“Millions are in love with Metallica and Black Sabbath. I just thought they were great jokes”: Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards was never a heavy metal fan, but he does have a soft spot for AC/DC

Keith Richards, James Hetfield, Tony Iommi
(Image credit: Jeremy O'Donnell | Ricardo Rubio/Europa Press via Getty Images | Ross Marino/Getty Images)

There has been much excitement in recent weeks about the return of The Rolling Stones, who'll be releasing their 24th studio album, Hackney Diamonds, their first album of original material since 2005's A Bigger Bang, later this month.

The band have already shared two songs from the 12-track collection - Angry and Sweet Sounds Of Heaven. Now rock fans are particularly intrigued to hear Bite My Head Off, featuring former Beatle Paul McCartney on bass, which producer Andrew Watt has described as the album's "punk song". In conversation with Rolling Stone, Keith Richards laughingly admitted that, at his age, making this kind of racket might be viewed as a little... unbecoming, acknowledging that, on occasion, he himself has thought, "What the fuck am I doing? I’m 80 years old and playing rock & roll." 

Richards also conceded that others may ask, ‘What the hell are you doing here at this age?’

"And the only answer is, ‘This is what I do'," he said. "Who else can do it? If the Stones can’t do it, nobody else can."

These comments should come as no great surprise to longtime Richards observers, given that over the years, 'The Human Riff' has been fairly dismissive of his band's eers/competition.

Elton John, who plays on two songs on Hackney Diamonds - Get Close and Live by the Sword - was once dismissed by the guitarist as "an old bitch" whose songwriting was limited to "songs about dead blondes." Prince, in Keef's eyes, was “an overrated midget.” Bruce Springsteen? "Too contrived for me. Too overblown." CCR: "basic and simple".

And there's more. The guitarist once stated that Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant's voice "started to get on my nerves", because it was "a little too acrobatic": their music, he said, was "a little hollow". Even The Beatles did not escape Richards' sharp tongue: their 1967 masterpiece Sgt. Pepper is, according to the guitarist, "a mishmash of rubbish."

Perhaps Richards' most scathing critique however was reserved for metal giants Metallica and Black Sabbath. In a 2015 interview with the New York Daily News, the guitarist said, "Millions are in love with Metallica and Black Sabbath. I just thought they were great jokes", adding "I don’t know where Metallica’s inspiration comes from, but if it’s from me, then I fucked up."

One rock band who do get some love from the guitarist, however, is AC/DC. In June 2003, Richards invited Malcolm and Angus Young to join the Stones onstage in Germany to jam on B.B. King's Rock Me Baby, and the two bands also played together to 450,000 fans in Toronto the following month, after which the not-easily-pleased Richards called 'DC "a great little bungle of energy". Awwww. 

Footage of that Stones vs AC/DC jam in Leipzig can be viewed below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.