Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Laird of Pittenweem

In his autobiography, Life, Keith Richards paints a very touching picture of Ian Stewart, sixth Stone since May 1963. Richards: Ian Stewart. I'm still working for him. To me the Rolling Stones is his band. Without his knowledge and organization, without the leap he made from where he was coming from, to take a chance on playing with this bunch of kids, we'd be nowhere. I don't know what the attraction was with Stu and me. But he was absolutely the main impetus behind what happened next.

Stu to me was a much older man - actually only by about three or four years, but at that time so it seemed. And he knew people. I knew nothing. I'd just come from the sticks. I think he'd started to enjoy hanging around with us. He just felt there was some energy there. Stu was solid, formidable looking, with a huge protruding jaw, though he was a good-looking guy. I'm sure much of his character was influenced by his looks, and people's reactions to them, from when he was a kid.

He was detached, very dry, down-to-earth and full of incongruous phrases. His natural authority over us, which never changed, was expressed as "Come on, angel drawers", "my little three-chord wonders" or "my little shower of shit". He hated some of the rock-and-roll stuff I played. He hated Jerry Lee Lewis for years - "Oh, it's all just histrionics". Eventually he softened on Jerry, he had to crumble and admit that Jerry Lee had one of the best left hands he'd ever heard. Flamboyance and showmanship were not in Stu's bag. You played in clubs, it had nothing to do with showing off.

Ian put his money where his mouth was, at least where his heart was, because he didn't talk a lot about it. The only fantasy Stu ever had was his insistence that he was the rightful heir to Pittenweem, which is a fishing village across from St. Andrews golf course. He always felt cheated, usurped through some weird Scottish lineage. You can't argue with a guy like that. Why wasn't the piano loud enough? Look, you're talking to the laird of Pittenweem.

In other words, this is not worth discussing, you know? I once said, "What's the tartan, then, of the Stewart clan?" He said, "Ooh, black-and-white check with various colors". Stu was very dry. He saw the funny side of things. And it was Stu who had to pick up all the crap after the mayhem. There were loads of guys that were technically ten times better, but with his feel on the left hand, they could never get to where he was. He might have been the laird of Pittenweem, but his left hand came out of the Congo.

Adapted from the following source: Keith Richards, Life, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010.

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