Chichester: My great mate Keith Richards

Keith Richards' great mate Alan Clayton considers the Chichester area almost a second home he spends so much time in this part of the country.

Alan and Keith
Alan and Keith

He’ll be here whenever Rolling Stone Keith is in the country… though he suspects Keith probably won’t be around for his next visit when he brings his band The Dirty Strangers to the Chichester Inn on July 16.

The date comes on the back of the release of the band’s new album, Crime and A Woman. Alan hesitates to use the words, but he suspects he’s written a concept album.

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“Crime and a woman was actually something my son said. I used to have a security background, as a body guard. I have always been a builder, a security guard or a rock ‘n’ roll singer. It’s any way you can to put money on the table, and so I had put this collection of songs together, and I was wondering what to call it, and my son says to me ‘How come all your songs are about crime and women?’ I just thought it was great. It sounded like a Raymond Chandler title. And actually, it is a bit of a concept album, I realised. The theme is the story of a man with a dodgy background that decides to come clean, meets a woman and then (messes) it all up and loses everything. It could be a rock opera, but it is more of a concept really. You can listen to all the songs individually, and they all stand up on their own. But you can listen to them all, and they tell a story.

“And my life is that story! It just so happened that I wrote all the songs, and I was just looking at them once I had got the title, and I realised that there was like a logical progression. All the songs come from that common space, whatever it is, where you write songs, and there was like a progression between them.”

Alan first met Keith back in 1980: “My friend became Keith’s body guard. He was one of my best mates, and I met Keith, and we instantly struck up a friendship. It was all to do with the music. Three days later I was staying with Keith in Paris.

“I do building work and I do song-writing, and Keith is just like one of my mates off the building site. People ask me what makes Keith so special, and the answer is that what makes him so special is the fact that he is so normal.

“I have done one tour with the Stones, the Bigger Bang tour. He took me away as a favour. I was doing a guitar tech job. I would do the line checks to make sure everything is working, and I was on the road with them for two and a half years. It wasn’t constant. The first time I was away for six months, and it was a great experience.”

And a chance to appreciate just what it is that makes the Stones tick: “It helps obviously when you have got great songs, when you are fantastic musicians and when you have got wonderful, loyal support!” As for his own band, The Dirty Strangers have been going since the mid-80s, though Alan did have a ten-year break: “Unfortunately, 15 years ago, I had a son who died of cancer who was 22, and that obviously puts you off kilter for a long time. You never get over something like that. You just learn to live with it. The last song on the new album, Setting Son, is about my son.”

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