keith richards – the advertising years

I’ve been reading Keith Richards’ autobiography ‘Life’. I was intrigued to learn that, before he became the drug-hoovering outlaw superstar we know and love, Keith considered a career in advertising.

I’ve been reading Keith Richards’ autobiography ‘Life’. I was intrigued to learn that, before he became the drug-hoovering outlaw superstar we know and love, Keith considered a career in advertising.

Keith
Keith Richards in 1963. Taking a break from drawing up Gilbey's Gin scamps for his portfolio.

I've been reading Keith Richards' autobiography 'Life'. I'm only up to about 1967 so far but I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in rock'n'roll. It's an extraordinary tale, engagingly told. I was intrigued to learn that, before he became the drug-hoovering outlaw superstar we know and love, Keith considered a career in advertising.Thought I would share the details here.

Keith was expelled from school and started at Sidcup Art College in 1959. "The society and everything I was growing up in was just too small for me…I knew I had to look for a way out…"

Here are a couple of brief extracts from 'Life' about his brushes with the Industry of Ad:

"There was almost no 'art' to be had at Sidcup. After a while you got a drift of what you were being trained for and it wasn't Leonardo da Vinci. Loads of flash little sons of bitches would come down in their bow ties from J. Walter Thompson or one of the other big advertisers for one day a week to take the piss out of the art school students and try and pick up the chicks. They'd lord it over us and you got taught how to advertise…I realise now we were getting some dilapidated tail end of a noble art-teaching tradition from the pre-war period… all thrown away on advertising Gilbey's Gin.

"At the end (of art school) your teacher says, 'Well I think this is pretty good.' and they send you off to J. Walter Thompson and you have an appointment, and by then, in a way you know what's coming – three or four smarty-pants, with the usual bow ties. 'Keith, is it? Nice to see you. Show us what you've got.' And you lay the old folder out. 'Hmmmm. I say, we've had a good look at this, Keith, and it does show some promise. By the way, do you make a good cup of tea?' I said yes, but not for you. I walked off with my folio – it was green, I remember – and I dumped it in the garbage can when I got downstairs. That was my final attempt to join society on their terms…I didn't have the patience or facility to be a hack in an advertising agency."

So, it appears that we can thank the bow-tied 'flash sons of bitches' at JWT for the long and illustrious career of The Rolling Stones. Just imagine if the interview had gone differently and Keef had joined JWT Sidcup, partnered up with Sir Martin Sorrell instead of Mick and was now Chief Creative Officer of JWT.

Keithrichards-vuitton

Keef didn't entirely turn his back on advertising; he appeared a few years ago in the campaign above for Louis Vuitton. Nice guitar, sir.

But, luckily, instead of making the tea at JWT, he made stuff like this: