1988 Countdown #100: Keith Richards, “Take It So Hard”

The first time I ever saw this video was in my college’s basement TV room, where I watched MTV and not much else (The Simpsons, Twin Peaks, and election results rounded it out, I think). The camera swooped dramatically over a black-and-white lunar landscape as a dirty guitar riff came out of the speakers. Then Keith Richards’ croaking vocals started, one of the least melodic squalls ever to come near the charts. We sat in stunned silence.

“Oh, that’s right,” somebody finally said. “He can’t sing.

Between 1968 and 1988, Keith Richards made some of the greatest rock albums in history, including Let It Bleed, Some Girls, and Exile on Main St. Between 1988 and 2008, he fell out of a tree.100keef2.jpg

In 1988, Keith turned 45, and although he was not yet in his full Cryptkeeper glory, the director of this video presents him as some sort of wizened last survivor of rock: the microphone stands are covered with cobwebs, and the clip has fake signs of aging (vertical white lines and other signs of abuse, like somebody stomped on the film stock in the shower). The proceedings are helped by this being a great song (vocals and all), the leadoff single from Keith’s solo debut, Talk Is Cheap. When this video was made, the Rolling Stones’ astonishingly long great run had come to an end (with the underrated 1986 album Dirty Work). Afterwards would come Steel Wheels: from here on in, every Stones studio album was just going to serve as bait for a lucrative worldwide tour. But here, unshackled from Mick, Keith sounds loose and looks like he’s having a blast, curling his lip and (literally) kicking his feet.

Rewatching reveals that what I always took as a lunar setting is something quasi-apocalyptic (rockalyptic?): the camera appears to be moving through a burnt-out gas station, or maybe a burnt-out arena. It also demonstrates that Waddy Wachtel, fine guitarist though he is, is one of the least attractive men in rock, with frizzed-out hair on loan from Dee Snider. Video cliché alert: towards the end of the clip, drummer Steve Jordan hits a cymbal and dust flies everywhere (reinforcing the theme that Keith Richards is too old to live, but not too old to rock). Did they cover the cymbal with talcum powder before each take to get it just so? Was there a talcum wrangler on the set? Video cliché alert #2: although the band is outside, somehow there is a ceiling fan.

posted 8 May 2008 in 1988 and tagged , . 1 comment

One Comment Thus Far on 1988 Countdown #100: Keith Richards, “Take It So Hard”

  1. Tom Nawrocki Says:

    Waddy Wachtel is downright inescapable, isn’t he? He’d be a lot easier to take if he owned a single item of clothing with sleeves.

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