Keith and Mick back in the day

Today is not just any
old birthday for the esteemed Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, it’s a
massive one: a mind-blowing 70, would you believe. Not only that, 18th
December is also the day slavery was abolished in the United States, which was
148 years ago in 1865; so Keith chose a fitting day to be born.

Only a few months ago,
I just happened to be rubber-necking at Keith Richards’ and Mick Jagger’s
boyhood addresses in Dartford, Kent, England. I was driving my family to a
Roman Villa (yes, a real one) on the outskirts of Dartford and my musician son
wanted to see where the two Stones’ songwriters had sprung from. Mick and
Keith’s addresses were mentioned in Keith’s admirable autobiography, Life – the
autobiography of the year in 2010, no less – which I had lent my son. If you
haven’t read Life, please do. It’s a literary treat.
Mick and Keith at their old primary school in 2010
Anyway, we drove to the
flat above a florist in the Dartford suburb where Keith said he lived as a boy
and, believe it or not, both flat and florist were still there. Then we drove
up the road of semi-detached houses just round the corner where Mick grew up. It
was all so ordinary and normal. You wouldn’t believe two of the greatest rock
and rollers of all time would have started their extraordinary journey there.
As primary school kids: Mick circled left, Keith circled right
In those days, the duo
both attended Wentworth Primary School in Dartford and, no, we didn’t go and
have a look at that. We’re not that
sad. (Actually, I’ve just been told we did stop and look at the school so were are  that sad, although we weren’t actually seeking
it out.)
As has been documented
many times, after going their separate ways, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards chanced
to meet up again on platform two of Dartford railway station on 17 October
1961. Keith was on his way to Sidcup Art College, carrying his hollow-bodied
Höfner cutaway electric guitar, while Jagger was heading to the London School
of Economics clutching some of his prized blues records. As I saw Keith say on
TV the other day, “I would have killed him to get hold of them” (the blues
Only the other day,
Dartford Council announced they were putting up a blue heritage plaque on the

Mick and Keith in school register in 1951

station to mark the meeting. As we know, it led to Keith joining Mick’s band,
Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. The following year, in 1962 they began
playing with Brian Jones and pianist Ian Stewart as The Rolling Stones. As one
of the most successful, influential and enduring rock & roll bands in the
history of music, they are happily touring again more than 50 years later and
have just announced five or six concerts in Australia early next year.
Australia, incidentally, holds a special significance for Mick Jagger as his
Mum hails from there.