I read Keith Richards’ autobiography a few years ago and came across an excerpt from his book that really struck me. He was discussing the process behind his songwriting, as well as sharing some intriguing stories of how he and Mick Jagger wrote some of The Rolling Stones’ biggest hits.
He talked about times such as when they were pressured by their record label to have a song written within 24 hours or their contract could be terminated. This was early on in their recording career and it was just before one of their biggest hits of the time would be written: “As Tears Go By”. Richards discusses how he and Jagger locked themselves away in this house that they were staying in and swore that neither of them would leave that house until they had a hit song written. After thousands of trips pacing from one end of the kitchen to the other and after several whiskey shots had been poured, they finally came out of that house with “As Tears Go By”. That song would spur them into the limelight soon after it’s release.
Richards also talks about how “Gimme Shelter” came to be born. He was sitting in a London hotel room while a hard rain was coming down outside. Jagger was away filming “Performance”, a 1970 British crime drama film, with Richards’ girlfriend. Richards apparently was feeling an overwhelming sense of jealousy and suspicion that Jagger and Richards’ then girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, were starting to develop a relationship of their own.
These deep feelings of insecurity and confusion brought out the dramatic and gut wrenching riffs that served as the initial foundation for one of The Rolling Stones biggest hits, “Gimme Shelter”.
Richards credits these creative surges of songwriting to a metaphorical “antenna” that he imagines himself putting up into the atmosphere waiting to receive a signal from some higher power. Richards emphasizes the importance of having that antenna up at all times because if you miss that “creative signal” from the heavens you will miss out on creating something that could be cut from the cloth of legends.
I think about this statement from Keith Richards often. Recognizing that it’s not about me constructing the perfect song, piece of art, movie, book, recipe, business idea, etc., but that this creative seed cast from some sort of celestial place is waiting for me to recognize and capture that idea and turn it into what it is meant to become. I love looking at creative inspiration in this way. I think the power of opening up your mind and spirit to this invisible pool of wisdom can lead you to create things you never thought possible that resonate with more people than you ever thought possible.
So next time you’re wanting to sit down and write, paint, build, or compose something from nothing take this idea from Keith Richards and run with it. Keep those antennas up because you never know when a genius idea may be floating by just waiting to be plucked from the sky and turned into your masterpiece!