Keith Richards stars on the January 2024 issue of Uncut, as we celebrate the great guitarist’s 80th birthday this month. Inside, a host of famous faces share their favourite stories and memories of Richards – including Jimmy Page. Sadly, we didn’t have room to feature all of Jimmy in the magazine – so below you’ll find the full version of our interview with him which begins in Manchester on October 21, 1962.
Now read on…
“Our paths first crossed when the first American Folk Blues tour came through Manchester [October 21, 1962]. To the true and faithful, it was a clarion call for all blues collectors and enthusiasts. There was an Epsom contingent that travelled up there, and that’s where I first met Keith and Mick. There they were and there I was, and I’m sure he remembered meeting me from that. Later, there was a gathering of people at this record collector’s house, which was a treat because he put on the Howlin’ Wolf album with the rocking chair on the cover [Howlin’ Wolf, 1962], which had stuff like ‘Down In The Bottom’, ‘Going Down Slow’, ‘You’ll Be Mine’. None of us had even heard that album yet. Can you imagine?
“Then I’d meet Keith along the way during the ‘60s. I went to hear the Stones when they did a night at the Flamingo club and I’d see them at various venues around London. They were truly faithful devotees of the Chess catalogue and they could play it all really well. Later I’d bump into them at Immediate Records, when I did a few bits and pieces, though they were more like demos. The first time I was actually playing with Keith was when we were on the same Chris Farlowe sessions that Mick was producing. ‘Yesterday’s Papers’  was a really good one. I’m playing acoustic on that. We were sitting next to each other and I got on really well with Keith because there was a great mutual respect. You could see that he was really disciplined in the studio, because you know what those sort of sessions were like – it’d be a three-hour session or whatever, where they get as much done as possible. And he was on the nail all the way through.
“Then we jump to 1974, when Ronnie had the Wick [in Richmond] and the studio underneath. He said, ‘Do you want to come round? I think Keith wants to do something.’ So that was the time when I really had a chance to play with him, because that was the backing track to ‘Scarlet’, with Keith playing rhythm and me doing a counterpoint riff. I remember thinking, ‘This is great,’ because I just wanted to sort of lay it on top of what he did and not get in the way. The following day, I put a couple of solo overdubs on it at Island. The thing I remember the most is that Keith was solid and driving and he didn’t make mistakes. He kept going all the way through. And I realised just what a powerful force he is behind those Rolling Stones records. There was no doubt about it. Of course, I could take it all apart and highlight everybody’s vital contribution, but Keith was really driving it.
“You can hear from listening to ‘Scarlet’ that I’m really on the crest of a wave with Zeppelin, with all the playing, so it would’ve been nice to maybe have done more together with Keith around that time, before we moved on to other pastures. It was two guitar musos creating something, which is how it is when you get together with someone like that. It was similar to me and Jeff [Beck], where we’d just sort of lock in, because there’s an automatic sort of mutual respect for each other that’s built up over the years.
“The next time I got a chance to play with him was in New York, when I was invited to the studio during Dirty Work . We had a couple of days to have a bit of a play and a jam, then I did the soloing over ‘One Hit (To The Body)’. Keith sent me a magnum of champagne afterwards, which was very sporting.
“There was another time too, jamming atthe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame , when Keith inducted Leo Fender. He gave a great speech about Leo Fender. He’d already taken off his dickie bib and had his shirt open and was up there in his tux. He looked great. And he said that the thing about Leo Fender was he built these wonderful guitars, but then he also built the amps to go with it. And I thought, ‘That’s right on the nail!’
“The thing about Keith is his timing is really good and he has the imagination to be able to construct these wonderful riffs, which are the driving force behind the Stones’ records, pretty much. Not only that, but he could then turn his attention towards the acoustic playing on the 12-string, where he does ‘Angie’ and things like that. So he’s extremely versatile. And super creative. If you’ve got somebody who can keep coming up with really good riffs decade after decade, that’s pretty serious. And to be respected.
“He’s given us decades of wonderful, creative music with an attitude and character which could only be Keith Richards. Let’s hope he lives for another 80 years. Who knows, I might be able to jam with him again in another 50!”