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Keith Richards’ opinion on John Lennon

Keith Richards
Images from J. Bouquet and John Lennon's Instagram


Keith Richards’ opinion on John Lennon

The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are the two biggest Rock and Roll bands that appeared in the United Kingdom in the early 60s and they were crucial for the evolution of the music genre. For decades, a “rivalry” between the bands was kept alive by the fans, since they had a different attitude, style and were musically different most of the time. Over the decades the members of the two bands talked a lot about each other, including The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who gave his opinion on The Beatles, including the late guitarist and singer John Lennon.


What is Keith Richards’ opinion on John Lennon

Even though the press and fans tried to create some kind of animosity between the two British groups, especially in the early days, the members of both bands were really good friends and The Beatles even helped the Stones to get their first hit and a record deal.

Keith Richards, who is also known for being a sincere person and always giving his true opinion on other bands, already chose The Beatles as one of the best of all time. He said that in a project called “Living Legends” that The Rolling Stones had with Youtube back in 2008, where Richards and Mick Jagger answered fans questions. The guitarist listed the 4 bands that in his opinion are the best of all time and when talking about the Fab Four, he said: “The Beatles, obviously. I mean, I sort of throw them in, obvious.”

One of the members of the famous Liverpool band that Richards was a really good friend of was exactly John Lennon. In an interview for Ask Keith, a special serie of questions and answers he had on his website back in 2004 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Richard gave his opinion on the late Beatle.

“I used to hang out with John quite a bit. He was outrageous. I mean, he was just a beautiful spirit, he certainly didn’t deserve that (being killed). I guess the older it gets, the more we are gonna go through of this saying like Gram Parsons, George and John, ‘What the hell am I doing here, you know what I mean?'”

Keith Richards continued:

“As I say, the good die young. John, I think he used to come and see me just to be sort of one of The Stones for a night and not be one of The Beatles. Like to get outrageous, you know (laughs). ‘Ok, so you just sleep in front of the toilet, John, and you will be alright!’ It was kind of like that, you know. We were just great mates and he is a free sprit”.

His relationship with The Beatles members

One year before, also on his website (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) he talked about The Beatles, recalling how was their relationship in the early days. He said that they were always in good terms and that both groups would talk to each other and release new material on different days, so that they didn’t clash with each other when a new record was out.

“John was a particular good friend of mine. Stories that cannot be told (laughs). George was a lovely guy, we got Paul (a great songwriter) and Ringo, what a guy, what a steady (beat). They came to see us play. We were playing in a pub, at Station Hotel in Richmond, that was our gig.”

“It was the only one we really had. Everybody was having a good time. I turn around and there is these four guys in black leather overcoats standing there. This was soon after ‘Love Me Do’.”

Keith Richards continued:

“I mean this was really early on and this is early 60s. From then on we’re always good mates. When George’s new single (was ready) we always made sure we didn’t clash because in those days was like every two months you had to have a new single.”

“We would collaborate with each other. So we didn’t go head to head, because otherwise it seemed like ‘you’re either Beatles or Stones’, bullshit. And we are so similar, that’s not true. We all recognized that and it was one of the great things about it. I mean, between the two bands there was never any sense of competition, was cooperation,” Keith Richards said.

The Beatles were even part of the all-star Rolling Stones concert film called “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus”. That movie also featured Jethro Tull, The Who, Taj Mahall and Marianne Faithfull. Curiously, Richards and Lennon had the chance to share the stage that day, alongside guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Mitch Mitchell to perform The Beatles song “Yer Blues”. They were later joined by Yoko Ono and violinist Ivry Gitlis to play the song “Whole Lotta Yoko”, which was an extended Blues improvisitation.

How Keith Richards reacted to the death of John Lennon

John Lennon was brutally murdered in New York City by Mark Chapman back in December 8, 1980 at the age of 40. The crime shocked the world and still is one of the saddest moments from music history. In an interview with The Guardian back in 2000, to talk about the 20th anniversary of that tragic moment, Richards recalled how he reacted when he first heard the news in 1980.

“I was downtown on Fifth Avenue in New York. The first bit of news I got, I thought: ‘He’ll make it. It’s just a flesh wound.’ And then, later on, the news really came. He wasn’t just a mate of mine, he was a mate of everybody’s, really. He was a funny guy. And you realise that you’re stunned. You really don’t believe it. And you think, ‘God, why can’t I do anything about it?’ I got well drunk on it. And I had another one for John. Then there was the confusion, the phone calls, trying to find out if Yoko was OK.”

Keith Richards continued:

“There were the Beatles, and there was John. As a band, they were a great unit. But John, he was his own man. We got along very well. We didn’t see each other very often. But he would sort of turn up at your hotel. Usually, if I was in the city, I’d stay at the Plaza. If John turned up, that meant he wanted to party.”

“He didn’t come there to discuss, you know, philosophy, although it would end up like that. I would just get into town, and there’d be a knock at the door: ‘Hey, mon, what is going on around here?’ We would get the guitars down and sing. And, in our spare time, discuss world domination.”

“He’s rubbed off on me as much as anybody. A bit of me rubbed off on John, too, you know. He took it with him. My father just passed away, and he winked at me just before he died. I really feel a lot better about death now. I’m getting off on that wink. I’d give the wink to John,” Keith Richards said.

A few years before, in 1984, he had already said in an interview how good friends they used to be, especially around 1967, 1968 when they would drive around England for like “days on end”. Richards also said that knowing how good Lennon was he could imagine that he “probably cracked a joke to himself as it happened. John was that human, you know. There is a million other people that it could’ve happened to. Come on, look what that guy gave and look what he got in return,” Keith Richards said.

How The Beatles helped The Rolling Stones to get their first record deal and hit track

The Beatles were formed in 1960, releasing their debut album three years later in 1963 and The Rolling Stones came together two years later putting their first record out in 1964.

According to Paul McCartney, it was The Beatles who first helped the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards group to get a record deal and their first hit. The musician recalled the story in an interview with Playboy magazine back in 1984 of when he and John Lennon wrote the track “I Wanna Be Your Man” and gave it to The Stones.

“I wrote it (“I Wanna Be Your Man”) for Ringo to do on one of the early albums. But we ended up giving it to the Stones. We met Mick and Keith in a taxi one day in Charing Cross Road. Mick said, ‘Have you got any songs?’ So we said, ‘Well, we just happen to have one with us!’”

Paul McCartney continued:

“I think George had been instrumental in getting them their first record contract. We suggested them to Decca, ‘cuz Decca had blown it by refusing us. So they had tried to save face by asking George, ‘Know any other groups?’ He said, ‘Well, there is this group called the Stones.’”

“So that’s how they got their first contract. Anyway, John and I gave them maybe not their first record. But I think the first they got on the charts with. They don’t tell anybody about it these days. They prefer to be more ethnic. But you and I know the real truth,” Paul McCartney said.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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