue of work, their longevity all suggests an established immovable force, above harmful critique.

As I sprung upward I saw I'd missed a bunch of nag-texts and whine-calls from Briana and Matt. The meeting with Keith was at 6pm sharp and, obviously, you can't keep a Stone waiting. I flitted about the suite applying mascara, chain-belts and all manner of cute appurtenances until I resembled a queasy, Goth tinker en route to a marriage proposal.

It makes me feel uneasy when I am unwittingly subjugated by great fame. When preparing to meet Tom Cruise I ruefully read the litany of caveats and conditions required to assure the 'un-terview' passed without incident. Andy wanted to arrive early to photograph me with Stones fans. What struck me first was the distinctly familial feel to the environs. This was no Altamont, it was unlikely there'd be a stabbing here - I'd be shocked if anyone dropped litter. The stadium was ringed by stalls selling grub and the ubiquitous 'Mick lip' logo, which adorned everything from T-shirts to plastic cups and gave the event the ambience of a trip to Thorpe Park or a Monster Truck rally. Briana appeared all flustered efficiency and announced it was 'quarter to Keef' and, after she'd swaddled me in wristbands and lacquered me with passes, the three of us set off, leaving Matt to merrily scoff Teutonic yob nosh. Reaching Keith, it transpires, is like attaining enlightenment: you must pass through many levels and exercise great patience and detachment.

The hospitality area had been charmingly named Voodoo Lounge or the Snake-Eyed Buffet, or something, and there I met Charlie Watts's niece, Nikki, who served me banana yoghurt as Briana went off to finalise the actual meet.

I'd become a little nervous now the meet was upon me. 'He's lovely,' Nikki assured me. The presence of Nikki and her pal Susie was a comfort. Both Essex girls, their bawdy humour and glottal stops gave me familiarity in this peculiar peripatetic rock mall. Noticing my pleb ticket, they said they'd arrange raised seats by the mixing desk, the gig's Camelot. As I thanked them, Briana returned with Jane Rose, Keith's manager and member of the Stones' entourage for 30 years. An attractive American matriarch, she initially exhibited the prerequisite austerity that all powerful women in showbusiness seem to have - necessary, I suspect, to protect their charges and their position. Also, a dedication beyond professional loyalty was evident in her and most of those I spoke with backstage. I hope it doesn't seem grandiose to say it bordered on religious devotion, oddly discordant with the franchise feel surrounding the stadium. I was led through corridors and down stairs, like the bit in Spinal Tap, passing various refugees from the Sixties and exchanging a friendly nod with Ronnie Wood till we reached a vestibule where we were to wait.

'Keith is coming,' someone said. I realised I simply had to go to the toilet. Before every performance, I ritually evacuate. It makes me feel cleansed, light, literally unblocked; the thought, the very idea, of meeting him with full bowels seemed absurd and someone took me, like a toddler, to the lavvy.

It's not just the defecation; I like to have a moment alone to gather my thoughts, to focus. It's a hangover from my time as a junkie, when every challenging encounter was preceded by a trip to a cubicle to heighten, or numb, my unreliable senses. Once solitary I began the rigmarole of unbuckling my numerous belts and peeling off my preposterously tight jeans, then at the least convenient junction, came the cry, 'Russell, Keith's waiting for you!' Oh God.

I hastily completed, cleansed, and buckled my belts. I think there were four and one has to be twice wrapped around your waist. It was like applying lights to a Christmas tree under the glare of an atheist with a grudge.

'Hurry up!' Oh no. I dashed out. A fidgety minion held the door ajar. I made to leave but then remembered I was about to shake the hand of Keith Richards without due hygienic procedure. 'I've got to wash my hands,' I said, darting to the sink. The forlorn lackey shook his head despairingly and I scrambled out the door after him while drying between my fingers with a paper towel. I still had the screwed-up towel in my wet hand as I blustered into the room where the photo that adorns the cover of this month's OMM was to be shot.

And there he was. Actual Keith Richards. The Keith Richards. A man called Keith Richards. Cool and chuckling, twinkling and serene, devoid of the irritation apparent among the management and flunkies provoked by my toilet trip.

'Alright mate, I'm Russell.'

'Hey man, I'm Keith.'

Sometimes listening to old Hancock tapes I think, that's an old joke, before realising, this was recorded in the Fifties and probably the first time anyone had commented on lumpy gravy. When Keith said 'hey man', it seared right through three decades of cliche, a comet of authenticity, from a time when everything seemed original. What do you say to him that he's not already heard? I resorted to pleasantries.

'You look ever so well, particularly after what happened.'

'That was nothing.'

I became friends once with this Swami who looked at me with timeless eyes, a man uncluttered by hypocrisy, who knew that life had no meaning but to be beautiful and lived, with each breath, that ethos. This man came to mind in the company of Keith. I sense the reason he's become an icon is because of an essential quality. Rock'n'roll, it seems, is not borrowed or learned or slung about his shoulders like his guitar but emanating from his core.

'You're a DJ?' he inquired.

'I'm a comedian, Keith.'

'Hey, me too.'

Andy asked us to move closer together. Keith moved towards me, all warm.

'Can I photograph you with the guitars?' asked Andy.

'Be easier with a camera,' joked Keith, taking one guitar from a stand and handing me another. A few more flashes and clicks before we were told, OK! That's enough! And someone appeared to usher Keith off.

'See you later, man. Gotta go press some flesh. Enjoy the show.'

'Bye Keith. Good luck with the gig. And the flesh-pressing,' I said, trying to lasso him with sycophancy as he ambled out the door. It was dead brief, but it felt good. A hurried copulation. I felt elated. So off we went to rejoin Matt, who I knew would have spent the interim period getting drunk, and to see the Rolling Stones live in Cologne.

Our seats by the mixing desk were slightly elevated over the crowd, and felt like a paddock for hangers on, where paying customers could regard us with envy and contempt. Charlie's niece, Nikki, and her mate turned up, and were a laugh. The stadium was perhaps 90 per cent full and there was an air of cosy expectation. Jane Rose, Keith's manager, joined us in the paddock. I asked her why Keith had continued to perform so late in his life and when she spoke of his passion for music and his love of what he does, her eyes filled with tears. Jane told me that most nights she photographs the band as they perform and later, as they transformed the gentle evening into a night of rock'n'roll, I noticed her dutifully keeping her log, regarding them with her devoted, uncritical lens.

'What did you think of Keith?' Jane asked.

'He was very sweet,' I said. 'Dead generous, and he made me feel very comfortable.'

'Wait till you see the tiger out of the cage.'

This struck me as an unlikely trailer, but was clearly sincere. When they emerged with 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', it was not with a roar but, rather, an echo that has perennially rung out since their birth in a crossfire hurricane. It seems churlish to chide them for not defying the passage of time. They are magnificent enough to suggest that some awful portraits must be lurking in their attics and if they're not as good as they were in the Sixties, neither is anyone else. They have not been replaced.

The final 25 minutes of hits constituted the best live performance I've ever seen and called to mind Lester Bangs' famous review of Vegas Elvis when, although bloated, bejewelled and barbituated, the King still had that voice and the power to make cocks harden and thighs tingle. Similarly, the Stones are the greatest rock'n'roll band there has ever been, and they're still without equal.

Perhaps it is this absence of a contemporary equivalent that makes us unwilling to relinquish them. What would we do without the Rolling Stones? What would they do? It was extraordinary to witness as the night concluded Mick and Keith embrace and congratulate each other. What's left for them to say? A married couple exhibiting that degree of warmth after 40 years of monogamy would be viewed with suspicion. And while the liberal values of the decade that spawned them transmogrified into the selfishness of the Eighties, the band are now so culturally ensconced that when there's no more Stones one could be forgiven for questioning if there will be any rock'n'roll at all.

What do you think? Tell us on the Observer blog.

· The Rolling Stones play Twickenham, 20/22 August; Hampden Park, Glasgow, 25 Aug; Don Valley, Sheffield, 27 Aug; Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 29 Aug. Russell Brand, BBC 6 Music, Sundays, 10am-1pm,,1840407,00.html

(thanks to southboundtrain on IORR for the link)
13th August 2006 09:48 AM
Honky Tonk Man A fucking great read! Cheers for posting Gazza.
13th August 2006 10:26 AM
speedfreakjive a weird combination of characters
13th August 2006 10:51 AM
PartyDoll MEG Hilarious read!! Thanks, Gazza!!
13th August 2006 10:59 AM
speedfreakjive wrote:
a weird combination of characters

No kidding. An odd piece too...was expecting more of an interview, but theres more time devoted to details of his bowel movements than there is about Keith

A bit like Joey's posts, I suppose....
[Edited by Gazza]
13th August 2006 11:00 AM
Gazza wrote:

No kidding. An odd piece too...was expecting more of an interview, but theres more time devoted to details of his bowel movements than there is about Keith

A bit like Joey's posts, I suppose....
[Edited by Gazza]

Search for information in the wet page, the archives and this board:

The Rolling Stones World Tour 2005 Rolling Stones Bigger Bang Tour 2005 2006 Rolling Stones Forum - Rolling Stones Message Board - Mick Jagger - Keith Richards - Brian Jones - Charlie Watts - Ian Stewart - Stu - Bill Wyman - Mick Taylor - Ronnie Wood - Ron Wood - Rolling Stones 2005 Tour - Farewell Tour - Rolling Stones: Onstage World Tour A Bigger Bang US Tour

Search for goods, you'll find the impossible collector's item!!!
Enter artist an start searching using "Power Search" (RECOMMENDED)