Keith Richards picks his favourite Rolling Stones riff

In his book Life, Keith Richards declared, “I’m the riff master.” That statement practically leaps out of the book because, let’s face it, when he’s telling tales of such pure insanity, it might be easy to lose sight of his guitar skills and find it hard to believe that technical proficiency could be a part of the same tornado.

The Londoner, however, has been pounding out riffs for ages, and he has endured as a renowned artist for so long in part because he never let that decadence get in the way of his fundamentals. In his heart, Richards is just a traditional blues musician. He keeps things basic, letting the atmosphere and uniqueness take care of the rest. He is now among the most well-known and revered musicians of all time as a result of this.

But which of all the riffs he has created is his favorite? He asks himself the same question in Life, though. He said, “I’m blessed with them and I can never get to the bottom of them, When you get a riff like ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ you get a great feeling of elation, a wicked glee. ‘Flash’ is basically ‘Satisfaction’ in reverse. Nearly all of these riffs are closely related. But if someone said ‘You can play only one of your riffs ever again,’ I’d say ‘OK, give me ‘Flash.'”

He added, “These crucial, wonderful riffs that just came, I don’t know where from,  wherever they came from keep ’em coming.”

It’s a very Keef-like method of rephrasing songwriter Hoagy Carmichael’s words, who once remarked, “And then it happened, that queer sensation that this melody was bigger than me. Maybe I hadn’t written it all. The recollection of how, when and where it all happened became vague as the lingering strains hung in the rafters in the studio. I wanted to shout back at it, ‘maybe I didn’t write you, but I found you’.”

This is particularly true for “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” as Richards puts it, saying that the riff “just floats there, baby.” However, it also stings as badly as a butterfly. The electric fizz was just the result of Mick Jagger sleeping over at Richards’ house and leaving his guitar in an open tuning. The next morning, they woke up to the clumping boots of Jumpin’ Jack, the guitarist’s gardener.

This whole thing happened by accident, which perfectly captures Richards’s essence as a musician. He would quickly dispel the notion that his favorite riff is a sign of shallowness by stating that it simply captures the joy he has while playing his instrument, despite the belief held by some that it wasn’t inspired by intense heartbreak or the urge to set the world right. The exhilarating outcome is evidence of the catharsis that comes from creation.


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