Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy 3-Swimming Pool
Part One – The Crash (Continued)
Two hours ago I was in my bedroom with my girlfriend, and I was watching the rough cut of some concert footage from last night when the plane shook from side to side, it felt like crib death, it felt too strong, stronger than I’m used to and I fly a lot. The girl was asleep, she liked her pills and that was at least for the best. I put on my jeans and a fresh white shirt, looked in the mirror and counted the years in the lines of my face. The plane shook again I buzzed for an assistant and some attractive girl was at the door. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
“I don’t know… should I ask?”
“Yes, ask right now.” Then I pushed by her into a hallway and a living room. I don’t know why I was being aggressive, no real reason, I was nervous, the turbulence… there was something in the air. I didn’t know I would die but I did know no good was gonna come outta all of this.
Keith was sitting at a table, his guitar on his knee, paper on the desk, scribbling lyrics, working on a riff that sounded a lot like something we’d written together 40 years before. Most things sounded like a riff we’d written forty years ago. I looked at the lyric, it wasn’t very good, but when was the last great lyric? Were there any left at all? The entire plane seemed to bounce in the sky once, twice, three times, and a little side to side. This wasn’t going to be good. The girl entered the living room… I held a hand up and stopped her in her tracks: “If you say turbulence I am gonna throw you out this plane” I snarled. She couldn’t have been more than 24 years old, and would never see 25, though neither of us knew it. “Tell the Captain to get in here.”
Keith laughed to himself and went back to working on his song, and I lay down on a sofa and said nothing at all, it had all been said and though the turbulence was bothering me I didn’t think this is it, I didn’t want to say my peace. I mean, what else can I say? It has been a lifetime and I am too English for that type of sentimentality. If I’d known I don’t think I’d have called any one… maybe my eldest, just say “I love you baby, be good…” Or maybe nobody at all, no one word is worth adding to all the words that have been written and said and sang for or about me.
I don’t know what I would have told Keith either, the smile we had shared, the wave of the hand: all we’ve done is put our heads together and really since we wrote that first song, why would we even talk for a moment about anything. That is more intimate, more intimate than sex.
Ron and the damn dog, and Charlie came in to the living room just as the plane took a stomach churning tumble. It wasn’t the way you would imagine, a nose dive, it was like the entire plane went from one altitude to another: like we were from one level of life to another. The co-pilot came in.
“What the hell is going on?” Keith asked. The pilot was ashen faced.
“There is a systematic breakdown in the fuselage,” he answered. “We are making a rapid descent and then we will land. Tighten up your safety belts and let’s hope for the best…” He turned on his heels.
“Where are you going?” I shouted after him, “Get back here and explain it properly.”
“When we land,” he replied without turning round. “I’ll explain everything when we land.”
“This isn’t good…” I said to nobody in particular.
“The fuselage?” Keith muttered. “I can’t believe this…”
Ron looked scared, like he could use a drink, and his dog began to howl. Oh great. The plane shook some more from side to side and I began to feel seriously nauseous and scared, I just knew something final was happening now. It felt like the end.
Keith gritted his teeth and oxygen masks came down, I could hear screams of terror from elsewhere on the plane, it sounded like the end of everything, a topsy turvy nightmare swim downwards and then Keith waved at me and now time has stopped. I don’t know how long for. Maybe it has been my entire life, it is like a map of the world lateral instead of round and I am viewing the entire thing at once, and there is Keith and I and we are watching the Small Faces opening for us in Southport. We are at the side of the stage and Steve Marriott is looking like a strung out on doll’s miniature soul brother, singing pop mod anthem, “Sha la La La Le”. I am standing between Brian and Keith, a little ahead of them, and I am watching Marriott and it seems like I feel my influence, nothing overt and I don’t really care, but still.
Now I am sitting with Coleridge in our living room, it is early evening, my parents are at the movies, Chris is playing footer outside and Coleridge is so excited he can’t stop moving and neither can I, we are dancing to the beat on the record player and we have been playing it for two hours and more and I want to get my guitar and finger out the changes but I can’t stop listening.
“How does he do this?” I ask Coleridge. “What the hell is that? What’s he doing there?”
“I think he is hand picking it…”
“No, no, no, listen it is not that…. I can sing that.” I can’t contain myself, my ears are racing ahead of me. “’Don’t the music intrigue you when they play so loud…”
“I’ve heard ‘Maybelline’ before…”
“Yeah, but listen to how it sounds after ‘Oh Carol’. It’s like a train, it’s a bus driving by my mind. I can do it, I know I can do it. Like those blues guys OK, but this is doable. We can go on stage and play Chuck Berry songs.”
“Forever, we can go on stage and we can play these songs forever and ever.”
“And people will pay us…”
“Yeah, we don’t have to be that…”
I am sitting on the dinner table, “Because nothing has happened yet and everything that does happen…”
“We can change it.”
I nod excitedly: “We can change the future because it hasn’t happened. It is here and we can be a part of this future, no this drab grayness, Cool, not this world that is dictated to us through centuries, we can be something. Music can do it.”
“Yes, a guitar, a sound, just all this stuff. And on top is us, because they can’t be reached and we can. We can be there, and everybody can be a part of us. It will change the world.”
“That’s how it will be done”, Cool answer, he is chewing on his thumb, his school outfit a mess, his tie a head band. “Change isn’t done by Churchill or Hitler it is done by us. Not in school, in clubs with guitars and cigarettes and girl.”
My mind is moving so fast I can’t slow it down, it is charging, intriguing me, so far and so fast, it will never stop, never not breath. The smell in the air, in this room, so crummy and stuffy so stuck in the English world of class and of a world like Dad would say preordained and I won’t have it.
“I can’t be my Dad… I won’t do it,” I tell Coleridge. “We are gonna find a band, I mean form, and we are gonna change England and take everything with us while they aren’t watching.”
“There will be nothing easy listening about us.”
“It will matter, kids are gonna listen to Chuck and they are gonna raise by their millions and just that’s the game, guys. That’s it. Fuck conscription and rationing and war and fuck stick in this one place, we are gonna move ourselves where we want and be who who we choose too. We don’t need a degree and we don’t even need money or anything to do this. What we need is…”
“We need loud music… that’s what we need. It’s like a Manifesto. A beat manifesto, a sound of sound and a place far from here and to a place only sound can takes or ever want to take us and…”
I am sitting in the back seat of a bus with Brian and Keith, playing poker, The Supremes on the record player, in the deepest South. I can’t believe we are here but unless we can go to where the music lives, unless we can play for the guys who made it and watch them get past our hair and accents and teeth and smell, they can hear something that exists in a place where they have created it…
It is 1976 and the dodgy interviewer seems incapable of handling his chopstick and everyone knows what happens now the Stones is overtaken by New wave. I can’t take him seriously but try and explain: “Well to tell the truth…I mean, I’ve never really liked what goes for white rock ‘n’ roll, y’know. Never ever, come to that. Speaking as one white person to another… no, I just can’t dance to it. I find it very, very difficult to dance to white people playing ‘cos they get all the, uh, accents wrong. It’s not even that it’s too fast, it’s just that all the ‘accents’ are in the wrong places, y’know. I mean, I’ve really always felt like that about white rock – from Elvis to The Sex Pistols – and I’m not going to stop thinking that way because of any new band, y’know. I do like that album very much by The Motors, though. So does Keith, even though he’s stopped Anita going out to see punk bands! I’ve got to talk to him about that. I mean, it’s disgusting ordering your old lady around like that in this day and age...”
I am feeling old, maybe bored is what I mean. Am I too old at 35? How is this too old, how is this past it?.It is ridiculous, why am I explaining stuff people should be smart enough to know. Is this really my competition? I’ve been doing it for so long and here I am again… “Course the whole thing doesn’t really mean a thing in the States, mind you. All these new bands think it’s all going to drop into their laps and it isn’t, certainly not as simple as they reckon anyway. None of ’em have even done any groundwork there yet, haven’t even checked out even tentative strategic ways of gaining an audience there yet. By that, I’m not saying that they’re not capable of playing big halls and stadiums. Fuck that! Virtually none of ’em have even got round to starting at The Bottom Line! They can’t even get around to that. Maybe The Sex Pistols think they can ignore that route or something, I don’t know. They gotta do that, though. No-one’s going to bother with you otherwise.”
Who am I? You want to know who I am? “I don’t want to have just one front. I feel like I need at least two just to carry on doing what I’m doing comfortably. It’s acting, sure it is…that’s what it obviously comes down to. It just gives me the facility to do practically anything I want, see, and even then the most drastic changes of personality don’t really affect me ‘cos I never feel the need to do ’em that often. It’s all part of being a rock’n’roll star, after all.”
I can’t remember her name, I know I’ve seen her before but man was I drunk and I passed out at some point during the evening, in her bed, we had sex. She is lovely and my body woke me up, I can feel the onslaught of a bad hangover, my mouth is dry and tastes bad, if I kissed her now she’d choke on my spit, and I am not sure where I am. Sometimes I am not sure who I am… I check my watch, 430 in the morning. I close my eyes and I wonder what I am doing here, what I am ever doing here. It is like a significant portion of what people live for is done to me. I look over at the girl again, the memories are returning in flits and starts. There were two of them and one must have left because I am sure I remember two girls and me: it is like my life is a sexy dream, a sex dream, two girls, me, this and that fits here and there, and them whispering my name: I can see a chorus of girls, gorgeous, leggy, womanly, breasts and thighs and arse girls and they are all whispering my name, moaning my name. They all want me, a me not a real me, a me a sex God, a Dionysian dream god of fuck and I am happy to fuck them, to Mick them and Mike them two, three, four, fifty, they keep on coming at me and I keep on fucking them over and over again till they come on me, all me.
They want this me, this legendary hard cock blues man, suck me baby oooh. I can remember her now more clearly and I put my head on her breast and she wakes up and looks down at me, shock, surprise and pleasure on her face. “You are Mick Jagger.” She says, so happy, so frail, the words a call out from soul to soul, lover to lover in the still of the moment.
But they aren’t real, I wasn’t Mick Jagger and I would never be Mick Jagger, somewhere in that night I could see that young man who was deep somewhere else, shaken by the esteem, shaken to be sure and only arrogance, only a disguise saving me. I could cry right now, I am in so much danger from expectations that have nothing to do with reality of me: when I deal with the world as a Rolling Stone, I seem to be switching one visage for another, like last week, on the BBC, some berk trying to discuss my effect on girls as being hypnosis, like I am an uneducated fool who doesn’t know these things even when I do know them all so well. I know them the way I know how it feels to breathe in and out: I studied them, no not to the end of what I am, I’m not claiming that, but I am still informed by it. Seeing James Brown or Jackie Wilson, dancing, twisting my body, staring out, snarling, biting, pursing kissing, pushing… all these things, they aren’t happening simply by accident, it isn’t just the resolve of sexuality coming forward: it is more thought through, I am thinking of myself, of this Jagger and that Jagger all as other Jaggers: as this monster of capitulations rocking and rolling, like a clap of thunder in the music of stodlidness. I am not these fellows, I promise I’m not. I am someone else but that is what I want to explain to tell her but she wouldn’t understand if I said this thing, this Frankenstein Monster you have in your arms is not who I am. I am someone else that you don’t know and never shall see.
I am sitting near my Mom on the beach, we are just sitting there. My parents had been fighting and she just left him and I followed her and we are looking towards France somewhere over there. It is getting dark and lights are blinking in the night. “Mummy, what are they?” I ask her.
Mum looks out, “Those lights? They are mermaids…” I look at her, a half smirk on my face. “Really, those lights are mermaids.”
“Yes, that’s how they talk, through bright lights shining in the night…”
“No, look, they are talking, they are wondering what we are doing up and watching them, ‘Has the little boy had his tea,” one of them has asked and the other replies, “Him? That’s Michael. He has had his tea by now.”
I look back at the night where the lights shine so bright: “What are they saying now?’
“They want to come and visit you.”
Well, this is exciting news, I’d love to visit with mermaids. “Look, there goes another one Mummy, can you see it. There goes another one…”
Mummy begins to giggle, starts to answer, and suddenly my dad appears carrying his jacket. “It’s getting dark, darling.” He tells her and fits the jacket round her shoulders with a tug at the bottom.
The pool looks so inviting and the sun is so hot, how did I get it? Pasty faced Michael in the lap of luxury. Since when? “What do you think, Michael?” Paul Guinness asks me with a grin, he is the heir to the fortune and the owner of this ridiculous spread. “Not such a Communist any more, right?”
“Never was mate, I never was. I always thought people are different. You can’t…” I take off my tee shirt and go for the suntan lotion, “…I never thought one size fits all, never said it, never thought it. I don’t feel it, Paul. It is like money, like you, or genius, like me, it is a lottery. It just happens.”
“You can never overestimate good luck, right?” Paul said, he does a line of coke and I pour myself a shot of bourbon. A habit from the tour of the South, chaser chaser, chaser, beer back guys. “Is it fair I did nothing to get this? No, of course it isn’t but so what? What can I do about it? That’s the way life is and I am happy for it”
“You’re different than me, I have to work for my money.”
“Come off it, Mick. You are never more alive than when you’re on stage. Like, before you go on you get this look on your face and I know never to say a word then. You are deep into it, you’re changing, metamorphosing, from a caterpillar to a butterfly. It is like you are in the process of becoming something other.”
I dunno about that at all, my brain kinda blanks a little. I go into automatic mode, it is like you rehearse so hard so you don’t have to transform yourself but just naturally it happens, it isn’t something you think oh well now I am this but through practice it happens to you. Like the place where you think about it is not there but earlier, when you’re writing, rehearsing, and recording. That’s where your self-consciousness comes in but once you are on the stage you leave it to have a life of its own and that isn’t you or your life, it’s a life apart and you get there through doing it over and over again. There is no other way, you know. Just work hard and also get yourself, your mind to a place.
I don’t say any of that of course, I kinda half smile at Paul, and before he can answer the girls come out. I don’t remember any of their names and I just feel suddenly a little shy and I whisper a “hi there” and a halfhearted half wave. One of them sits next to me and curls her fingers through my hair. Last night I thoroughly enjoyed it, but today I am working through a terrible hangover and I can’t shake it. My head is aching and I have another shot and do a line and another shot and then I think “sunglasses” and I shade myself and lay down.
I know I am coming across as arrogant but I am not in the mood and anyway sullen is half the charm, it is a fringe benefit of being a rock star is you get to be an asshole, you get to turn off the lights and ignore people even when they’ve done nothing to you except for wanna hang around you.
“The sun is so bright,” one of them says. “It’s like lasers, you know, on my eyes it hurts.” I roll my eyes. “Right, Mick?” she says inching closer to me. I don’t reply, I don’t even look at her. “Mick, that was such fun, Mick How long are you here for?” I still don’t say anything
“Mick’s leaving tomorrow night”.
“Oh no,” says another of them, smiling secretly at me, and holding her friend’s hand. “Then let’s pass on the Whiskey and just… do more things…” Now all three of them are chuckling and I’ve had enough and I would have them thrown out but then what? The next three would be just as insipid. I have another shot, more beer, a coupla lines. My eyes are hurting me. They are aching and I want to be alone but I don’t want to be alone. I want to be with someone but not this someone.
The girls weren’t groupies and they weren’t hookers, they just had daydreams of the Rolling Stones. One of them told me, giggling, about how you had fantasied about fucking all five of us at the same time. Would I be jealous?
Well, it depends really: on the time of day, the color of the moon, the mood of my swing. I feel like fucking them again but I don’t want to get up. I want to remain so aloof it drips off me, I want to reveal nothing: I want them to go back and say “Yeah, I fucked Mick but he didn’t know I was alive”