Let’s raise a toast to the late great Anita Pallenberg, queen of the underground, the Rolling Stones muse who gave the Glimmer Twins their glimmer lessons. Pallenberg, who died Tuesday night at the age of 73 [Really 75], wasn’t merely Keith Richards’ consort â€“ she was a rock & roll legend in herself, a style icon, a crucial part of the Stones’ mystique. She taught Keith her sinister glare, taught Mick Jagger her wiggle, taught Brian Jones how to wear floppy hats. Look at pictures of Keith before and after Anita â€“ it’s like the difference between Buddy Holly and Jack the Ripper. As soon Keith connected with Anita, he lost his gawky shyness and learned to strut like her, wearing her scarves and shirts and bangles. She was the flower of evil in the Stones’ orbit, the baddest of bad girls â€“ her grin declared she knew more about sin than any of these English schoolboys had ever imagined.
Things tended to burst into flames around Anita. Her friend Marianne Faithfull used to call her “Glenda Hindenburg.” “Loads of people were scared of me,” Anita said in Victor Bockris’ Keith Richards: The Biography. “I guess it was all that savoir-vivre that I had, and I was from Rome and I had traveled and been in New York and I knew all these people, and I was pretty reckless as well. You could see Keith and Mick exchanging looks like, â€˜Who is this weird bird?'” That was putting it mildly. As Keith recalled, “She knew everything and she could say it in five languages. She scared the pants off me!”
What an embodiment of the mod beauty we adored in the 1960s! Go to the link â€” it’s to the NYT â€” to see the photographs of her that made us so envious â€” in the arms of Keith Richards in 1969 and drawing lipliner on Mick Jagger (in the movie “Performance”) in 1970.
That movie “remains as hallucinogenically strange and disturbing as ever and Pallenberg will be for ever remembered as Pherber: sexually omnivorous, dangerous, sweetly amoral. The movie… captures the psychosis of the end of the 60s, where art, crime and sex open up the gates of social mobility but identity becomes fragmented.”
Pallenberg spoke of drugs freezing her, so she did not grow emotionally. Faithfull has spoken of not being able to have sex without being semi-anaesthetised with drugs. Their stories remind us of what sexual liberation could mean for women in the 60s. These great beauties paid a huge price for being the â€œgirlfriendsâ€ of rock stars. Both these clever, multilingual, arty women educated their boyfriends (Jagger and Richards) about culture and art and style. Pallenberg got the boys to wear her clothes. Everyone, Faithfull once told me, was in love with Keith, even Mick of course â€¦
“I like a high-spirited woman. And with Anita, you knew you were taking on a Valkyrie â€” she who decides who dies in battle.” â€” wrote Keith Richards.
The Vancouver Sun responds to the arrival of Keith Richards: Under the Influence, a Netflix documentary by asking: How did Keith Richards become everybody’s favorite Rolling Stone?
Watching the old buccaneer in action, you have to wonder how he became so universally loved. He has been hailed as the Human Riff and anointed the worldâ€™s most elegantly wasted human being, the bad-boy pin-up for junkie chic with the heavily wrinkled face. Surely Richards should be nobodyâ€™s idea of a role model: self-indulgent, irresponsible, a star squandering his gifts on drugs and alcohol? Mick Jaggerâ€™s former partner, Jerry Hall, warned their children of the dangers of drugs by asking them if they wanted to grow up to look like Uncle Keith.
So how did such a reprobate survive five decades on the edge to become everybodyâ€™s favourite Rolling Stone?
Back when it all began, it was Jagger who was the epitome of sexy, rebellious cool. Richards was his scruffy sideman with a swaggering line in guitar riffs. Aficionados loved him but the dreamy Brian Jones was hailed as the bandâ€™s genius (not least by Jones himself). As the 60s ended, though, there was a shift in the Stones hierarchy. Richards was getting his look together: cigarette permanently attached to lower lip, jagged hair cascading around his head like an electrified mop, ragged gypsy clothing accessorized by skulls, rings and bandanas.
Dark-eyed and lean, Richards, even with his piratical flamboyance, took on a very masculine presence next to Jaggerâ€™s camp theatricality. It corresponded with his growing maturity as a musician. Richards took the reins for the Stonesâ€™ greatest run of work, from Beggars Banquet in 1968 to Goats Head Soup in 1973, reshaping blues for the modern age. But at the same time, he was developing habits that have made him the personification of all the most extravagant myths of sex, drugs and rockâ€™nâ€™roll.
“Monty Pythonâ€”are they still going? I mean, who wants to see that again really? It was really funny in the sixtiesâ€¦ Still, a bunch of wrinkly old men trying to relive their youth and make a load of money, I mean, the best one died years ago!”
Keith Richards tells the Wall Street Journal that the opening chords of Street Fighting Man were intended to imitate the sound of French police sirens.
Around this time, I became fascinated by one of the early cassette tape recorders made by Philips. The machine was compact, so it was portable, and it had this little stick microphone, which would allow me to capture song ideas on the fly. So I bought one, but as I watched the small tape-cartridge reels turn, I began to think of the machine not as a dictation device but as a mini recording studio. The problem is I couldn’t use an electric guitar to record on it. The sound just overwhelmed the mike and speaker. I tried an acoustic guitar instead and got this dry, crisp guitar sound on the tapeâ€”the exact sound I had been looking for on the song.
At the time, I was experimenting with open tunings on the guitarâ€”you know, tuning the strings to form specific chords so I could bang out the broadest possible sound. That’s how I came up with “Street Fighting Man’s” opening riffâ€”even before I bought the Philips. I based the rest of the song’s melody on the tone pattern of those odd sirens French police cars use [sings the siren and lyrics to illustrate].
Sometime in early ’68, I took the Philips recorder into London’s Olympic Sound Studios and had Charlie [Watts] meet me there. Charlie had this snap drum kit that was made in the 1930s. Jazz drummers used to carry around the small kit to practice when they were on the bus or train. It had this little spring-up hi-hat and a tambourine for a snare. It was perfect because, like the acoustic guitar, it wouldn’t overpower the recorder’s mike. I had Charlie sit right next to the mike with his little kit and I kneeled on the floor next to him with my acoustic Gibson Hummingbird. There we were in front of this little box hammering away [laughs]. After we listened to the playback, the sound was perfect.
On that opening riff, I used enormous force on the strings. I always did that and still do. I’m looking at my hands now and they look like Mike Tyson’s. They’re pretty beat up. I’m not a hard hitter on the stringsâ€”more of a striker. It’s not the force as much as it is a whip action. I’m almost releasing the power before my fingers actually meet the strings. I’m a big string-breaker, since I like to whip them pretty hard.