For nearly a half-century, critics and music fans have ruminated about Sgt. Pepper’s place in the pantheon of classic albums. Many have declared the Beatles’ eighth studio album is right at or near the pinnacle of all-time greats. Not Keith Richards.
The Rolling Stones legend has described it as a “mishmash of rubbish.”
The guitarist and rock ‘n’ roll wildman has never backed down from a challenge or betrayed his own thoughts on any given subject. And he’s one of few artists alive qualified to throw shade at the Beatles. He’s done just that in a sound-bite filled interview with Esquire.
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Richards remarked that there’s “not a lot of roots” in the Beatles’ music and flayed the George Martin-produced recorded music landmark, which was released back in 1967. “I think they got carried away. Why not? If you’re the Beatles in the ’60s, you just get carried away — you forget what it is you wanted to do. You’re starting to do Sgt. Pepper. Some people think it’s a genius album, but I think it’s a mishmash of rubbish, kind of like Satanic Majesties — “Oh, if you can make a load of shit, so can we.”
The riffmaster recalled a time when the stars on stage couldn’t hear their own instruments for the deafening screams of the audience. Forget Yoko Ono. Those rabid female fans were the wedge that drove apart the Beatles, according to Richards. There were “no PAs. And 3,000 screaming chicks could just wail you out of the whole place. Just looking at the crowd, you could see them dragging the chicks out, sweating, screaming, convulsing. Astonishing, even at that age. At the same time, a whole roomful of chicks yelling at you is not so shabby, either. Because the year before, nobody would look at you. But they talk about us — the Beatles, those chicks wore those guys out. They stopped touring in 1966– they were done already. They were ready to go to India and shit.”
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Richards’ unrestrained comments aren’t without context. He’s on the promotion trail in support of Crosseyed Heart, his first solo album in 23 years. The album includes a duet with Norah Jones called “Illusion,” which she co-wrote and features the talents of guitarist Waddy Wachtel, keyboardist-vocalist Ivan Neville, background singer Sarah Dash, keyboardist Spooner Oldham, steel guitarist Larry Campbell, and saxophonist Bobby Keys. Due out Sept. 18 on Republic Records, it’s Richards’ first solo album since 1992’s Main Offender.
Richards has said and done some wacky things in his time. He nearly lost his life when he fell from a tree while holidaying in Fiji in 2006. And the following year he made headlines when he told the NME that he had mixed his dad’s ashes with cocaine and snorted them (his reps denied it but he later reiterated that he did inhale the ashes, though without the white powder). His mighty slapdown on the sacred Sgt Peppers will be remembered for some time yet.