News Keith Richards and Brian Jones couldn’t understand Bob Dylan in the 1960s
As one of the most influential guitarists of all time, The Rolling Stones‘ songwriting hero Keith Richards has seen many greats rise and is well placed to give his readings of their work’s validity.
A typically prickly individual, Richards has never been afraid to comment on the works of his prominent peers. Something of a British counterpart to the late Lou Reed, this outspoken nature has seen him butt heads with a host of notable names in his time. Perhaps the most famous spat he has had is with ‘Rocket Man’ singer Elton John, a man with whom he locked horns in a teeth-gritting fashion.
To give a flavour of what went down and just how vitriolic The Rolling Stones axeman can be, it all started in 1988 when Richards described Elton John as a “lovely bloke, but posing”. However, nearly a decade later, when John had re-written ‘Candle in the Wind’ following the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, Richards went one step further with the offensive comment about his piano-playing counterpart: “An old bitch… his writing is limited to songs about dead blondes.”
Yet, as a counterbalance to moments such as these, Richards does know how to praise other musicians. A figure he has discussed the brilliance of on many occasions in his later life is Bob Dylan. Yet, in typical style, when he spoke about the Duluth musician back in 1966 as a spritely loudmouth – a year after he had made the controversial leap of going electric on Bringing It All Back Home – the guitarist stated that he and bandmate Brian Jones couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about regarding the American.
He said: “Whatever these sweet young things who dig Dylan say, I bet they don’t understand much of what he is doing. We play a lot of his LPs, Brian and I, and quite a lot of his lyrics don’t mean anything to us. I have nothing against Dylan or Donovan, but I’m sick to the back teeth about the characters who are just climbing on a craze that think they can make quite a fortune.”
By 2015, though, it seems that Richards had changed his tune slightly and off-handedly commented that he sees Dylan as a peer. He explained: “Who do I see as my peers? Bob! Bob, I love Bob. Mind you, you never see him. We exchange the odd note here and there. The fact is that Bob’s band has now, since, well, for the last 15 years, been run by Georgie Recell, who’s the drummer. I lent him to Bob for six months, and that was in 2001… Bob, I love. That guy’s got white-line fever. He works constantly. It’s unbelievable.”