Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, wants everyone to know that he is a big fan of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Johnson writes about his longtime fascination with Richards in his memoir “Boris Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World,” which is being published in the U.K. by Harper Press on October 27, 2011.
As previously reported, in December 2010, Johnson wrote an open letter saying that Richards deserves to get a knighthood. (Apparently, Johnson is not knowledgeable enough about Richards, because Richards has said in many interviews and in his memoir “Life” that he would refuse any royal title because he mistrusts the U.K. government and British royalty.)
The Telegraph published an excerpt from “Boris Johnson’s Life of London.” Here is what Johnson says in the book about meeting Richards at the 2011 GQ Men of the Year Awards:
For years I have snuffled on his spoor, but never come across a trace of the man himself; until not so long ago, when fate dealt me the most incredible slice of luck.
I was due to attend a ceremony in Covent Garden, where the objective was to make a short speech in honour of the noble and learned Lord Coe and to give him a prize. When I reached the Royal Opera House, the road was jammed with huge limos, glossy black Bentleys and Maybachs. Within was taking place the most important and mystic rite of the national cult of celebrity. It was the GQ Man of the Year Award.
“I am sorry I am so late,” I apologised to an impossibly tall, thin, and yet somehow curvaceous, hostess who appeared at my side. “When am I on?”
“Not long now,” she said. “You’re speaking after Keith Richards.”
He was there to receive his Writer of the Year award, and his speech was short, droll, modest, and as soon as he had gyrated back to his seat, I knew that this was it. This was my moment. Quickly I did my own turn on stage, and then with some pushfulness, I persuaded Keith’s agent to let me station myself by his side. “Just five minutes, just three,” I pleaded.
At last, Keith came back from having his photo taken and there took place a vicious contest for the honour of sitting next to him.
After decades of hoping, I found myself sitting inches from the kohl-eyed demigod, and I noticed that though his face was as lined as Auden’s, his teeth were American in their whiteness. We began with some small talk about how much I had enjoyed his book Life, and about his grandparents, and what it was like growing up in wartime Dartford, where a doodlebug explosion had lobbed a brick on to his cot.
But the crowd around us was jostling and jabbering ever more insistently, assorted supplicants descended like harpies, begging him to sign their napkins, their £20 notes, their left breasts, etc and I knew that I must blurt it out.
“Er, Keith,” I stumbled.
“Mr Ma-yor”, he said, in his courtly way.
“I’ve got this theory that, er…” and I gasped out the story, as told by Joe Walsh, the god-gifted guitarist of the Eagles: Walsh revealed that he had never even heard Muddy Waters until he went to hear a Stones concert, right?
“That’s right,” said Keith, nodding.
And so, I went on, you could argue that the Stones were critical in the history of rock’n’roll – by now I was half-shouting – because they gave back the blues to America!
“I’ll go with that,” said Keith with infinite affability. And I’ll go with it, too, Keith.