Keys does have a place in Stones lore. It’s just that he’s known more for his exploits in hotel rooms instead of onstage or in the studio. There’s the story about how, during a 1973 tour stop in Belgium, he took a soak in a tub filled with Dom Perignon. (“The only man who knows how many bottles of it it takes to fill a bath,” Keith Richards said of Keys in his 2010 memoir, “Life.” The stunt — which enraged Jagger — was supposedly the final reason for Keys’s decade-long absence from the group. He’s performed on every Stones tour since 1982.)
Then there’s the iconic scene from a 1972 Stones documentary in which Keys and Richards send a large TV plummeting 10 stories to its inevitable destruction. “Television’s boring, anyway,” Keys drawls before he and Richards drop it off a balcony and laugh as it splinters into pieces.
“The destruction of one home appliance . . . I don’t want that to be my legacy!” Keys says with a chuckle while chatting from his current home in Nashville, 40 years after his destructive moment.
That’s one of the reasons Keys wrote “Every Night’s a Saturday Night,” one of the most entertaining rock memoirs in a recently crowded field. Now 68, he’s been playing music since he was a teenager and not just with the Stones. He got his start alongside Buddy Holly, hooked up with the Stones and eventually played with the likes of John Lennon, George Harrison, Joe Cocker and Harry Nilsson. “Saturday Night” gives a stage-left perspective on a lifetime in rock-and-roll and mostly leaves the mayhem out of it.
“That’s all been well documented by hundreds of other books written about the rock-and-roll business,” he says. “You know, man, I wanted to talk more about the music and not the sensationalistic side of it.”
Richards’s book served as inspiration for Keys to tell his own story. After Richards’s co-writer, James Fox, interviewed Keys while doing research for “Life,” he was impressed with what he heard and asked Keys if he had ever thought about writing his own memoir. In fact, he had, but that attempt 20 years earlier was derailed by a co-writer, assigned by his publisher, who wanted to take what Keys calls “a tabloid, National Enquirer” approach — the exact opposite of what Keys was aiming for. New collaborator Bill Ditenhafer proved to be a much better match, and the pair worked through Keys’s memories while “drinking a few beers and eating some salads” over the course of many afternoons in Nashville.