Holding the Keith to Long life
As you may know by now, I am trying to become the Oldest Man in the World. If you didn’t know by now, don’t worry – it’ll probably gather a more momentum when I break into the top 3 billion.
So far my attempt is going well. I’m still alive. That’s all I can really hope for at this stage (apart from some rapid premature ageing on my part which I don’t really want or some rapid apocalyptic disaster killing everyone older than me which I don’t really want either).
Since telling people about this attempt I have become known, to a small extent, as the guy who is trying to become very old. I’m fine with that. But recently I’ve become increasingly aware of another guy, a rival perhaps, who looks like he’s going to become very old but who seems to be doing everything in his power to make that not to happen. He’s inching closer to the title reluctantly. He already looks like he could be the oldest man in the world and he clearly doesn’t give a damn. He really doesn’t care if what he does might kill him but he’s still very much alive. He’s already twice my age. And his name is Keith Richards.
His autobiography is fittingly called ‘Life’ and how he’s managed to keep hold of his seems to be the main selling point. Since the book’s launch a couple of weeks ago, Keith’s face has been all over the papers, and what a face, like a gnarled oak tree, hammered by woodpeckers and eroded by time. I’d like that sort of face when I’m 120 (maybe not when I’m 67). I occasionally worry that I don’t have enough wrinkles, that I haven’t lived an exciting enough life to earn laughter-lines. Richards has earned his stripes. But as well as his face, almost every article seems to have featured some level of astonishment that Keith has managed to stay alive at all. It would appear that he has already defeated the odds, that he should really, to be blunt, be dead and so he must, to some extent, hold the keys to immortality.
According to rock critic Nick Kent, Keith in his prime was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. I’m rarely described as any of those things. Here’s a tiny selection of the mad, bad and dangerous things he’s done:
Drugs – Keith was tried for drugs-related charges five times before I was even born. The most serious occasion was in 1977 when he was arrested in Toronto by the Canadian Mounted Police with 22 grams of heroin on him. That’s a lot of heroin and horses. Mad, bad and dangerous.
Cars – he may have been pardoned in 2006 but back in 1975 Keith was arrested for reckless driving in Arkansas. He may well have swerved wildly because he was adjusting the radio as he said at the time (as opposed to smoking marijuana or drinking booze as the police thought at the time) but either way; mad, bad and dangerous.
Trees - More recently, in April 2006, Richards fell of a tree in Fiji. Shows were cancelled and he underwent cranial surgery in New Zealand. Mad, bad and dangerous.
Ash – the following April, Richards admitted snorting the ashes of his late father. ‘He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow’, he told NME magazine. ‘My dad wouldn’t have cared... It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive’. Exactly. He’s still alive. Despite being mad, bad and dangerous.
So perhaps I shouldn’t worry so much about being safe. You clearly can live a long while popping pills other than vitamins, running wild and taking risks. Do I want to reach 120 having sat on my sofa wrapped in cotton wool for the last 90 years? Wouldn’t it be better to scrap my way to old age and have some amazing memories to keep me going for that tricky last decade (if I still have enough brain cells to cope with the images)?
I’m no less determined to break the record. Don’t you worry, I’m in it to win it. But there may be an alternative route to the title. I can play an attacking game rather than sitting back and defending. In October last year, Richards was presented the Rock Immortal Award by Johnny Depp at Spike TV’s Scream 2009 awards ceremony in LA. He is immortal. And he’s won an award for it.
‘I liked the living legend, that was alright’, said Richards, referring to yet another award he’d been given in 1989, ‘but immortal is even better’. Quite right, Keith.
I'm a magnificent man.