Sunday, May 6, 2007

Looking for Richard


In the comments a few days ago, someone asked me to look into the orthography of Keith Richards changing his name to Richard and then back again to Richards. Granting that I don't know what "orthography" means, I am not one to back down from a challenge.

The name switch sounds at first blush utterly pointless; "Richard" is not any easier to remember or simpler to pronounce than "Richards" is. It shouldn't come as any surprise that this ploy was hatched by Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who was only 19 when he came up with this one, just after the band's first single (a cover of a Chuck Berry song called "Come On") came out in England in the summer of 1963. The stated reason was that it echoed the name of the British Elvis, Cliff Richard (Little Richard would have made more sense). This seems lame even by the standards of Andrew Loog Oldham, and is believed to be the last time the Rolling Stones ever attempted to connect themselves with Cliff Richard.

It is a somewhat open question as to when Keith changed his surname back to his father's. The August 19, 1971, issue of Rolling Stone magazine proudly boasts of its interview with "Keith Richard." My copy of Exile on Main St., which was released on May 12, 1972, clearly lists among its credits the guitar work and songwriting of one Keith Richards. Maybe Andrew Loog Oldham thought he would benefit from the association with Mary Richards. I haven't been able to narrow down the date any further than that. Perhaps at some point, deep in the South of France, Keith took a look at his passport and said to himself, "Wot? Who changed my name?"

4 comments:

Joe said...

I think you'll find him credited as "Keith Richard" on England's Newest Hitmakers, and "Richards' on everything else thereafter, though it may have lasted until "Aftermath." At any rate, he was "Richards" long before that RS cover. The initial sans-s credit created lasting confusion though.

T. Nawrocki said...

On my original vinyl copy of Hot Rocks 1964-1971, which obviously came out sometime around 1971, the tracks are credited to Jagger-Richard. So the plot, you know, thickens.

What I suspect is that Keith never actually changed his name and his government name remained Richards all that time, but anyone who called the Rolling Stones press office would have been told that his last name was actually Richard. So the crack Rolling Stone research department would come back and say, "Aha! His name is Richard! You have to change it on the cover!" Meanwhile, Keith is telling everyone his name is Richards, and on records that he has some measure of control over, he's calling himself Richards, but on things like greatest-hits packages, he's still Richard.

At least I think so.

Kinky Paprika said...

The truth is more complicated.

(Sorry if this was already covered in another post that I haven't read. I was redirected to this post in April 2009 and might have missed something.)

On my copy of 1974's "It's Only Rock n' Roll," which is either an original pressing or pretty close to it, he is credited as Keith Richards.

On my copy of 1976's "Black and Blue" (ditto) he is back to being Keith Richard.
Same deal for 1977's "Love You Live."

But here's what's really messed up:
On 1982's live album "Still Life," the writing credits are "Jagger-Richard" on the older songs and "Jagger-Richards" on the post-'78 material.
Couldn't the credits have been standardized in recognition that Richard and Richards were one and the same?

Kinky Paprika said...

While I'm obsessing (I get that way) here's something else interesting:
A 1964 Stones concert ticket signed by "Keith Richard."

http://www.cameo-auctioneers.co.uk/2008-11-04/img/386-a.jpg

Apparently he had it together enough, at least early on, to sign with his stage name.