Sunday, June 4, 2017

Rolling Stones – "Dead Flowers" (1971)

I'll be in my basement room
With a needle and a spoon

Which musical genre do you think has the most mentions of illegal drugs?

Is it hip-hop/rap?  Rock?  Folk?

A recent study of the lyrics of over one million songs concluded that country songs mention drugs most frequently.  (You can click here to read more about that study.)

That’s right, boys and girls.  A country song is more likely to contain a drug reference than a rock song, a folk song, or a rap song.  

Are you surprised to learn that rap songs are least likely to refer to illicit drugs – even though certain the recordings of certain well-known rap performers (Eminem, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and Wu-Tang Clan among them) are packed with drug references?

What controlled substances are mentioned most often in recorded music?  Marijuana is #1 by a significant margin – over 30% of all the songs that mention drugs refer to weed.  Cocaine is second at 22%, followed by acid, pills, meth, and heroin.  

While marijuana is the most likely drug to be mentioned in rock, pop, hip-hop, and country songs, cocaine is #1 in – surprise – folk songs.

Here’s a list of the terms that were searched for by the researchers who did this study: acid, Adderall, addy, Ativan, bars, blotter, blow, blues, blunt, bud, buddha, chronic, cid, cocaine, coke, crack, crank, dank, dope, dose, doses, dro, ecstasy, gak, h, heroin, hydro, ice, joint, key, lean, Lortab, LSD, lucy, marijuana, MDMA, meth, methamphetamine, microdot, molly, morphine, OxyContin, Percocet, piff, pill, pot, powder, purp, Promethazine, roxy, speed, sizzurp, spliff, syrup, tab, tabs, tar, tweak, upper, Valium, Vicodin, weed, white, x, and Xanax. 

If you're familiar with all those terms, you might think about calling’s 24-hour addiction hotline at 1-800-654-0987.

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Keith Richards met the late Gram Parsons in 1968, when Parsons was with the Byrds.  He moved in with Keith after he left the Byrds, and the two spent hours at the piano playing country-western weepers.

Some people believe that Parsons deserves at least some of the credit for writing “Wild Horses,” which is officially a Jagger-Richards composition.  (Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers released a cover of the song about a year before the Stones’ version was released on Sticky Fingers.)

The only album cover to feature a working zipper
The other country song on Sticky Fingers is today’s featured song, “Dead Flowers.”  

David Marchese of recently ranked 374 Stones songs from best to worst.  “Dead Flowers” came in at #21 – that's pretty high.

Here’s his explanation of why he thinks the song deserves such a lofty ranking:

The pleasure of the Stones’ takes on country music comes from the tension between the commitment and accuracy of the band’s music and the irony and detachment of the singer’s vocals.  “Dead Flowers” is a near-perfect example of this.  Charlie and Bill’s relaxed trot, Keith’s full acoustic-guitar strumming, and Mick Taylor’s faux-pedal-steel lead lines have real authenticity.  And over there is that glittery bumpkin Jagger, twanging away about shooting up in the basement. 

I'm not sure that “irony and detachment” fully captures how Mick Jagger hammed it up on many of the country-style songs the Stones recorded.  (Listen to “Dear Doctor” from Beggars Banquet, and you’ll see what I mean.)  But he plays it relatively straight on “Dead Flowers.”

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Marchese neglected to mention Ian Stewart’s honky-tonk piano playing, which I think is the best thing about “Dead Flowers.”

Ian Stewart with the Stones
Stewart was an original member of the Stones, but manager Andrew Loog Oldham thought the group should have at most five performers on stage.  Stewart didn’t look the part of a pop star, so he drew the short straw.  

He accepted his demotion gracefully.  He became the band’s road manager, and played piano on a number of memorable Stones records – including “Honky Tonk Women,” “Let It Bleed,” “Brown Sugar,” and “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It).”

Stewart died of a heart attack in 1985, when he was 47 years old.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the Stones in 1989.

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Here’s “Dead Flowers”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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