Keith Richards: “They haven't really improved the electric guitar since Les Paul and Leo Fender put their touch to it. Everything else is trying to sound like them”

Keith Richards playing a Fender Telecaster
(Image credit: Getty)

In October 2002, the Rolling Stones were celebrating their 40th anniversary and preparing the release of career retrospective, Forty Licks. Guitar World writer Alan di Perna was granted the rare chance to sit down with Keith Richards for a free-ranging discussion of his wild career, his electric guitars and his development as a player across 40 years on the frontline.

Keith Richards moves like a shadow along a cobblestone West Village backstreet. It's a hot summer day in New York City and Keef is in earth tone – a sandy brown bomber jacket, reddish brown headband, moccasins. For some strange reason, each passing year seems to make this quintessential English rock star look more and more like a shaman, with his creased visage and prominent nose.

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Alan di Perna

In a career that spans five decades, Alan di Perna has written for pretty much every magazine in the world with the word “guitar” in its title, as well as other prestigious outlets such as Rolling Stone, Billboard, Creem, Player, Classic Rock, Musician, Future Music, Keyboard, and He is author of Guitar Masters: Intimate Portraits, Green Day: The Ultimate Unauthorized History and co-author of Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Sound Style and Revolution of the Electric Guitar. The latter became the inspiration for the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll.” As a professional guitarist/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist, Alan has worked with recording artists Brianna Lea Pruett, Fawn Wood, Brenda McMorrow, Sat Kartar and Shox Lumania.