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The prime defender of ‘Offender’

“I’m not the Blackbeard that everyone thinks I am,” says Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist and reigning riff man. But he does concede that when something happens, the “finger of suspicion always points to me.”

Richards, who is out promoting his second Virgin Records solo release, “Main Offender,” (due in stores tomorrow), notes that the title comes from the perception that he’s behind every misdeed that comes down the pike.

“It’s been a longstanding joke, that whatever goes wrong, or if something happens, I’m the one to blame.’ They say, ‘You’ve got the record, baby, it’s your fault.’ ”

Richards is again joined on the album by his band, the X-Pensive Winos, which features the talents of drummer Steve Jordan, bassist Charley Drayton, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, keyboardist Ivan Neville and vocalist Sarah Dash.

After being immersed in the production of the record, Richards says he has just recently been able to listen to the album. Richards believes that if he enjoys listening to songs, he’s made a good record.

The disc features plenty of chugging guitars and warm Richards vocals. “Wicked As It Seems” has the potential to become an AOR staple, while “Demon” rivals the classic status of a “Ruby Tuesday.”

But it is “Hate It When You Leave” that has Richards sounding near his best. The song’s Motown-meets-Memphis feel is sure to get attention.

The Stones’ megadeal with Virgin will see the band getting together in early ’93 and Richards admits he is looking forward to it.

“I think there’s a lot for us yet to do,” he says. “Mick and I are set to meet somewhere, and we’ll get on with it.” Richards also says he doesn’t believe Stones bassist Bill Wyman is out of the lineup. “Until he looks me in the eye and says ‘no,’ he’s in.”

The release of Mick Jagger’s solo effort for Atlantic, originally set for November, may have created comparisons and a chart race between the two discs. That record, however, has now been pushed back to January. “It would have been interesting, but now it doesn’t matter,” says Richards.

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