Keith Richards on the guitarist who had “everything”

Although he may not be the most handsome man in rock history, Keith Richards is unquestionably one of the most admired guitarists in the genre’s history. No one else has the same sensual enjoyment for picking up a basic G chord like The Rolling Stones‘ High Seas Skipper. He is aware that a masterpiece only requires a few chords, and that when you work within such constraints, subtlety becomes the key.

In an interview with Guitar Moves, he remarked, “If that one [the right hand], doesn’t connect with that one [the left hand], you’re getting what? One and a half stories?” 

This represents his thoughtfulness as a musician. Richards, whose music is rooted in the blues, has long rejected bragging, viewing it as nothing more than egotistical nonsense that falls short of the spirit of well-executed rock ‘n’ roll. This explains also why he held such high regard for his bandmates Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. Despite having a straightforward rhythm section, Richards saw the strength entirely in the “mix.”

But Mick Taylor was the one bandmate who made Richards feel more proud than anybody else. At the early age of 20, the young superstar joined the Stones in 1969, but Richards was soon mesmerized by his amazing technique. Richards explained in his 2010 memoir, Life, “I was in awe sometimes listening to Mick Taylor, Everything was there in his playing the melodic touch, a beautiful sustain and a way of reading a song.” According to Richards, this was everything he was looking for in a guitarist.

Thanks to his ability on the acoustic, Richards was able to gauge Taylor’s power during these jam sessions, where Taylor assisted with songwriting after Brian Jones left. The strumming swaggerer claims that this is necessary. He explained, “I would say that the acoustic guitar is the most important thing for a guitar player to start with, learn the feel and the touch of that string and what it does against the fret; learn that, and then you can add the effects later on.”

Taylor attributes his touchdown to his innate approach to learning the instrument. Taylor says, “I suppose because I have a good ear, I could pick out harmonies and learn by ear. I still think that you have to have an ear for music to really be able to feel and understand what you’re playing. You can learn by watching and listening to other people.” That’s much simpler when you’re spending endless periods sitting a few yards away from Richards.

Collaboration was another one of the “everything” tools in Taylor’s toolbox. In light of Jones’s absence, this made him an essential component. Regarding his late friend’s departure, Richards stated to Rolling Stone in 2010 that “Brian demanded, you have to understand.” “And in a band like this, you also have to be supportive and giving. Having to deal with his jealousy, with Mick and me writing the songs, when you’re working 300-odd days a year — it becomes intolerable, and you can get really nasty about it.“

Below, you can see how well Taylor and Richards mesh on the Stones’ masterpiece, “Gimme Shelter.”



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