Keith Richards has made a career from speaking out of line in what is an unfiltered approach to saying what is on his mind. Even those who have been kind to him over the years, like Bruce Springsteen, are not immune to criticism.
Springsteen is incredibly thankful for the powerful impact The Rolling Stones had on his life, and he holds the group in demigod status. ‘The Boss’ has even openly spoken about his recurring childhood dream about being plucked from the crowd and joining them on stage.
Years later, Springsteen successfully made that unthinkable childhood ambition become a reality. However, despite performing with Bruce on multiple occasions, Richards believes the only reason his peer is famous is because of a devastating lack of talent in competition.
Writing as part of his 2010 autobiography, Life, Richards savagely critiqued a plethora of his peers, such as Elton John and Prince. Of course, those were unsurprising attacks considering his history with the pair. However, he has a cordial relationship with Bruce but still wrote: “If there was anything better around, he’d still be working the bars of New Jersey.”
Richards’ problem with Springsteen isn’t anything personal, and in a 1988 interview with Rolling Stone, the guitarist explained why he finds the New Jersey singer-songwriter “indulgent”.
He remarked: “I’ve met Bruce two or three times. We’ve had several good chats, usually at some release party or premiere, and we just end up in the corner talking. He’s a sweet guy, a nice guy. Mind you, I think four-hour shows really are way over the top. To me, a great rock & roll act does twenty minutes [laughs]”.
Richards added: “I remember the Paramount, where you got the Impressions, Jackie Wilson, Joe Tex, and everybody does just their absolute supreme best shot! A lot of the shows you get these days are very self-indulgent. I don’t think anybody can be enthralling for four hours on stage playing rock & roll.”
Later in the interview, Richards was asked for his thoughts on Springsteen’s music. Although he did caveat his comments by stating that he likes Bruce as a person, his music is a different subject. The Stones guitarist remarked: “Bruce? That’s a tough one, because I like the guy. But the music…I don’t know. I’m the toughest taskmaster of all time. I’m going to annoy a lot of people. Bruce? To me, it’s pretentious.”
As much as Richards finds Springsteen’s concerts intolerable, the singer-songwriter’s affability compensates for his perceived shortcomings on the musical front.
Either Richards’ scathing comments didn’t get back to Springsteen, or the New Jersey native was simply unfazed by the remarks because below is footage of them performing a thrilling rendition of ‘Tumbling Dice’ in 2012.