Part 4. The Rolling Stones

Had you been at Dartford railway station that fateful frosty morning in 1960 you would have witnessed the meeting that spawned what is arguably the world's greatest rock and roll band. At one end of the platform, Michael Phillip Jagger - lean, sinewy, with the poise and deportment of the ballet dancer he could have been had he not been ejected from the Gloria Body School of Interpretive dance for beating up a storm trooper during an end of term production of The Sound of Music. Standing opposite, Keith Thunderball Richards, lieutenant colonel in the 4thDistrict Wolf Cubs, trained in unarmed combat, deadly at fifty paces with a liquorice bootlace and fizzing at the mouth after an overdose of sherbet lemons.

There was something in the air that morning, a buzz of electricity, a crackle of static and the smell of pig guts from a nearby pie factory. Slowly, warily, Mick and Keith approached each other, eyes narrowed, hot breath boiling through the cold November air, footsteps ringing shrilly across the stone platform, the tension palpable in the air until Richards tripped over a pigeon and landed on the track in front of the speeding 7.15 to Charing Cross. The driver slammed on the brakes but the result was inevitable. There was chaos - smoke and flame everywhere, the station littered with broken glass and bits of train, passengers running to and fro, shouting and screaming and complaining that the buffet car wasn't open. But, miraculously, Richards pulled himself from the wreckage and casually sauntered off, smouldering slightly but otherwise unruffled. And although at the time he shrugged it off by explaining that he was wearing a particularly well-padded anorak, this became just the first of many incidents to suggest that Mr Keith Cannonball Richards was indestructible.

Once Richards' ears had stopped ringing, he and Jagger started recruiting a band, teaming up with professional spoon player Brian Jones and, with the aid of a metal detector, finding bassist Bill Wyman hidden under a tarpaulin in a church hall in Stepney. Now all they needed was a drummer, whom they eventually discovered in the form of Charlie Watts, a Jazz Monkey who played with the Regents Park Zoo All Stars, and whom they signed up in return for a handful of bananas and a plastic bowler hat.

At this point the band still didn't have a name; and so on the eve of their first gig Brian Jones picked one at random from a gardening catalogue. 'Biodegradable Mulch' was born and the band kept this moniker up until 1978 when they had to change it to 'The Rolling Stones' for horticultural reasons. That first performance made a great impression on the audience at the Marquee Club. And equally the Marquee Club made a great impression on Keith Richards when a section of the ceiling came down and buried him beneath a pile of masonry. There was a horrified silence as the dust settled and one young lady even dropped her choc ice, but in typical fashion Keith emerged from the rubble, shook the plaster from his hair and carried on playing.

As the band became more popular, young girls would come to Stones concerts to immerse themselves in the raw hedonistic power of the music and swoon at Mick's naked sexuality, whilst their boyfriends would take pot shots at the seemingly immortal Mr Richards and see if they could knock bits off. After fifty years of touring Keith's battered and cratered face became testament to the continual barrage of assorted ordinance, but never once did anyone ever come close to stopping him in his tracks.

Not that there haven't been a few close calls. During the 1972 US tour Keith caught fire and burnt to the ground. He had to be refurbished, only to suffer subsidence when he was reopened to the public six months later. And in 1978 he was struck by a meteorite, an experience which he described some time later as being 'a pain in the hole'. Such events have accorded him legendary status: for instance, he provided the inspiration for the famous fictional pirate Captain Pugwash. And as the Stones continue to draw huge audiences, a recent Freedom of Information request revealed that their lead guitar player, Keith Tyrannosaurus Richards, was the chief test subject used in the development of the most powerful substance known to man, Cillit Bang.

None of this is true, by the way.

Ricky Stratocaster studied Applied Boogie-Woogie at Cambridge and earned distinctions in jazz fusion and rockabilly.

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