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The Survivors: Keith Richards

Our second November cover subject sat down with GQ’s Chris Heath to talk about what’s left for him to achieve, why he teased Mick’s manhood and what it’s like to be a grandfather. Mick’s manhood? That bit is below. The rest is here. Tomorrow at GQ.com: an exclusive interview with our third cover subject, Lil Wayne.

The extraordinary dynamic between Richards and Mick Jagger—dysfunctional, magical, cruel, loving, dismissive—runs through Life. Richards is so hard on his partner, particularly in the later years, that I think a lot of readers, myself included, were surprised to find themselves feeling sorry for Jagger.

“Oh, now, I can understand that,” says Richards. “Life’s life. I really don’t want to go into it anymore, because what is in the book is in the book, and the fact is that Mick and I still talk and are still working together. So maybe that was another balance that needed to be sorted out. Mick and me, two guys divided by love.”

One issue seems to have bubbled on in the press since publication—with, most recently, Pete Townshend speaking out to say that he has observed the scorned anatomy in question and that Richards had his facts wrong about Jagger’s genitalia. So I ask: Is it ultimately gentlemanly to deride a friend’s penis size?

“Between friends I think anything’s allowed,” replies Richards. “I mean, I’ve never seen it. I only heard.” I begin to speak again, and then Richards gives me the look. He is jolly, jokey, witty, amiable company until you decline a clear hint to gently withdraw from a subject. Then he gazes right at you, and his voice changes, in a way that clearly seems to convey: I’m being nice and charming to you here, but don’t push your luck, sonny boy, because I’ve spat out people a hundred times smarter than you. “But I ain’t going there anymore,” he says firmly. I nod, and he adds, “It was a joke. Between friends a joke’s a joke, and if you can’t take a joke…”

[Photograph by Mark Seliger]

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