It really bugs me when people say that Keith Richards looks like a pirate. Don’t these pseuds know that they’re talking about one of the coolest-looking rock stars to press his boot prints into this uncool Earth? How can Keith Richards look like anything other than Keith Richards?
Close your eyes and ask the slide projector inside your brain to shine an image of the man upon your eyelids. You’ll probably see something similar to a portrait that appears — quite poetically — on Page 101 of “Keith Richards: A Life in Pictures,” a new coffee-table chronology of the beloved Rolling Stone.
It’s a candid shot, snapped backstage in 1975, somewhere on the Stones’ “Tour of the Americas,” somewhere between the Atlantic and Pacific, sometime between “It’s Only Rock ’N Roll” and “Black and Blue.” They’re not out touring behind a new album. They’re just out there being the Rolling Stones.
That’s what Richards is doing in this photograph, too — just being. Telecaster casually perched on the right knee of his black leather pants, he runs his fingers through his messy hair. His mouth is open in a way that makes it hard to guess whether he’s speaking or listening, paying attention or zoning out. Either way, he looks totally relaxed, totally alive.
He also looks as if he’s arrived at the fulcrum of his style. The man in this photo is the renegade that Richards was always becoming, the renegade that he’s still trying to look like today, at age 72. Flip back a few pages in the book, and Richards appears a little more foppish. Flip forward, and he starts looking haggard. But right here, on Page 101, somewhere in 1975, he’s at the center of sartorial Keefness.
Caveat emptor: Although it includes photos by Jim Marshall, Deborah Feingold and Annie Leibovitz, this book’s cumulative optic oomph can’t match the electricity of a single page from “Life,” Richards’s acclaimed 2010 memoir. “A Life in Pictures” is for super-fans only. According to credits jammed into a small copyright notice on the book’s penultimate page, many of the pictures here were culled from the stock-photo vault of Getty Images.
Chris Richards is the pop music critic of The Washington Post.
Edited by Andy Neill
Overlook. 192 pp. $37.95