Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy 1- Rock Royalty
Part One: The Crash
1 – Rock Royalty
The last thing I did before I died was look over at Ron, holding his doggie tightly in his arms, eyes squeezed close, dog howling through the tour plane, then look over at Charlie fast asleep, composed, calm, unknowing, missing it all and finally at Keith, cigarette at the side of his mouth, a half smile on his lips, waving goodbye with one hand, in a half clap, one last hand for the superstar.
Yes, that was the last thing I did but it wasn’t the last thing I thought. Life, when you’re living, is a series of sequential moments, but when you are dying it all happens simultaneously, there is no more now and then, there is only now. Everything in your life, everything you have lived through, floods through your mind instantaneously. As the last moments passed, I wasn’t just at Dartford Grammar School, or singing to the radio, or wandering around Greater London among the rubble post-Blitzkrieg, post-Empire life. I was that and I was in St. Tropez marrying Bianca and I was locked in a room with Keith trying to learn how to write a song, learning I had a Great Granddaughter, Jade’s kid’s baby.
When you tap into your life, when you remember stuff, it is both faulty through distance, time has erased parts of it, and also through self-delusion, you lie to yourself. Particularly when you’ve been as famous I had for as long as I had. Your business is myth, of being a superhero so it is very difficult to remember being a child properly, but when you are about to die everything becomes very clear. Not like a drug and not like a dream, but like reliving everything at the same time.
It has the details of a Botticelli with the scope of a da Vinci, it is like a painting you take in all at once and as the plane hurtled downward like one of my old songs, I didn’t feel fear exactly but I did feel a passing. In my mind, or maybe even outside my mind, just things flooding forward and always at the same time, being a Rolling Stone, being a songwriter, being a man wanted by women, and again Keith and I sitting at a table, all these moments that make a life, all these seconds. For some reason Keith and I wrote together. Maybe because we knew each other for so long and we’re friends. I had no experience to back it with as far as songwriting was concerned. Brian was a much better musician. But it seemed very natural and Keith and I seemed quite good at it. Brian was quite problematical and it was obvious to Keith and I after trying it a few times that it was going to work. Brian got annoyed but anyone gets annoyed when you exclude them because they’re not compatible. I had a slight talent for wording, and Keith always had a lot of talent for melody from the beginning. Everything (in the beginning), including the riffs, came from Keith. But we worked hard at it. We developed it. You need application. Our first songs were terrible
I didn’t know at the time about the afterlife, I just expected nothing at all, I expected it would be like a light being switched off and I thought and I wondered who I was in the end, who was Mick Jagger, Rolling Stone? A character in a novel, perhaps. Or different characters within characters because you’ve got to do the sad, the happy, the cynical – whatever song you’re doing. It’s a bit like acting. Obviously I think the on-stage character when you’re in front of 50,000 people is slightly different from the character that would be talking to you today, one-on-one, or making the kids’ breakfast. You don’t want to be making the kids’ breakfast going ‘Are you alright?’ Obviously it’s different being on stage than being at home.
As the seconds ticked to my death the Mike and Mick ticked, at the same time, in my mind, or somewhere else perhaps, I am a ten year old boy sitting on the pavement outside my parents’ house, it is June, and the sun is up, and you know how old pictures are grey and curly at the edges like your memories, well this moment is completely alive. I have fallen down and scraped my knee and blood is dripping out, I am holding it up and watching it, a scrubby little boy and I can hear my Mother shouting my name from inside our house but I am ignoring her because all my concentration is on the knee, I dip my pinky in the blood and lick it. At the exact same moment, in all the moments of my life, but in this one as well, I have just come off stage at the Marquee Club, it is 1963 and I am 20 years old, and I am sweating, and the place is scruffy, working class, tough, but there are girls and as I stand talking with Ian, I can see out of the corner of my eye, a dolly bird and she can’t take her eyes off me. I can feel myself growing handsomer, sexier, more attractive, like a God in ancient myths, an Adonis, a Narcissus, -as she keeps gravitating towards me and I do less and less, ignore her, she is a hip sway away from me, a back door man blues swan song from one night of joy: this is a turnaround for me, but also it is what I’ve been aiming for, it is what I wanted, like a daydream of manhood, I am a sexual magnet and this girl, who doesn’t know me and I have never spoken too is magnetized, she is moving through the stale club air to share something with me…
All these things are happening, everything that has happened is happening as the plane hurtles me towards my doom, as the greatest rock and roll band ever becomes the greatest rock and roll death, it is like I am slipping through time and a million sensations, every sensation I’ve ever had, is happening. This thing that is Mick Jagger also is just a vehicle for sensations that happened moment by moment and now all at once.
I thought I’d die of old age, I really did. I thought I’d be like BB King, just suddenly not to be there any more, on a personal level it’d be a slow drop, but on a public level I’d stop touring very often and then be seen from time to time, at one of my Grandkid’s parties or something. People would whisper behind my back, “He grew old, didn’t he. I didn’t think he’d ever grow that old. That was Mick, a sex God, a white, pasty thick lipped Londoner sex god. That was me.
Or was that ever me? I wake up next to Chrissie Shrimpton, there I am, she is trying to hold me close but I am standing up and I go near the window, and I look out onto Regent’s Park, Chrissie just turns her back and falls back asleep and I keep looking at the window, like I am a character in a play. I feel this incredible sense of space shifting under me, I am insecure and I don’t know why, maybe I am tired with Chrissie. I wasn’t ready for love or maybe I was ready for love from somewhere else, the money, I liked money and rock and roll and… in my brain I felt like a cultural rebel, like the epicenter of something that mattered but also something that was a fraud.
“Come back here,” Chrissie whispers and her voice is all hushed adoration, all disquieting adoration, all the sense and smell of love, but she is wasting her breath. Rebellious? I guess, maybe I am feeling like a hypocrite because in more heart I can feel that I want her there, in her place and me free not in my place.
The phone rings.
Neither of us go to pick it up.
We leave it there and it rings and rings and rings, like whoever is on the other side of it could wait forever and not care while that phone keeps ringing: all the person does is want Mick Jagger The person wants Mick. Everyone wants Mick.
I know it isn’t for Chrissie.
Chrissie, so fragile and desirable and different, so what she wants to be. It is the summer of 1966. I know what day, I know what day like I know my own name, I am living this one moment and all I can do is hear her and me, ignoring the phone.
Maybe five minutes of ringing now and Chrissie scowls at me and picks up the phone.
“Hi”. Silence. “Wait”. And then to me, “Andrew?” I shake my head. “No,” she says to Andrew and puts down the phone and I just know she will be on the other end of the phone someday.
I stand there and I stare at her, small but with a large face, like I might watch her float away and part of me feels a yearning for her and part of me, most of me, wants to be somewhere else. I don’t wash, I don’t shower, if the tabs are on my case today for once they’ll get a Rolling Stone has dirty hair scoop to last them for the week: it will make the front page of all three dailies: it sells, I am for sale. I can’t take it, I put on velvet bellbottoms and a silky shirt, heels but nothing else: I look human not star glazed.
Outside my home, it is mid-day and the sun is blazing hot, beating down on me. I think I’ll go for a walk or again not, already, teens, guys and girls, who have spent the night waiting for me are waiting for me still, they are standing outside and when I walk by, this girl starts to cry hysterically and this guy standing next to her puts his arm round her and usually I always have people with me but this time I’m alone and I don’t know where to put myself. It used to be worse, it used to be cripplingly strange, now I just, it’s a mental shrug. It’s like the starving children of Biafra in reverse. They can’t believe it’s me and neither can I. I stop to light a cigarette and a hand pops who from off the street to light it for me.
“Thanks”, I mumble.
“You’ve changed all our lives, Mick” some voice replies and I give him a half smile, from the corner of my lips, and I swear I can hear his heart skip a beat. I rifle in my bag for my sunglasses, put them on and peer over them. “Keep cool, man” I reply and it is obvious chaos will soon ensure if I actually walk around like a normal man, so I won’t. I really can’t and that’s the truth. All I can do is stand there and watch the people begin to gather. I walk swiftly now, not looking one way or the other, head down and ahead, to my car, a super sleek black Jag, and I throw my bag in the front seat and slip behind the wheel. I find my cassette player and I put on the first side of Muddy Waters Sings Big Bill Broonzy. This is the me that I am, rock and roll superstar, sex god, whatever god, hungover god right now but also, who I am and why I am doing it is here in these grooves. For me, it isn’t a joke, it isn’t a pose and what I am doing, it is the blues that I’ve made on “Going Home” –that’s what it is. Listening to the harp, that instrument –well, it seems gone now, gone now…
I take the ride, glancing into the mirror behind me as young kids race after my car, and I don’t feel above them as much as misunderstood by them. What I want is to be larger than life but larger to life about something and the something is the blues: when I get on stage, when I see my reflection in the mirror, when I am busy being Mick, that is when I am most disconnected to being something more than I am. When I am on the street I can feel like a fraud and I can’t show it, I can’t allow weakness to be measured in me. It isn’t where I was but where I am: there is like a lottery in life and for no reason but my love of something more important than I am, my love of blues, early rock and roll, this sense that I can do whatever it is I do, on a scale and in a way so much bigger than it should be. I can’t be a voice except to my own dissatisfaction, so when these kids, these people really, it isn’t just kids, it is everyone in the world, they want me, they want part of something they can need.
I am stuck on Trafalgar Squared, going round and round and round, before choosing an exit and heading… I dunno, I don’t wanna be anywhere but here right now, I want to clear my mind and see who I really am. This is a Chrissie problem, this is everybody’s problem, it is what is hurting Brian as well –I am not who I am. I feel like I am lying when I lay next to Chrissie. She used to see me. Somewhere along the way, she fell for it as well. She should’ve left me, but that wouldn’t have worked either. Nothing will work.
I feel like being gentle to Chrissie but nothing will work right, the fame clouds her vision of me, and my vision of myself, I keep waking in the middle of the night and wondering if I am really there, or if maybe I am somebody else: it is like a marijuana induced paranoia that never ever goes away. I rage through indifference. Just last night, like a God, sitting among my people, I ignored Chrissie completely, she wanted me to show her we were together and I didn’t. I closed ranks with the guys, drinking on sofas, Between The Buttons –in honor of me, always in honor me, I have another drink and drop a couple of reds and I can feel eyes on me, I kept within my group of friends and I was almost afraid to make eye contact with anyone because… what do they want with me? They’ll only want to talk to me and I have nothing much to add to the conversation. I don’t want to explain myself; it is none of their business. I don’t want friends at all and I don’t want to be anybody else’s product or status symbol, I don’t want to rub off on them.
I don’t like them much, I feel better, and different, there bourgeois’ trappings are a drag and they mean nothing to me, they have their petty life and I have my own life to deal with and it is different, it is a revolution and it is happening in the center and I am providing the sound of it, the modern sound of rhythm and blues, the sound of men who are beyond the pettiness that infects the middle class and the working class? It kills them off. Like my Dad and like those people I grew up next to, I’ve left them now. The trees and the fields fly past my window and I statically admire them, it is like a picture from a book shelf, like something you might admire in all its lush Englishness, its momentary dreams of 1000 years. Looking at the countryside, it is a timeless vision of something else and I feel closer to it, closer to Thomas Hardy than Val Doonican or Perry Como or even Frank Sinatra. My linage that isn’t black and blue is white and 18th century, I have in me that Englishness, that heritage of an England not stoic and frumpy but artistic and powerful, and poetic. At the club last night, I just felt above them. I felt like they, even the coolest of them, they don’t have my power. On all sides, my godliness: beauty, genius, money, a leader of a rock group who changes the cultural malfeasance.
It makes me hard, or rather it makes me appear hard, like I am so cold to those I consider my moral inferiors I won’t talk to them, I won’t feel with them or think of them, It is England working itself on me, the class system only blood wasn’t the only power to lead in me into the aristocracy, there were things above that which pushed me ahead of the rest of world.
It is a question of changing the rules of class and structure and what is royal and what isn’t. The Stones are royal beings, and as such, we are wanted and needed and pursued and I won’t let people do that to me. I refuse to do it. I will be this beautiful, groovy monster of a man, an attractive beast who knows where the bodies are buried and I just won’t be a party to an antiquated society, I will rebuild it in my own image. That’s what I’m doing. That’s what my part of the social wars is. To be the thing that I am. Everything else is a drag.
I love this country, this is so beautiful, all I can hear is a hmmm of the engine but I can’t feel the speed of the Jag, I am floating in the car just as I am jolted thrown in the place at the same time as this and that and everything, you can stop here if you. I am sixteen years and I am at a funeral. David Clarke. A close friend at school . I am dressed in a dark suit. Hair slicked back and I am in a state of shock, it is both queasy and sickening. People think, his family thinks, Dave drowned and he did, but he drowned on purpose. A couple of weeks before, I was sitting in a train with him, and we were going to Brighton, just to hang out, no other reason, just to be there. It was rainy and cold, and I was in a mac and blue trousers and a white shirt and we were just sitting there, bored, just watching the world go by, no nothing but the moment going on and David turned to me and said: “I am so tired, Mike”