Another excerpt from Keith Richards’ Life, which I finished yesterday. It’s SUCH a good book. He is hilarious. I was crying with laughter at his description of the animals he saw on a safari in Africa. You can hear his voice. It’s so fantastic.I want to get the audio book, which was highly acclaimed as well, and (name-drop), Joe Hurley is one of the readers. Joe Hurley is huge here in New York, and I’ve seen him perform a number of times (and went to his annual St. Patrick’s Day rock revue a couple years ago), but I have a fondness for him mainly because he is the star of this event in my life (he is the “scruffy Irish dude”), one of my most memorable New York moments EVER, and I didn’t even know who he was at that point. I will love him forever for that memory. And he’s one of the Keith Richards readers!
Incidentally: if you want to have strangers come up to you and start to talk to you about what you are reading, carrying Keith Richards’ memoir is a great way to make that happen. I can’t even count how many people have just struck up conversations with me. The waitress at the Arcade Restaurant in Memphis. A guy in Confederate Park. A lady at the Memphis airport. Some have read it, others haven’t but want to. Everyone wants to talk about it.
Certainly one of the best memoirs from an entertainment legend I have ever read.
I’ve only been excerpting here the bits that have to do with Elvis, but there’s so much more in the book, of course. It’s so good. I highly recommend it. There’s a great interview here with Richards, about those Sun recordings, with Elvis and Scotty and Bill, which leads into the excerpt I wanted to share today.
That Elvis LP had all the Sun stuff, with a couple of RCA jobs on it too. It was everything from “That’s All Right,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, “Milk Cow Blues Boogie.” I mean, for a guitar player, or a budding guitar player, heaven. But on the other hand, what the hell’s going on there? I might not have wanted to be Elvis, but I wasn’t so sure about Scotty Moore. Scotty Moore was my icon. He was Elvis’s guitar player on all the Sun Records stuff. He’s on “Mystery Train”, he’s on “Baby Let’s Play House”. Now I know the man, I’ve played with him. I know the band. But back then, just being able to get through “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone”, that was the epitome of guitar playing. And then “Mystery Train” and “Money Honey”. I’d have died and gone to heaven just to play like that.” How the hell was that done? That’s the stuff I first brought to the johns at Sidcup, playing a borrowed f-hole archtop Höfner. That was before the music led me back into the roots of Elvis and Buddy – back to the blues.
To this day there’s a Scotty Moore lick I still can’t get down and he won’t tell me. Forty-nine years it’s eluded me. He claims he can’t remember the one I’m talking about. It’s not that he won’t show me; he says, “I don’t know which one you mean.” It’s on “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone.” I think it’s in E major. He has a rundown when it hits the 5 chord, the B down to the A down to the E, which is like a yodeling sort of thing, which I’ve never been quite able to figure. It’s also on “Baby Let’s Play House.” When you get to “But don’t you be nobody’s fool / Now baby, come back, baby …” and right at that last line, the lick is in there. It’s probably some simple trick. But it goes too fast, and also there’s a bunch of notes involved: which finger moves and which one doesn’t? I’ve never heard anybody else pull it off. Creedence Clearwater got a version of this song down, but when it comes to that move, no. And Scotty’s a sly dog. He’s very dry. “Hey, youngster, you’ve got time to figure it out.” Every time I see him, it’s “Learnt that lick yet?”