Eric often sends me links that crack me up, so my first response on Friday when I saw he forwarded me a parody response by Mick Jagger to Keith Richards's recent autobiography was to prepare for a good laugh. The alleged response, called "Please allow me to correct a few things," is, in fact, written by ace rock critic Bill Wyman, who has the novelty of sharing a name with the Stones' two-decades-gone original bass player. Wyman, who once received a legal demand by the bassist to change the name he was born with, seemed uniquely positioned to write a cutting fake retort.
Then I began reading and realized this was No Joke. As a longtime Stones devotee (read Late night thoughts about the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world for one recent example), I've often wondered what the surviving original members really think about each other, how they work together, what their work means to them as they're aging. Wyman has clearly spent way too much time pondering this, too. I've never talked to Mick, but Wyman's faux-Mick response feels true to my imagined Jagger. The tone of the essay veers from hurt to self-righteous, apologetic to withering, the voice always taut. Fake Mick hates Keith as much as Real Keith hates Mick; this essay shoots down Richards's book Life but doesn't forget to point the gun inward from time to time.
Yet, more than anything else, Wyman's version of Jagger is full of love for Richards, regretful that money, drugs, and narcissism tore them apart, grateful for what they had together before they devolved into mere business partners. He knows how much he owes Keith ("Without him, what would I have been? Peter Noone?") and how Keith's work can still touch him, no matter how far they've both fallen ("When a song is beautiful — those spare guitars rumbling and chiming, by turns — the words mean so much more, and there, for a moment, I believe him, and feel for him.") This is idealized stuff. It's unlikely that Real Mick's response to Keith's book, if there ever is one, will be as tough-minded and vulnerable. Wyman conjures up the Stones as we want them to be at this late age, but even we diehards know that's just our imagination running away with us.
UPDATE: Wyman has written a postscript to his terrific piece.