Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy, Part Four Section Eighteen: Give The Bassist Some
22 – Keith Richards
I know we’re missing Mick and I know that will improve everything but we need a bassist. If we don’t get a great bassist for the band this was gonna be tough. If only Daryl was dead, everything would be fine. But no, everybody except for the bassist dies. It’s pathetic. I turned to Charlie. “You know…”
“I know…” he nodded.
Susan and Fatou looked at me. “It sounds fantastic.”
“Yes it does but it isn’t right. We work on our belly from Watts and Wyman or Jones, upwards. We need a bassist. We need the right bassist.”
Fatou looked at Susan, worried. “But how can we not have the right bassist? We have them all, surely one will work.”
“Or more, maybe we can get a superstar line-up of bassists.”
“You know she’s right,” Charlie said, pointing a drumstick at me. “I bet John Entwistle would come aboard…”
A little fancy right but still…
“Remember that just because we want them doesn’t mean they’ll do it.
“Bassists can be trouble…” Charlie said. “But the possibilities are endless…. How about Charlie Mingus?”
“The problem is, as great as he is, he isn’t great for us now is he?”
“Even so, his playing wouldn’t work for us… how could it? We need somebody with a feel for the blues and country…”
“We could definitely use Mingus for the blues, you know. He has a lot of blues and Gospel in his playing, plus he is a hard bopper.”
“Could you get in touch, Fatou?” I asked.
Fatou nodded her head. “Do you want auditions?”
“No, no, for fuck’s sake the last thing we want to do is ask Charlie Mingus to audition for the Stones… he’d never speak to us.”
“Does he know what’s happening?”
“Everybody knows what’s happening”, Susan laughed. “There is heavy duty betting going down everywhere…”
“Except in Dead Lands, or Sleep Lands…”
“Everybody sleeps together?”
“Ha, no, they are individual worlds…”
“How many bloody worlds are there….”
“Infinite amounts, Keith. Infinite amounts. Imagine every thought you ever had and multiply them…”
I took a swig from my black jack, And it began to hit me except I didn’t want to be drunk right that second, so I got rid of the alcohol content in my body and opened another bottle.
“Ronnie Lane” Woody said.
I looked up and Ron could see my eyes wide with pleasure. “Plonk could do it.”
“Plonk could sure do it,” Woody nodded. “I’ve been hanging with him, he sounds great you know. He could easily join us.”
I looked at the drummer. “He could do it”, Charlie said. “We’d have to rehearse and rehearse a lot but not only does he have the skills, he has the disposition. The personality, the way you need to be to deal with us.”
“I don’t know, what do you think Mick will say, Charlie?”
“We’re enough of a democracy and anyway, it is me who really has to work with him and I… a guy like Entwistle is too much of a hardon for the tole, John won’t be coming in and rewriting the gig in his own image anda Jack Bruce, or a Jaco Pastorius: they’re too tricky, they’re not willing to do what it takes to hold us down. Especially with Brian in the band. I say, we need a bassist who is so quintessentially great plus, he is one of us.”
“Plonk hasn’t changed, or if he has it has only made him better on every level. Now he isn’t suffering anymore he is free to really play again and I know you think it’ll take him forever to learn the Stones song but cmon, he was always around… He is always around for his father and it is really sweet, he’s a dying breed…”
I laughed at that concept, “Yeah I guess we all are. Nothing left for us now, right…”
And there Plonk was, and we started up playing again, “Ooh La La”. He took the lead and we dropped behind him, the band was right, all of a sudden it sounded really really good. Going in and out of Face and Stone songs and then some Muddy Waters and there the great man was –it was like the birth of the electric guitar walked in. He smiled at Fatou and shook hands with me, and then he plugged in and we fell in behind him, doing the classics and slowly building to “Love In Vain” and suddenly. Either way, Robert Johnson came in holding an acoustic guitar and smile at us, it was the highlight of my life, well death, right? I don’t really have a handle on this life and death stuff, and I’ve had my doubts about the Aftermath since I got here, but whatever it means to be dead and still a soul, still something with an inner life that means more than doing parlor tricks and fucking facsimilies of Marilyn Monroe, than it was happening right that second, in that room.
This was pure Stones, this is what we might have sounded like if Mick had never lived. And our Stone families must have known. Gram was there, looking shaggy and smart and Bobby Keys. Bobby added back up vocals, Keys Sax, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown got on stage for backing vocals, Susan did her Jagger trick and we jammed through the night and day.
I called Fatou over but I couldn’t get her attention, Susan saw me and came to the side of the stage (it became a stage as I said those words), “People should hear this”, I whispered to her and she nodded her head and the place was suddenly filled to overflowing. I nodded at Bobby Keyes, Gregory Isaac, John Lennon. Everywhere I looked a face I know, every face a friend, and then faces I didn’t from all walks of life, humans and not humans, creatures, beings nearly human and not really human, 100s, 1000s, 10,0000s 1os thousand, millions, they poured in to see us and the Stones rehearse. There was so much I didn’t understand yet, this was a world plus without so many things, there was no death but there no birth either, was it worth it? I began playing a new riff, just on the outside of my brain, something I had never played before, it was 60s pop, with a nod to the blues and it seemed strong, it was one of those songs that come to you: it sounded complete yet rebellious, and the band grooved into instantaneously. There were no words yet, though I had a name for it: “In The Aftermath”. Would be it political rebellion? Or would that be like rebelling against the weather. Would it become a love song. For the first time since I died I missed Mick, I wanted him help me sculpt out words and melodies. It would be the first posthumous Rolling Stones song? Did it mean things still happened like earth? All of these were upon me and still I played. People were dancing, clapping, the place was alive or if not alive, then there was no difference between life and death anymore. If I can create still, I can live. And the Stones hunkered down and, played on, ready for anything the Aftermath could throw at us. And we waited for Mick and played and played and played.