fter Astrid died, I collected her negatives and had some prints made at a South of Market photo lab called Gamma. The girl behind the counter, looking over a contact sheet of pictures Astrid took at a Rolling Stones concert, asked if I was going to print any of the shots of Keith. We formed a Keith Richards mutual appreciation society, and I gave her my Stones bootlegs mix CD and a copy of a CD compilation that Keith put together of his favorite old blues, soul and R&B classics, which sold with an issue of the British music magazine Uncut. In return she loaned me a cassette of some old country and 50s rock and roll covers that Keith recorded solo, singing and playing some lovely piano by himself.

istening to the songs, I began wondering when and where they were recorded, and a Google search led me to a site called Diary Of A Studio Owner by the engineer who recorded them, Gil Markle. In 1981, the Stones lived at Markle's farm/recording studio in central Massachusetts for a couple of weeks, rehearsing before hitting the road on their Tattoo You tour. Markle is an interesting guy, two PhD's in philosophy and a former university professor, and his account of life with the Stones, a large portion of which you can read on his site, is one of the two or three best firsthand pieces of Stones reportage I've read, right behind Robert Greenfield's excellent STP: A Journey Through America With The Rolling Stones and Stanley Booth's intimate but slightly sycophantic The True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones.

ears ago when I first visited his site, Markle had posted Real Audio files of the songs Keith recorded at his farm, the same songs on that hissy third generation tape I heard. Recently I looked again and all those audio file links (below) are now deleted, but these days you can probably find the songs on YouTube:

1. Darling, Say It's Not You (original by George Jones) 3:42
2. Don't (original by Elvis Presley) 3:50
3. Blue Monday (original by Fats Domino) 2:05
4. Oh, What A Feeling (original by the Everly Brothers) 4:05
5. Sing Me Back Home (original by Merle Haggard) 4:39
6. The Nearness Of You (original by Hoagy Carmichael) 4:05
7. Apartment Number 9 (original by Tammy Wynette) 3:54
8. Dream (original by the Everly Brothers) 3:03
9. Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (original by Jerry Lee Lewis) 1:18

hat I like about Keith's singing is that like any good interpretive vocalist, he has an instrumentalist's ear for phrasing a melody. He doesn't have a strong enough voice or the range to always reach all the notes he's going for—at one point in "Blue Monday" he stops and downshifts the key so he can hit the high notes—but he sings in tune, unlike Mick Jagger. While recording these songs he said to Markle, "I never get a chance to do this. You don't understand. I suppose you think it's all fun being me. Listen, I never get a chance to sing by myself like this—play the piano—without some bastard weirding out and asking me why I wasn't playing the guitar, and looking mean. People have their ideas about me. I bet you didn't think I could play the piano, did you? Or sing classics from the thirties."