The Rolling Stones

Memo from Turner

Composed by Keith Richards / Mick Jagger

Song Review by

The story behind "Memo from Turner" is a rather complicated one, but one that needs to be told in order for listeners to straighten out which version appears where. In the late '60s, Mick Jagger starred in the controversial film Performance, and while he didn't do much singing in the movie, it did prominently feature one song with him on vocals, "Memo from Turner." When "Memo from Turner" was first released, it was on a Mick Jagger 1970 solo single that was a small hit in the U.K., recorded with musicians other than the Rolling Stones. Five years later, a different demo version, recorded in 1968 and credited to the Rolling Stones, surfaced on the outtakes compilation Metamorphosis. "Memo from Turner"'s a very interesting song that not only fit in well with the plot of the Performance movie -- as a memo in song from the scene in which Jagger fantasizes playing a gangster -- but would have been worthy of inclusion on a regular Rolling Stones album. Musically it's very much in the spirit of the late-'60s/early-'70s Stones, with a lazy but funky midtempo blues-rock feel and excellent slide guitar. Jagger puts on his best drawling speak-sing voice for the lyrics, spinning bizarre mini-snapshots of decadent, cruel gangster behavior. The music isn't grim, though; it's more in a sly, ironic happy-go-lucky vein, as if to illustrate the callous, carefree glee gangsters take in such antics. It's not a celebration of the gangster mentality, though, so much as a subtle, mocking look at its decadence, with hints of repressed homosexuality and almost gruesome imagery of dog-eat-dog behavior. In contrast to the Performance soundtrack recording, the demo on Metamorphosis is perfunctory and bloodless, with a slightly cardboardish sound, a stiff brisk tempo, and a Jagger vocal that sounds as if he's doing a guide track to be improved upon later. The Performance version is far superior, and though it was originally credited to Mick Jagger alone, it's included on the box set of vintage Rolling Stones singles tracks, Singles Collection: The London Years.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Metamorphosis 1975 ABKCO Records / Universal Music 2:45
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 4:06
Greatest Rarities, Vol. 1 1991 [Bootleg]
No Image 2001 Decca Bootleg
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 2:46
Singles 1968-1971 2005 Decca
The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 [Vinyl Box Set] 2010 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 2:46
blue highlight denotes editor's pick