Keith Richards and alcohol go together like Mick Jagger and skinny jeans. That’s no shade to either member, it’s just a part of the mythology of The Rolling Stones. But, as with any storied mythos, things change, and the latest chapter of the Stones is a sober one.
“It’s been about a year now,” Richards told Rolling Stone of his decision to cut back on drinking. “I pulled the plug on it. I got fed up with it.” While he did admit that he still enjoys “a glass of wine occasionally, and a beer,” he insisted, “It was time to quit.”
When asked if it’s been an adjustment, he responded, “You can call it that, yeah,” but added, “I don’t notice any difference really – except for I don’t drink. I wasn’t feeling [right]. I’ve done it. I didn’t want that anymore.” Fortunately, he’s got nearby support.
His fellow guitarist Ron Wood has been sober for over eight years now, and told the publication that Richards has been “a pleasure to worth with,” adding that he’s “Much more mellow. He’s open to more ideas, whereas before I’d kind of grit my teeth and go, ‘He’s gonna give me some shit for saying this.’ Now, he’ll say, ‘That’s cool, man.’ ”
Wood digressed a bit more, saying: “It just wasn’t working anymore, you know? I think the Keith that we used to know and love had this cutoff point where if he had one more, he’d go over the top and he’d be nasty. The cutoff point became shorter and shorter, you know, and he realized that.”
Whether it’s impacted their live shows, Richards admired, “It was interesting to play sober,” a feeling that Wood further expanded upon. “We’re weaving [guitar parts] a lot more conscientiously now,” he adds. “We’re much more aware of the gaps and the spaces between. We’re in our seventies, but we’re still rocking like we’re 40-year-olds, you know?”
They’ll need to feel that youth come next year, when the Stones hit the road for another exhaustive round of US tour dates. What’s more, they’ll want those good feelings when they return to the studio to finally follow up 2005’s A Bigger Bang, which Woods teased in the interview: “Mick and Keith wanted to make sure the songs were really good,” he says, “so we’ve sort of taken a step back again, have a listen, put more into the pot.”
Looks like 2019 will be anything but a 21st century breakdown for the Stones.