April Fool's Day has come early. As a flock of flying pigs sped across the London skyline last night, the Sun revealed that Keith Richards has given up drinking. Yes, you heard right: the Human Laboratory, grizzled Glimmer Twin and rock'n'roll's own boozy Beelzebub is off the pop.
Is this a sick joke devised by the same mung-bean-munching advocates of health and safety who robbed musicians of the right to smoke in the workplace? Apparently not. Shocked by the public disintegration of his bandmate Ronnie Wood, the 66-year-old has, so we're told, been teetotal for the last four months.
"There's no guarantee he'll stay off it, but he's been doing really well so far," says, er, a source. What a lightweight. After almost 50 years on the alcoholic frontline, throwing the (beer) towel in at this late stage makes about as much sense as the prisoner in George Orwell's A Hanging, who sidesteps a puddle on the way to the gallows. As recently as 2007, the Human Riff scoffed at suggestions he should quit, announcing: "I've had about three doctors who told me, 'If you carry on like this, you will be dead in six months'. I went to their funerals."
Keef, sober? It's just not right. In a pop universe groaning with moral guardians and cosmetically enhanced pop stars, we could always take comfort in the fact that, at some point, a craggy Keef would emerge from his Connecticut lair and regale us with tales of nine-day binges or snorting his dad's ashes, all the while swigging on his favoured tipple, "Nuclear Waste" – a pint-sized cocktail of Stolly and Sunkist.
Equally, while most men of a certain age dread news of his eventual demise as much as Alzheimer's or an unexplained lump, at least they had the consolation of knowing he'd be found with a bottle of Jim Beam still clutched between his fingers. He's a human shrine to bad behaviour; a living reminder there's more to life than being healthy.
The consequences for those who like their anti-heroes to live out their public image make concerns over Russell Brand's recent conversion from Shakespearian shagging machine to loved-up lap dog seem laughable.
Overnight, those who equate their loathing of the Killers with Brandon Flowers's Mormonic behaviour, or Coldplay for Chris Martin's clean living have lost their trump card. Without Keef at the helm, the entire rock'n'roll lifestyle seems to have lost its lustre.
And, when the time comes, will we still be able to sing, "It's just that demon life has got me in its sway", with such gusto, knowing that backstage, all that awaits Keef is a crate of Gatorade? Either way, it's going to be some hangover.
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