The Story Of Keith Richards Almost Electricution On Stage

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In addition to being a factory of memorable riffs and songs, Keith Richards has always been an inexhaustible source of lapidary and anecdotal phrases.

Keith Richards has performed thousands of shows throughout his career, both with and without the Rolling Stones. However, the one he later introduced to as his “most spectacular” took place on Dec. 3, 1965, in Sacramento, California.

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It was rather dramatic, but not for the thought you’d assume. As the Stones started into “The Last Time” onstage at the Memorial Auditorium, Richards struck his guitar into a mic stand – usually not a huge deal, except this special stand appeared to be ungrounded, producing an electrical surge that unleashed a drizzle of sparks and left Richards unconscious on the floor. As the Huffington Post remembers, the surge exploded so much like a gun that concert promoter Jeff Hughson considered Richards was the victim of an assassination effort.  

“I was right there in the front row, in front of Keith,” writer Mick Martin told Huffington Post. “I saw the blue light. I literally saw Keith fly into the air backward. I thought he was dead. I was horrified. We all were. Silence fell over the crowd. They carried him out with oxygen tubes, and he was semiconscious. I patted him on the shoulders and said, ‘I hope you’re going to be okay.'”

Richards eventually dragged out of his suffering, reportedly gratitude to the fact he’d been wearing a pair of distinct rubber-soled boots, but circumstances looked unpredictable for a bit. The Huffington Post piece quotes him as stating he recovered consciousness while a nearby doctor said: “Well, they either wake up or they don’t.” It proved a terrifying early lesson in the risks of using all that combined wattage for a rock performance.