Keith Richards


Keith looked up at the chimney, then back at me. I saw a gleam in his eye. We had this one.

    Keith ambled out of the airplane, legs stiff from the 45 minute trip from Teterboro. He smiled. Keith looked like warm, friendly leather. Soft eyes. 
    "I'm Gil Markle, Keith. Welcome here." 
    "Hey, yeah. Nice, man. Nice trip." 
    "And I'm Alan Dunn, Gil. Sorry for the delay, but here we are." 
    I was then introduced to Jane Rose, who was talking to Keith and looking at him while shaking my hand, to Alan's comely wife Maureen, and to a smiling Patti Hansen, who looked me right in the eyes. 
    "Let's go," I said. "Black car, over there. " 
    "We all going in one car?" Keith asked. 
    "Yes," I said. "We'll all fit." I made a mental note to investigate the purchase of a second black Cadillac. (Except they didn't build big ones anymore.) We squeezed into the car. Keith, Patti, and Jane Rose in the back seat; Alan Dunn and his wife up front; me driving. 
    "Car got a radio?" Keith shouted up. 
    I flipped to WAAF, The Police; then to WBCN, an old J. Geils cut; then to some Hartford station, Jerry Lee Lewis. 
    "Yeah," Keith erupted. "Yeah." 
    I turned up the volume, and by the end of the tune, which was "Personality," we were gliding up Stoddard Road, past the Long View pond and rowboat, and up the long gravel drive. The Farmhouse glistened white, and the enormous barn glowed cherry red under a dark but very starry summer's night sky. There was a new moon. It was silent, except for the crickets. 
    "Welcome to Long View, Keith," I said. 
    "Yeah," Keith replied. "Nice place." 
    We were scarcely inside the house, drinks ordered up but not yet in hand, when Alan Dunn motioned to me and took me aside, behind the fireplace. "Look," he said, "this has got to be quick tonight. I've got to be back in the city for a day's work tomorrow. So does Jane Rose. Keith's got to be in Rome before the weekend, and he's nowhere near ready to go. Just got evicted from his apartment, and there're a lot of loose ends to tie up. So give him a quick tour, and let's take a look at your plans for the loft. Don't get your hopes up. There's just not time for us to do much tonight." 
    "Here's your wine, Alan," I said. "And here's a screwdriver for Keith. Where'd he go?" 
    "Into the control room, I think. With Patti. Let's meet up in the loft in ten minutes, and you better call your pilots and tell them to be ready to depart Worcester for Teterboro at eleven, at the latest. Sorry it's got to be so rushed, but this was your idea, not mine." 
    "Ten minutes, Alan, in the loft."     
   It took us twenty minutes to get up there, not ten. Keith was in no hurry, and neither was I, if you want to know the truth. We hung out in the control room for a while, and I explained to him how we have tie lines between the two studios, and how we sometimes record over across the way, in the barn, but mix here in Control Room A. We then took a look at the bedrooms upstairs, the balcony overlooking our antique Steinway, and our collection of records. 
    "You keep all your fifties in one place, too," he remarked with apparent relief. "Easier that way, isn't it? That cassette deck work?" 
    "Sure does, Keith. What you got there?" 
    "Bunch of stuff all mixed up. Starts with some Buddy Holly, I think." 
    Keith slammed the cassette into the cassette deck, which hangs at eye level just as you enter the kitchen, and hit the "go" button. 
    "Select tape two on the pre-amp," I shouted over to him, which he did. 
    On came Buddy Holly, as expected. Keith turned it up, loud, very loud, until it began to distort the JBLs hanging overhead, then down just a notch. Maximum undistorted volume, that's called. He extended his glass to me, which now had only a bit of yellow left in it, way down at the bottom of the glass. He needed a refill. 
    "Good idea," I said. "Then let's go across the way and I'll show you what we have in mind for the stage." 
    "Yeah," Keith said. "Let's go over to the barn. Got to find Patti, though. Hold on a minute." 
    Patti materialized, and we headed out, through the library, under the moosehead, past the fish tank, and out onto the driveway. 
    "Look down there, Keith," I said. "Those lights down there are Stanley's, and he's our nearest neighbor. Farmer." 
    "Hope he likes rock 'n' roll," Keith laughed. 
    "He better by now," I said. "He's been hearing it from us for almost eight years now. Up these stairs here, and straight ahead." 
    Alan Dunn and Jane Rose were waiting for us in the loft, and had already been briefed by Geoff Myers, who was talking in an animated fashion, and moving his arms in wide arcs. He was explaining how deep the stage was going to be, and how strong. Keith listened for a moment, then walked over to one of the massive support beams, and kicked it. He looked up, whistled softly through his teeth, and spun around slowly, on his heel. 
    "Yeah," he said. "What's down there?" 
    "Come on, I'll show you," and I scrambled down the rickety ladder into what we now call the Keith Richards bedroom suite. Keith followed, with Jane Rose telling him to be careful. 
    "We don't really know how strong that thing is, now, do we? Gil, are you sure you need Keith down there? Why don't you just leave Keith up hereand you can talk to us from down there. Keith, are you all right? Keith!" 
    "Figured we'd do a bedroom and living area down here," I said. "Right beside the chimney here. A place for people to hang out during the rehearsals, but still be out of the way. Look up there. The stage will be on the level of those transverse beams. You'll be able to see the whole thing from down here. We'll build staircases, fix it up nice. Cassette deck will be over there; speakers hanging so, on either side of the chimney. Should sound good down here." 
    Keith looked up at the chimney, then back at me. I saw a gleam in his eye. We had this one. 
    Keith and I made our way back up the ladder, Keith first, much to Jane Rose's pleasure and relief. Geoff Myers was jumping up and down on the plank floor, trying to make it move. 
    "See? And this is just one layer of two-inch pine on top of two-by-eights. Nothing compared to the strength of the stage, which will havethree layers: beams of hemlock, pine sub-flooring, and oak finish. You could drive a truck up there and the floor wouldn't give a bit." 
    And that's all Keith needed to hear. He walked up to Geoff, and gave him a friendly slap on the lapel with the back of his hand. 
    "It won't bounce, right?" 
    "No bounce, Keith." 
    "We're coming, then. What a place I found!" 
    "We're what?" Alan interrupted. 
    "We're coming to this man's barn. Where's Mick now?" 
    "India, Keith." 
    "Let's go ring him. What a place I found!" 
    "How's your screwdriver, Keith?" I asked. It was plainly down to its ice cubes, and needed refreshing. 
    He looked at me, and at my screwdriver, which was still quite yellow, and full of Stolni'. 
    I poured my glass into his; he laughed, and we walked back across the driveway to the Farmhouse. Keith and I were getting on just fine.


 All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.