Part Three: In The Aftermath
20 – Ian Stewart
Back at Ron’s I got behind the keyboards, and started playing simple boogie riffs, and after playing hard headed jazz for all these years you’d think I’d forgotten how to get into rock and blues and I hadn’t. I did my best Jimmy Johnson and started in on “Maybelline” and first the rest of the boys didn’t do anything, they just sat there and listened, grooving, while the two girls dances, and I played and around the halfway mark Charlie layed down the beat and Ron and Keith joined in and we jammed and jammed. And no it wasn’t prime Stones of course, we were just starting to play together, but the boys had big smiles and Keith was in his Keith slouch and though nobody asked her to, Susan became Mick , a 27 year old Mick and while she wasn’t great, she was good enough. I mean, what can you expect right? Even the Aftermath can only take you so far. “I left my home in Norfolk, Virginia…” she sang and we ran with it.
Keith stopped and said, “I wanna do that opening lick, let’s play it again…”
He killed it and we killed the song and then it was all Chuck Berry (Chuck ignored me when I saw him last week). All the hits, some of the obscurities, “Come On”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, “Let It Rock, “Brown Eyed Handsome man”…. We just rolled em up and knocked em down like rock and roll soul machines. Just like the old days. If Mick had never existed, this would have been the Stones, the ultimate Chuck Berry cover band. Keith called a time out and we all had a drink, Mick became Susan again and gave me a big hug and Fatou was clapping her hands and running round the room saying “This is gonna happen guys, one way or the other we are gonna do it.” I played the theme from “Mighty Mouse” and the mood was benign and hard as rock, we oozed Stonesiness from our pores (if we had had any) and we drank and then we ate for hours on end.
We all got fish and chips, and sat around, talking about the old days and the new days, remembering so many field trips and tours and close shaves till the last one of course, always about that last one. The boys were so young, so handsome, so cool, and me? I youthed myself but I didn’t change myself, I was happy the way I always were.
“I think I’ll miss growing really old, like 100 years old and barely able to move, can’t remember anything but the opening of ‘Satisfaction’”
“I think you reached there Keith, we were all getting there in the end.” Charlie said.
“God save Viagra.” Ron replied.
“Have you been keeping an eye on Karolina?” Keith asked.
“Yeah, yeah. She’s been in mourning but she she is coming out with it. A couple of guys interested in her but you know Karolina, she isn’t that interested. Just flirting to make sure she’s still got it…”
“I tied it up nicely, very nicely. No fighting between the family. Everybody got something, even the baby.”
“You regret that, don’t you?”
“I really do”, and suddenly the room deflated. “When she finally shows up here, she won’t know me. It’s so sad. I spend hours watching over her and yet…”
“It’s the pain of death that people lose sight of us”, Charlie said.
“You’ll never be a great great grandfather…!” I laughed.
“Though you look like one…”
Susan interrupted them, “For me, when I look and I see a place where I am not involved any more, where life has gone on and on and it is as if I have never existed, . I see the man I meant to be marry and he has a wife and kid and I know he thinks of me and I know he’d rather it was me, would give anything for me to be there. But so what? I’m not and he has to live his life.”
“You died young?” Ron asked and his face seemed to almost swell up with tears.
“I did die very young, I didn’t see everything I wanted to, maybe everything I could have but… that’s what happens right? I am happy, but not happier, the lack of concern over dying probably weighed more on you then it could’ve done.”
“When I watch my family, there is like this ache”, Keith said. “Patti isn’t looking for any one new, why would she? But I am still jealous of people who are with her and I’m not.”
“You’re never ready,” I said. “You think you are but you’re not. I’m not. I’m doing everything I used to, I want death to be life. And while I enjoy the whole life only bigger stuff there is something missing. And I’ve been here decades but time is different, you know.”
Fatou tried to explain, she held my hand and looked in my eyes: “I know it is strange but 50 years is a blink of the eye here, it can take a thousand years for you to assimilate backwards into the Aftermath but it is worth both sides of the experience…”
“But is it?” Charlie asked. “Is this heartbreak here and now worth the years on earth?”
“The bonds in the Aftermath can take decades, 100s of years to build, but on earth everybody is in a hurry because time is so limited. It rushes you forward.”
“But why do people die? Why did Susan die so young?”
“I don’t believe it.” Keith muttered.
“Well, ask Blue Eyes, you’ll be seeing Blue again soon.”
Ron looked alarmed, “You mean my dog?”
“Yes, actually I do” Fatou said smiling.
Keith guffawed, “Your dog is the muckety muck of the Universe…”
We all laughed at the thought and then it dawned on us that it was true. “I didn’t even know there is a big cheese.”
“It’s complicated,” Fatou said.
“So complicated that I know it completely, as do we all, but we can’t quite grasp it. It’s like we have a sense and it isn’t being hidden but it is so big. It is as though some of what we knew on earth isn’t wrong and some of it is. Some of the things all religions share actually is pretty accurate.”
“There is one all powerful being and it is my dog? I don’t believe you…”
“He has a point,” Charlie said taking a long drag on his cigarette. “I’ve met Blue Eyes. A cute dog but not that smart.”
Fatou interrupted the conversation, went over to Keith, took his bottle and took a swig before answering. “The answer to everything is open to you if you can see it, but really everything is up to you. It is like being alive with intrinsic differences and different concerns. That you can be whatever you want with no effort is the icing on the cake, the truth is once you start really thinking you move past the obvious. It isn’t what it appears to be, and it isn’t paradise but it might well be better than we think it is because in the end we have absolutely authority over just about everything.”
“It’s like art, right. Like one of my paintings, everything is the Aftermath plus the Universe and we are different brush strokes on the canvas.”
“Yes, but we are also the canvas and the painting and everything else. We are individuals that make up the whole….”
“And the whole is Blue Eyes?”
“Blue Eyes is the President and the maker but he answers to us as well.”
“And he promises we never die and we never lose or identity.”
“Unless we want to.”
“It’s true, it’s all true…” We all turned round and there was Brian Jones. I’d gone in search of Brian several times but just guessed he wasn’t interested in me.
Keith and Charlie jumped up, then Keith stopped and stood back down, unsure of his reception. Then he jumped up again.
“I heard you were playing one last concert,” Brian said. “Thought I might rejoin the band…”
Then the three were hugging and smiling and all talking at once. Brian turned to Stu. “You were looking for me, sorry I’ve been dead… you know what I mean, but I’ve had enough of that and I’m ready to get back to music. Again, Stu. I’m sorry, I should have been here with you.”
I smiled wildly, I’d been upset. I’d thought oh yeah, if it was Charlie or Bill he’d have been there, and I was glad to know that he had chosen to close down shop and not ignore me completely.
Brian conjured a sitar and we began to jam on “Paint It Black” and just let the song unravel. Brian from sitar to slide to trombone, and each really himself, and all the rust disappeared. The women sat and listened and I don’t know what Susan whispered to Fatou but if she’d said, “they could do it without Mick” I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
“Brian, wanna try bass please?”
Brian didn’t say another but we were onto “Satisfaction”, and Susan Mick Jaggered herself, and started to plow through the catalog, all 60s because Keith didn’t wanna teach Brian and me new songs, most Aftermath, and Between The Buttons, very riff heavy, with Susan, conjuring the words and singing well enough to keep us on track but very cleverly. She knew not to push it and so we rehearsed and waited for Mick.
simultaneously self-effacing and egomaniacs
essentially a disco remix of “Rocket Man” featuring one of the the UK’s biggest stars…
“I literally really need you to jump up and down”
Friday night might kill us but Thursday evening is a blast
it just isn’t the triumph she needed after six years
an impressive sonic ride.
a high-spirited Post Pandemic anthem
a memorable band who were never better than here
almost Pink Floyd-esque