Tag Archives: Sticky Fingers

Axe of Kindness

Last August, I was deep in the process of writing Bluer Than Midnight, a weird, noir-insprired two-act about The Blues, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Afterlife (no, really), when, taken with a wild notion, I went and bought a guitar because I figured, well, how can you write about the Blues from the inside without trying to play it? A quaint notion, but still….

Anyway, after a year of struggling with my Strat, I finally managed, this weekend, to play a Blues song above my usual profound level of lameness such that I enjoyed myself. It’s “You Gotta Move,” a Fred McDowell tune that the Stones covered on “Sticky Fingers.” I’d looked up the tabs on the Internet, but the key was a challenging one for me, so I actually, honest-to-God transposed it to a key I could play (that’s “A” boys and girls), and the pieces came together. Plus, the song’s within my extensive, five-note vocal range; so I could actually sing the goddamn thing without hellishly embarassing myself.

Afterwards, I kind of sat back in a fugue state, my left hand aching like hell because I ended up playing it nonstop for about a half-hour, and thought: “Damn…I really did it. I’ll be go to hell. I feel incredibly high.”

And then I tried to play something else and was immediately humbled.

The play’s more or less finished until it goes on to the next stage–a workshop or public reading–and I’m happy with it and looking forward to seeing where its journey next takes it. But whether it lives or dies, it’s given me a moment I’ll always remember.


Life with Mick & Keef

Thinking much of the Glimmer Twins of late, back when they were young and, as Gore Vidal said, so ugly they were pretty. Recently finished the first draft of a new two-act drama called “Next of Kin,” which has do with a family reunited for a medical crisis. Sounds pretty pedestrian for me, given my onstage history with characters spontaneously exploding, turning into insects, and having telepathically induced orgasms (and that’s all in one play), but the family patriarch in the new play is a totally whacked Vietnam Veteran, hardcore helicopter pilot, and rabid Rolling Stones fan who named his kids after the band members; so I’ve been listening to the Stones more than usual.

I guess anyone who gives a damn about rock’n’roll (or whatever myriad forms popular music has mutated into) hooks into a certain band, and that music comes to punctuate moments of their lives. It’s not necessarily transferable: I start talking about the Stones, and I can see my wife’s attention…drift…elsewhere. As well it probably should.

But there is one Stones memory that haunts me. It was back in the early 80s, wintertime, and I was driving by night to Southern Oregon. In a space of about 50 miles, there are four mountain passes and valleys one has to negotiate, and the driving can get a bit tricky. It had to be past midnight. I’d stopped in a little town called Canyonville, loaded up on coffee at a truck stop (and, perhaps, I might have had another, substantially more powerful stimulant in my system as well). Anyway, put on “Sticky Fingers,” took a deep breath, and began climbing the first of the passes.

It was going pretty well, but, as I started climbing Mt. Sexton, the final pass, it began to snow. Millions upon millions of thick, drifting flakes, immediately beginning to stick. I could feel my tires not quite connecting–this was in an old, heavy Ford with rear-wheel drive–and I knew I not only had the pass to cross but a long, steep grade down the mountain, probably into a blizzard. White-knuckle driving if there ever was one, and then the Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” came on, it’s drifting, dreamy mood and rhythm seeming in concert with the snowflakes sweeping before my headlights, and it was like everything went…click. A perfect moment. Genuinely dangerous, stunningly beautiful. One you never forget. Forever, in the mind’s eye, the snow falling, the guitars keening, and Jagger whispering in your ear:

When the wind blows and the rain feels cold
With a head full of snow
With a head full of snow
In the window there’s a face you know
Don’t the nights pass slow
Don’t the nights pass slow