Mick Jagger – “Memo from Turner” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

Mick Jagger’s “Memo from Turner” is a biting commentary packed with social critique and existential musings. It paints vivid pictures of various characters and settings, touching on themes like hypocrisy, corporate culture, and societal decay. What’s the message? Jagger is throwing a mirror at society, especially its flawed characters and institutions. From small-town happenings to large-scale social issues, nothing escapes the singer’s keen eye. The song questions our roles, judgments, and the systemic constructs that frame our lives.

Dying to uncover the messages hidden in Mick Jagger’s lyrical labyrinth? Stick around, and let’s unravel the knots in “Memo from Turner.”

“Memo from Turner” Lyrics Meaning

“Didn’t I see you down in San Antone on a hot and dusty night?” The song starts by plunging us into an evocative and gritty setting. It questions whether the listener has been involved in dubious activities, setting the tone for what’s to come.

“We were eating eggs in Sammy’s when the black man there drew his knife.” Here, the song captures racial tension and violence, subtly emphasizing the casualness of such incidents in everyday life.

“Didn’t you drown that Jew in Rampton when he washed his sleeveless shirt / With that Spanish-speaking gentlemen, the one we all called ‘Kurt.'” More direct and controversial, these lines challenge the listener to face past actions, bigoted or otherwise. The mix of religion, ethnicity, and violence reminds us of the societal prejudices that linger in our lives.

“Come now, gentleman, there must be some mistake / How forgetful I’m becoming, now you fixed your business straight.” These lines serve as a sarcastic reality check. The speaker suggests that people conveniently forget their questionable pasts, especially when they’ve ‘fixed their business straight.’

“I remember you in Hemlock Road in nineteen fifty-six.” The song takes a trip down memory lane, contrasting past and present selves. It points out hypocrisy by reminiscing about an unconventional past that clashes with a presumably “respectable” present.

“You’re a faggy little leather boy with a smaller piece of stick.” The song doesn’t shy away from the harsh language and blatant stigmas of its time. This line challenges society’s toxic masculinity and moral judgments, asking why those stigmas matter at all.

“Your sweat shines sweet and strong / Your organ’s working perfectly, but there’s a part that’s not screwed on.” The song suggests that while people might seem functional and successful on the outside, something crucial is missing: perhaps moral integrity or a sense of empathy.

“Weren’t you at the Coke convention back in nineteen sixty-five / You’re the misbred, grey executive that I’ve seen heavily advertised.” The song targets corporate culture, dissecting its shallowness and underlining its role in society’s downfall.

This is a lyrical journey through societal hypocrisies and moral inconsistencies, and it doesn’t stop here. The song continues to probe at these themes, offering both condemnation and insight.

The Story Behind “Memo from Turner”

When Mick Jagger penned “Memo from Turner,” he was in a turbulent period of the Rolling Stones’ career, during the late ’60s and early ’70s. The Stones were facing both scrutiny and idolization, and Jagger himself was in a state of social and philosophical contemplation.

The song was featured in the film “Performance,” in which Jagger plays a reclusive rock star. It can be interpreted as a reflection of his own life at that time: a fusion of critique and introspection, projected onto the big screen.

The late ’60s were a time of societal upheaval, marked by the Civil Rights Movement, anti-war protests, and the counterculture revolution. Jagger, always attuned to the world around him, poured this consciousness into his lyrics. “Memo from Turner” isn’t just a song; it’s a scathing critique of society and its myriad flaws.

Jagger has mentioned that the song tries to incorporate different American musical styles, perhaps to represent the different facets of the society he was critiquing. It’s a testament to his genius that the song has managed to capture the public’s imagination even decades after its release. From its rich tapestry of characters to its biting commentary, “Memo from Turner” remains a nuanced snapshot of a society wrestling with its own identity.