Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy, Part Four Section Twenty Two: Roses On Your Grave
31 – Keith Richards
I’d held off playing it, but soon, eventually, we got to “Dead Flowers” and I knew I’d see Gram again and I knew they’d be a price to pay because even in heaven we were too close, too like brothers, to leave it open ended, to leave it without a hope of not doing damage. Not entirely my fault, I was sick of waiting for Mick, he was fucked up. We had a world to save but we couldn’t save it because Mick is a prima donna even after death. I thought look, let’s do it without him. We have just about every singer who ever sung, what do we need Mick for. We could get James Brown, Ray Charles, hell anybody anybody. Why do we need Mick. But Susan wouldn’t hear it, it had to be the Rolling Stones or no deal and really, I’m an equal partner in this shit and I resented being treated like the hired help. We are the fucking Stones.
Gram sang “Dead Flowers” and we hugged and we sent everybody home, everybody, even my family, everyone. We got hold of some heroin and Gram said “This shit is pure, Keith. Please be careful.” But I didn’t listen and I shot up and pop, overdosed. Gram waited patiently for me to die and start the process again. A complete waste of time. “Now, will you listen to me”, he laughed. Gram looked the same, same age, same hippie cowboy. “The good stuff about this is no withdrawal, no addiction. Nothing”, Gram explained. “The bad thing is you can lose a lot of time on it.”….. Of course, the good news is all we had was time
We shot up again, and I asked Gram if he’d written any songs, and of course, he had. We sat together, lolling on the bed, close as lovers, close as twins. And then we shot up and nodded off. We were always a bad influence on each other and I really just wanted to chill my brain and my heart, I didn’t want to be a party to this shit. We were laying in bed. Nothing gay but we were in bed and slipping in and out of highs. “We don’t even need needles or anything, do we?” I asked Gram.
“No, we can just do it in our mind.”
“Oh, I agree…. I just want to calm down and forget about everything and get fucked up. I don’t want sex or love, I just wanna strum songs and sing with you and forget the Aftermath. The Universe…”
“If the Universe ended, nothing would be lost. Why should I drive myself crazy over that fuck Jagger. Let him play that last gig alone, let everybody go with him, I will just hang here with you, I wanna create something that will last, you and me., we can tour the Aftermath when we get ready to move.”
“We can just do what we want to and relax ourselves and like the old days, Keith. What we’ve been through together…”
“We’re brothers, man.”
Gram still had that lilt to him, that gentle smartness, that addictive quality to him that seemed to come out of a different form of myself. He hadn’t changed and the great secret of death is you think it will make you good or bad or repentant. And it doesn’t. “It is time that changes you, Keith. Time calms you down. I have been to planets of such peace and joy, places where every day is Christmas, and people love it. They live the same day over and over again for days years, 100 hundred years and then they stop, they need more and that is at the heart of the Aftermath. Whatever you want, you want more of and then slowly you reintegrate. It is like when people say the Universe was a mistake they were only half right. So was death. So is everything. It is because it is and like everything, it is cooling down and Blue is trying to warm it up.”
“With the Stones, she wants us to correct her mistake. But I am not Mick’s fucking handmaiden and I’ve waited long enough. Fuck em all…” And suddenly I was really angry and then suddenly I just didn’t care any more. I was sick of being the good guy, I needed nothing to do with anyone but me and Gram and drugs and music. Maybe it was all I ever wanted, going into the studio at 2am and working for three days, putting together music. That was where I was happiest. I needed the reposition of employment and creation. How could there be anything but entropy in a place where nothing is created… We started recording songs, covers first. Hank Williams (“I met him, he wasn’t interested”) at first, and then George Jones (“he is having a ton of fun, ‘spilling whiskey on the floor’”) covers, and on and on Buck Owens, just recording country songs. And then some of Gram’s classic, and some of mine. Gram took the lead on “Happy” and I took over “Still Feeling Blue”. I hooked up a drum machine, and while Gram dozed I added bass, piano, mixed em in for hours, sitting behind a console, deep in sound. It was heaven, heavenly. I needed a break from afterlife, and this was beyond a break. Then I started work, just on guitar, on a new song that Gram worked up and started singing, “Lonesome, Blue, And Brokenhearted”. We played it and played it, and it felt like a new classic. A new country classic. It could’ve been the 50s or the 70s, it seemed as though the song, which was pained but also funny, it rhymed in tune, was nearly perfect within itself. It seemed like a hit. Like we had created something which made a gigantic lie of we can’t create anything once we’re dead. I didn’t feel dead, it many ways I felt like a perfect arc of creation, young, powerful, all my feelings sky high.
It is difficult to understand any of this, it feels like heaven without the goodness and I asked Gram what he made of it. “It is really strange, I think it is stranger than they thought it would be. After a couple of years I went exploring with a country fan who had been around here like ten years longer than I had. I visited different worlds and I was shocked out some of the stuff out there. Every evil you can think of has its own world, every good thing as well. Everybody builds their own world and it overlaps or doesn’t, but people don’t assimilate back as quickly as we thought they would. We went to places where slavery still exist, Keith. Places where incest is legal, places out of Disney movies where people become cartoon characters. And really, after awhile, the good and bad become entirely meaningless and people move back, they evolve back but before that? It is scary. And that scariness, that sense of the edges being out of control -not edges, but like edges, scares some of us.
“At the beginning life forms were really simple assimilated easily but with all these complex sentient thingies, it is getting out of hand. Some people, Blue, think it is much healthy, and since there is no end, there is no hurry.”
“What do you think?”
“I think he is right. If people want to relive Star War movies, or become intelligent bats, or fuck their sisters… big deal? But…”
“But what happens in the end?”
“Then in the future….”
“I think everybody thinks everybody here will eventually kill themselves and Blue will be alone again… I don’t see what else can happen.”
And so to stop this, or to slow it down…”
“She made a bet…”
“And now Blue wants me to pay for it.”
So we shot up one day and then two days and then three and then Jagger was at the door but I smiled at Gram and we ignored him, one day, two days, three. I never wanted to leave. My family would be here with me and I would be happy and that would be that, it would be exactly what I wanted. Gram and I singing country rockers. Fuck the Stones, I was dead couldn’t I get away ever?
Some guy was in our room. The dog Blue as a man. “Woof” I said and giggled but Gram looked serious.
“Keith,” Blue said bowing to me. “Gram, having fun?”
“I thought you couldn’t go where I didn’t want you to.”
“You can’t, Keith. I am a little different.”
“Then feel free to force me to perform the final concert because I am staying here with Gram if you can’t.”
“Do you know what’s going on?”
“Absolutely I do…”
“Then let’s do it Keith, you are needed.”
“Fuck the Universe…”
Mick was in the room. “Come on, Keith. We’ve been at this too long to stop now.”
“Fuck you, I’m not going.”
“Is now the time to revert to being a junkie?” Mick said with a sneer.
I turn to Gram, “Grab him” I said and as Gram went for him, I shot Mick in the neck with 100 proof heroin and watched him go blue and die. He lay there, not moving. “OK,” I said. “Doesn’t he get better now?”
“Perhaps he will,” Blue said. “You know sometimes people choose to die for awhile.”
“But if he does?”
“Get him back.”
“Then it’s over.”
“When you were alive, didn’t you talk to the dead…. Find the words, Keith.”
I stopped and I thought and what I thought was, of all the things we were or had been we were the greatest rock band of all time and we were going to save the Universe and really, how many other people can stay that? Win or lose, this is what a great rock band lives for. I still don’t know how but I definitely knew that I would do it, we would do it. Even in death, Mick was my brother, even in love or hate, or the willingness to kill each other but in the end, we were brothers and I didn’t say this but I was thinking about it. I wanted Mick back with the band, I wanted to work out the arrangements, maybe write a new song for the final concert. I wanted to rehearse and use all these things that we could to make it something that was worth saving the Universe for. Three years after we died, I wanted to be in the Rolling Stones again.
And Mick opened his eyes and rehearsals would begin in proper.