Beggars Banquet. Fuck of an album. Start of my favorite Stones period – ’68 to ’71. Some real magic on there and an energy and vitality not tapped by the Stones since. I’m cranking it on the 7 southbound. Really into it, despite my fatigue. Beggars is the only album that makes any sense to me these days. On that, the Stones spoke a different rock and roll dialect. I don’t know how to say it other than that. And I’m tired on the 7. In fact, I’m fading off to sleep just as Street Fighting Man pumps through the headset…
And its me and Mick and Keith throwing punches and spitting blood as the fires of revolution break all around us. The bikinis are skinny, the pipes are flexed and the deeds are glorious and medal worthy. Keith stops to choke a line off a skinny broad’s ass and then declares in his best Keef that “we ‘ave to record an album in six hours or else we’re all dead men”.
“Six hours ain’t enough fucking time” yells Mick as he swings his fist into the jawbone of a republican, shattering the guys face. Mick picks up a torch and burns a house down and then tags a few bikini-clad groupies.
Keith takes another rail and answers with all the blown, mayhemic eedge that one rock and roll axefucker can manage. “ah ‘ell. Bollocks. Gotta be. Gotta do it, mates. No bloody option. Six hours. Ah fuck, we slid Beggars out the door in seven. This cunt’ll take no more than five.”
I pipe up, like I belong. “Five? Yer fuckin’ nuts, man. Churn out a Stones album in five hours? Look man, this ain’t 1965. Even with a bakers dozen of Gilbey’s it ain’t happening.”
Keith: “An ‘oo the ‘ell er you? Ted fucking Templeman? We’ll do the tracks and fuck off with it…”
Me: “I’m yer new bass player, fucker. Five aint happening.”
Keith: “why ya little prick ya…”
Mick: “Enough you two shits. Get down to cases then. You’re a bass slinger? Good. Since Jonesey left we’ve been dire. Lets throw the thing together. Or we’re all dead, right?”
Keith: “ ‘sright. The Stones hafta save the world again. This new record with pissflap here on the bass has to save the ‘effen world. That’s the promise of rock an roll, ain’t it? That’s why the kids buy the bloody vinyl, yes? We’re Jesus and fucking Mary and the Holy Shithead all in one. Its up to us, lads. All the puppies in America die if we don’t make this record and make it burn the flags spontaneously. Lets hit it.”
Who am I to argue with Keith Fucking Richards, the greatest guitarist of all time?
Rehearsal. Abandoned warehouse somewhere on the east side. Keith takes a swig from a rusty bottle of Gilbey’s and yells out, “this fucker’ll take no more than 60 minutes, gents. SIXTY MINUTES.” I strap on the Fender Fretless and let a few choice riffs fly, Lemmy style. Keith winces, takes another hit, spits his gin at me, and lets me have it.
“Listen, you young cock. That golden lady yer holdin’ in yer pathetic little hands ain’t no nickel whore. That beauty’ll change yer life and everyone else’s if you play it right. Respect the neck and it’ll respect you. Ya gotta take her forcefully but respectfully. Get it? This ain’t Motorheadache or any other bullshit hacks. You’re playin’ ‘ith the big boys now. The Stones. There ain’t no better gig in rock and rool, so tune up. Ya dig?”
“Just get on with the shit. Lets play already.”
Mick searches the memory banks for a second and then calls out “allright. Lets choke it up with Start Me Up. You ready, new boy? Awright. two. Three. Four! and Keith’s gloriously sloppy opening riff echoes through the warehouse. My fingers chew up the fretboard and keep up in fine style. Mick looks impressed, and Charlie and Ron, hitherto quiet and nearly invisible, pipe up with their approval. “ ‘es good, keef. Let ‘im be.” After running through a few more classics with me burning up the frets, it is time to record some new shit. Before that happens, Keith stops the festivities.
“Awright gents. As is tradition at a stones session, we break for an hour to fornicate and frolic and ‘dip it’, if you will.” He turns to Malcolm McLaren in the control room, “Malcolm, send in the broads!” Malcolm growls from behind his smoke and picks up the phone. Suddenly, two dozen scantily clad babes enter the room, each carrying a bottle of gin and a bag of weed. Keith promptly rolls a tighty, goes to work on two blondes. Mick does his glory with a few and soon the whole scene is a sweaty mass of ecstatic rock and roll catharsis. In between dips in a blonde, Keith looks at the clock. “FUCK ME! Two hours left! Boys, cut the slimwickery and get to fucking work! Sweethearts,” he says, addressing the babes, “it has been fun, but pack up your shit and GET OUT. NOW, GODDAMIT!”
The women pack up their shit and begin to leave. Mick yells out, “but leave the fucking gin!” Keith snorts an unholy wad of the white up his diseased nose and I’m fucked up on hydroponic pot and everything has that cool, fuzzy distance. Keith is looking a little like a skeletal clown in his leather and studs, face wrinkled like a dozen foreskins. Paranoia sets in. Jesus, do I even play the bass? What the hell am I doing here? I’m no fucking bassist! I’m not sure I can finish this shit.
The next voice I hear is Keith’s: “ ‘oi! Fucker! Snap out of it, dickbreed!” I see Keith’s reddening head, spliff on lower lip and earlobes stretched to his chest. “lets do this. You pull the cord on that lady and let her do the work. You’ll be fine…” he says as he pats my head like an advising father.
Mick: “Gents, we have an hour and a half to lay down ten tracks. Down to brass tacks. One take each and it’s a go. No fucking around. We riff and spit and leave blood on the floor. Everyone square?”
Keith: “Oi! Less go, then!”
Me: “Fuckin’ rock!”
Charlie and Ron lay down some solid shit and me Mick and Keith really heave it onto that poor little four track. We played like the stoned rock stars that we were for an hour solid, no break, no count out between songs. It was shit hot. I mean hotter than twelve babes in heat. Hotter than the cherry on Keith’s rollie. We finished the thing with minutes to spare. But was it hot enough? Hot enough to save the world from certain doom? Hot enough to punch through all that shit? Hot enough to sack the cities and leave ex-virgins in its wake? Was it balls enough?
Mick: “It’s shite. Pure shite. New guy, you suck shite. You’re too sloppy on track six. And Keith. Those fucking rails kill your timing. Everything is double time in that cloudy head of yours. And I sound like shit on the opener. This thing is a 1965 outtake at best. Not a real Stones record.”
Me: “It’s honest. Warts and all. That’s what people want to hear. Something real. Something with ragged edges, dripping with sex and broken teeth. That’s a real Stones album. That’s a real rock and roll album. Shitty and glorious in its shittyness. It’s a saver.”
Keith: “Gotta go with new squirt on this. The thing rocks cuz its raw. We ain’t Walmart. We just threw some of the most honest rock and roll onto a platter. We put more into that hour than most bands put in over their careers. Lets save the fucking world, gents. Its about time.”
We step out from the makeshift studio and into the revolution. The buildings are crumbling, the cars are turned over and smoking. Fists are flying and rocks are airborne. We still have our instruments on. The violent mass of people turns to us, The Rolling Fucking Stones. They’re waiting for us to begin. I’m riffing. Ron slings his Fender. Charlie behind the skins. Keith tunes up. Mick steps up and greets the crowd with his concert finest.
“We have a new record for you. And we just stopped by to jam a few tracks from that record, if you don’t mind.” Wild cheers from the crowd. Calls of “whats the album called?” come from the crowd. Shit. In the panic we totally slipped on an album name.
“Well, it’s called…um…it’s called…lets see know…how about Twenty Four Girls?” Loud cheers for that. Mick looks back and shrugs…Keith counts out….Charlie hits it perfect….I drop in like a night letter….Mick croons like a stoned Jesus….Ron cracks his neck into the rhythm behind the solo….and the whole performance takes on a mythic hue; a 125dB sacrament served up by questionable padres whose only skills are getting stoned and strumming a silly guitar or hitting some tuned skins. In that moment, a great idea was finally proven. The idea that the right song at the right time could change history. And it did.
I wake up and hit my head on one of the stainless support bars on the bus. Goddammit. Missed my stop. Overshot it by about six blocks. Oh well, I could use the walk. I walk home thinking of Keith snarling from behind a choker and Mick being the elegant leader. And what balls to put myself on stage with the Stones. I don’t even know which end of a bass is up for crissakes. That bloody album. Beggars Banquet. Does it every time.
StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?