Published: 00:01, 02 October 2015
“I thought I was the only guy in the south east of England that knew anything about this stuff. By the time we got off the train we made a deal and that’s how the Stones hooked.”
This is rock legend Keith Richards describing the life-changing moment he rekindled a friendship with Mick Jagger at Dartford train station.
In the documentary “Under the Influence”, launched to coincide with the release of Richards’ first studio album in 23 years, Crosseyed Heart, his well-worn face is etched with glee as he recalls the day he saw Jagger in his train carriage with records by Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry tucked under his arm.
The pair had originally been classmates at Wentworth Primary but lost touch once they headed to secondary school.
“I hadn’t seen him in years and then I noticed, tucked under his arm, Chuck,” added a clearly excited Richards, clenching his fists and exclaiming “Get outta here!”.
It was a morning train journey that not only changed their teenaged lives – Richards was on his way to art college at the time – but one that forged one of the most successful music collaborations of all-time.
“Under the Influence”, showing on Netflix, gives a fascinating and well-crafted insight into the man and his music, interweaving nostalgic footage of the Rolling Stones on stage and in the recording studio, as well as Richards performing with his music heroes of that time, with tracks from Richards’ own latest offering.
Contrary to what the title suggests, there is very limited reference to either drugs or alcohol. The influences in this film are music and his mum.
Richards spent the first six years of his life living in a two-bedroomed flat in Chastilian Road, Dartford, with his mum Doris and father Bertrand before moving as a family to Spielman Road in the town.
“I hadn’t seen him in years and then I noticed, tucked under his arm, Chuck...” - Keith Richards on when he met Mick Jagger
Speaking fondly of his mum Richards says: “She was a beautiful music freak with incredible taste. She was a wizard of the dial.
“If there was anything worth listening to, she would find it.”
Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Louis Armstrong were favourites in the Richards home, “with a dash of Mozart here and there, and then all the rubbish,” he adds, breaking into an impromptu rendition of “You’re a Pink Toothbrush” by Max Bygraves.
Recalling his days growing up in Dartford after the Second World War, the 71-year-old said the arrival of Elvis was a bomb that “turned the world from black and white to technicolour”.
His grandfather Gus was himself a jazz musician and is attributed with giving a young Richards his first taste of playing guitar.
“He thought everyone was a musician if they got the chance to be. He just left the instrument laying about to see if it would catch the eye.”
After that fateful meeting with Jagger the rest, as they say, was history but Richards reveals he left home at 17 “under a cloud of disgrace” without his dad’s approval.
Sadly, his parents split soon after and he lost touch with his dad for 20 years.
“He was a straight-up guy, a hard-working man, and the idea of his son being busted for drugs, I can think of him saying ‘He’ll never come to any good’.”
Their relationship rekindled when Richards wrote him a letter, received one back and arranged to meet.
“I took Ronnie Wood for protection, that’s how scared I was. Out comes this little old guy, his legs were going a bit, but it was dad.
“It was so easy and within a few minutes we sorted it all out and in the next 20 years he became my best mate.
“He came on every trip, every show, he came around the world with me, and he didn’t mind me showing it to him.”
The Keith Richards that appears in “Under the Influence” is familiar to us all: Craggy-faced, bandana-adorned and a voice ravaged by booze and chain-smoking.
But in a poignant moment he describes that image as “like a ball and chain” and his idea of heaven is to be a rock ‘n’roll star, “never seen, totally anonymous”.
In the closing stages, the film turns to his life away from music. Attributing his feelings of “accomplishment, continuity and love” to his many children and grandchildren, it is clear family is at the heart of the man.
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