You are here:

Rolling Stones, The/lyrics to Memo From Turner

Advertisement


Question
QUESTION: Is there any way to find out what all the lines in this song mean. It is so intricate, confusing and unclear. Which makes it so interesting.
Thanks Wayne

ANSWER: Hi Wayne--- do get a better understanding of the song, make sure you see the film "Performance"-
Perhaps Jagger's finest song, but what does it all mean?
Looking round the net it seems that for some prayer rituals orthodox Jews wear a religious garment which can be described as a sleevless shirt. The writer goes on to say that describing the man as 'Spanish speaking' is a reference to the Jews' exile from Spain in, I think, the middle ages. Though why he has a German-sounding name like Kurt isn't explained.
The dominant theme is, of course, one of homosexuality. I think it may be the first time in popular culture where gayness is linked not with effeminacy but with an overt masculine sexuality. For examply the same year that Performance was released The Boys in the Band showed us a selection of campy self-hating drama queens. Also the line "the young girls eat their mother's meat from tubes of plasticon" is the kind of queasily sexual/violent image you'd find in William Burroughs. Also, just remembered that there is indeed a Burrough's book called The Soft Machine.
I suppose the song, and the film Performance, were informed at some level by the fact of Reggie Kray's sexuality and the fact that an incredibly masculine (in fact psychotic) man could be gay.
\Happy New Year

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: If you mean watch the video clip where Jagger is dressed up like a business man with his hair slicked back. I have seen it many times. There are a few things that are not clear to me for e.g.

"I remember you in Hemlock Road in nineteen fifty-six."
This sentence seems also to be drug related but a long time before the drug culture really got started but would it mean just that?  

"You're a faggy little leather boy with a smaller piece of stick.
You're a lashing, smashing hunk of man;
Your sweat shines sweet and strong.
Your organs working perfectly, but there's a part that's not screwed on."

This is self explanatory but I think as being a European he means that the person he is referring to has a screw loose. Is this what you think?

"Weren't you at the Coke convention back on nineteen sixty-five"

This seems to be an inside knowledge thing like "gee look at all of us dressed in suits we look like were at a convention" Then it became an inside joke. By then I am sure they were all experimenting with many kinds of drugs so this could mean that they joined the two facts together. Could this be right?

"You're the misbred, grey executive I've seen heavily advertised.

What the song is about more or less? Like he is dressed (in the song) and not really acting particularly decent he shows his loathing (maybe too strong) for the establishment.

"You're the great, gray man whose daughter licks policemen's buttons clean."
What on earth would the second part of this sentence mean?

"You're the man who squats behind the man who works the soft machine."

If this is what I think it means it is definitely homosexual but also using the time frame also a bit of a slander towards businessmen in general.

"Come now, gentleman, your love is all I crave."

The way he sings it it seems sarcastic?

"You'll still be in the circus when I'm laughing, laughing in my grave."

He was having great times but the way they were going at it I guess he didn't expect to live that long. Again a poke at the establishment?

"When the old men do the fighting and the young men all look on."
When society changes?

"And the young girls eat their mothers meat from tubes of plasticon."

No real explanation (up to now) just guess work?

"Be wary of these my gentle friends of all the skins you breed.
They have a tasty habit - they eat the hands that bleed."

No clue?

"So remember who you say you are and keep your noses clean.
Boys will be boys and play with toys so be strong with your beast."

Keep yourself under control (sexually)?

"Oh Rosie dear, doncha think it's queer, so stop me if you please.
The baby is dead, my lady said,"

No clue?

"You gentlemen, why you all work for me?"

Just a guess but by now (when the song was written) he would have had a lot of "suits" working for him i.e. handling his fortune?  

Thanks for listening
Wayne

Answer
Wow--that's a lot. I think if you watch the entire film "Performance" you will get a better idea about the song. It shows the violence and brutality of a mob member, who may actually be showing all of this power because of his secret homosexuality.
   Mick does have a habit of just throwing lines into a song to make people questions what he means and a lot of times it doesn't mean anything. Let me know when you've seen the whole film

Rolling Stones, The

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


I don't do this anymore

Expertise

SHIDOOBEE with Stonesdoug

Experience

SHIDOOBEE with Stonesdoug

Education/Credentials
SHIDOOBEE with Stonesdoug

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.