jag-arr of the jungle

     by patti smith

[from Creem, January 1973]

The monkey man swings home for a snort of Cognac with his pals, Bianca and Boy. He may top it off with a Cold Italian Pizza. Ook, ook.

Look back, it was 1965. Pa was shouting from the tv room. "jesus christ! jesus christ!" I flew up those stairs pumping in 3.D. Bad black widows...water moccasins...red snake long as a fire hose. see our house was built on a long swamp. on easter a boy died. he sank in the quick mud and the next morning he floated up like ivory soap. Mama made me go to the wake. the afternoon was hell hot. mosquitoes and steam were rising from the swamp. the world series was on. the women sat around the casket. all the men sat around the tv.

Which brings me back to pa. I ran in panting. I was scared silly. there was pa glued to the tv screen cussing his brains out. A rock'n'roll band was doing it right on the ed sullivan show. pa was frothing like a dog. I never seen him so mad. but I lost contact with him quick. that band was as relentless as murder. I was trapped in a field of hot dots. the guitar player had pimples. the blonde kneeling down had circles ringing his eyes. one had greasy hair. the other didn't care. and the singer was showing his second layer of skin and more than a little milk. I felt thru his pants with optic x-ray. this was some hard meat. this was a bitch. five white boys sexy as any spade. their nerves were wired and their third leg was rising. in six minutes five lusty images gave me my first glob of gooie in my virgin panties.

That was my introduction to the Rolling Stones. they did Time is on my side, my brain froze. I was doing all my thinking between my legs. I got shook. light broke. they were gone and I cliff-hanging. like jerking off without coming.

Pa snapped off the tv. but he was too late. they put the touch on me. I was blushing jelly. this was no mamas boy music. it was alchemical. I couldn't fathom the recipe but I was ready. blind love for my father was the first thing I sacrificed to Mick Jagger.

Time passed. I offered up everything I didn't have. every little lamb. I can tie the Stones in with every sexual release of my late blooming adolescence. The Stones were sexually freeing confused american children, a girl could feel power. lady glory, a guy could reveal his feminine side without being called a fag. masculinity was no longer measured on the football field.

Ya never think of the Stones as fags. In full make-up and frills they still get it across. they know just how to ram a woman. they made me real proud to be female. the other half of male. they aroused in me both a feline sense of power and a longing to be held under the thumb.

The Aftermath album was the real move. two faced woman. doncha bother me. the singer displays contempt for his lady. he's on top and that's what I like. then he raises her as queen. his obsession is her. "goin home." What a song. so wild so pump pumping. do it down in the basement. don't come til the last second. cockpit. cover you like an airplane. stones music is screwing music.

They rechanneled hot rivers at 78 speed. they were a guide for every shifty white kid. who could get behind the sun tanned soul of Jan and Dean? look back on the T.A.M.I. show. Leslie Gore was auntie mama. the spastic moves of Gerry and the Pacemakers. god bless the marvelous majorette precision of Motown. the T.A.M.I. shows saving grace was pure spade. until the last precious moments with the Rolling Stones. On that silver screen they were bigger than bed. my head spun my pussy dripped my pants were wet and the Rolling Stones redeemed the white man forever.

No wonder the Christian god banned the image. jealous bastard. he must have foreseen the black and white movie. who can reject the power of that image? real or 3-D the magic leaks thru. if you got it, and they had it.

I seen them live in 1966. In the heart of the february freeze. Frank Stefanko picked me up in a towtruck. we cruised thru every redlight in south phillie. It was my first white concert. Now at the Roxy the spades danced on the ceiling. But this was different. These blonde screamers were after more than a party.

Mick ripped off his flowered shirt and did a fandango. satisfaction, tambourine on head he strutted like some stud. virgin fell off her folding chair and broke her leg. I sussed it all out. this was not tv this was real. I could enter the action. I got set to out stoneface Bill Wyman. the cornerstone of the stones. relentless as Stonehenge as a pyramid. any hard edged kid took to him. He was on stage right to catch some spit from Mick. Then hell broke. handkerchiefs folded like flowers. a million girls busting my spleen. oh baudelaire. I grabbed Brian's ankle and held on like a drowning child. It seemed like hours. I was getting bored. I looked up. I yawned. Bill Wyman cracked up. Brian grinned. I got scared. I squeezed out and ran. like the altar boy who busts his nut to peek in the sacred chalice. once achieved what next? I left without my hat. I was soaking wet. sweat was freezing on my face.

The politics of speed. Between the Buttons came out. That's when I zoomed in on Brian. I got obsessed with him. Focused on him like some sick kodak. Brian between the what? Look at that cover. look at him. he's exposed, he's cold as ice. his powdery skin. his shadow eyes. a doomed albino raccoon. I seen them do Ruby Tuesday on tv. Mick was on top he was the prince. decked in a mirrored shirt and shingled hair. he made his first public ballet bow. Brian was crouched down. he seemed covered with a translucent dust. mr. amanda jones.

And around and around we went. We were all shaking with the nervous glitter of the Rolling Stones. They affected our every move. Look back. They stole the boatneck from the beatnik and stole it from them. Ethnic sleaze. We chopped our hair like our favorite Stone. What blonde didn't scissor after Brian. Me I inspect no less than forty Keith Richards head shots for my coif guide. We donned long scarves, striped pants, elegant rags. Anything stoned. You are what you dance to. Fashioned after them we opened our movements, our walks, our eyes and our flys. Yeah the Stones styled on. Everything about them was cool. They were like spades that way. Backstreet pimps. Cool from their shades to their shoes. Their classic is the soft white low heeled leather dancing shoe. That shoe is showcased on the cover and inside of High Tide and Green Grass. A shoe designed for comfort and agility on stage. Mick still flashes the white shoe. Jumping Jack Fancy Footwork.

By 1967 they all but eliminated the word guilt from our vocabulary. Lets Spend the Night Together was the big hit. Its impossible to suffer guilt when you're moving to that song. The Flowers album was for loners and lovers only. It provided a tight backdrop for a lot of decadent fantasy. And by 67 fantasy had already got the best of me.

I was a little loose in the attic. When I was a kid I tied do-rags around my head tight. I was scared my sound would fly out at night. Scared my vital breath would make the big slip. some ventriloquist. So I steered from drugs and threw myself in full frenzied dance.

I never considered the Stones drug music. They were the drug itself. They took up where Martha and the Vandellas left off. Real heatwave dancing music. thru demon genius they hit that chord. basic as Charlie's drum beat. as primitive as a western man could stand. find the beat and you dance all night. dive into Gimme Shelter full volume. Its always been easy to let it loose to the Stones, cause they're so cool. so worthy.

Plenty of body shot. they had their brain shot too. Remember "We Love You?" the beat was hidden. it was far from western but when it needled ya you were shot up but good. madly intoxicating. erotic and extending. Like the Satanic Majesty. Real search party music. hang your lantern high. Brain operation. Then they backed it up with Beggars Banquet. Pure hump hump. Get that trojan.

Body and brain. They spell cocaine, the inner search light. speed and slow motion. perfect show job. the results are alchemical. and if you can't afford it the Stones are it. Sticky Fingers. Exile on Mainstreet. Stick your nose in the speakers and get frostbite.

But in 1969 you know cocaine was not the national drug. Flower power was wilting and there was no sign of a great snow drift. Me, I was out of synch with life. I had to get out. I piled my Stones pix in a Bob Dylan Tarantula shopping bag and ran to paris. There I was anonymous. Off season. Americans were rare as radium. I teamed up with a fire-eater called Andrillias. He had a crooked arm and a way with women. A face as sculptured and as non-committal as Charlie Watts. His cloak was strictly civil war. He taught me how to light a cigarette in the wind and the way to an American's fat wallet. He would strip to the waist. The fire would jump and the crowd would shout. I'd sashy within and out. jingle jangle. pickpocket a guy who looks just like a daddy.

Things changed hands. A fire eater needs to move. I stayed in Paris looking for bulges in American trousers. Soon after it hit the papers. Brian was leaving the Stones. That got me shook. I kept reading the news over and over. As if to uncover some invisible print. I was so sure there was more to the story. Then Godards One Plus One was released. It showcased the Stones. I went sniffing for clues. Christ I hated that movie. It exposed Mick. made him look like an ass. Being a true American I don't like people rocking my idol. So I wore blinders and zoomed in on Brian. He wasn't human and not super human. rather transparent. The bruised and vulnerable soul of the Stones.

I tried to touch. I made this chant:

Brian Brian/I'm not crying/I'm just trying/to reach you.

My own mantra. Hard contact. Mix and melt and warn a sacred stranger. A weakling.

The fire eater reappeared. We withdrew to a town called the "wishing well." I tried to can my obsession. I was getting wall-eyed. I made Lizzie Borden look like a seamstress. I breathed deeper. forget Brian. ya don't even know him. Relax. Dig a hole and shit like a cat. like Voltaire.

So I slept it off like a good drunk. Snails crawled up the walls. Albino chickens and a big black dog circled the hut. One night of peace. Then I fell so fast. No longer tense I was a perfect trance target. When sleep covered me I'd dream a death dream of Brian. By the fourth night I wished I was dead. My body erupted. I was covered with an unknown rash. I could hardly breathe. I dropped a pot of boiling water on my legs. They bubbled up like jelly fish.

He'd drown in his own tears. mock turtle.

He'd swell up from swallowing too much rain.

dressed in victorian lace he'd choke

Mick would cover his eyes. Keith would cry like the warrior.

Night after night. Until my eyes burned like a leg.

It was July 2. The doctor thought I was bats. He gave me morphine for the pain. He whispered sweet dreams.

That night stretched like a cloud. A hypnotic. I was aware of the droning of bees. In the garden the blonde woman was preparing a mixture of pollen and pure honey. Keith was twisting her arm. He had a leather erection. Mick was writhing. some dizzy ritual. The pollen made me wheeze. I laid in the grass and puked. The dew was cooling my hot leg. Someone grabbed my ankle. bruising it. I was saved. I was suffocating in my own warm vomit. I gulped sweet oxygen and turned. Brian was still holding on. I wanted to speak to him but I got caught up in the lace border of his cuff. I traced the delicate embroidery until it stretched across my field of vision like queen anne's lace.

It was morning. It was dazzling. It was July 3rd. By night fall the whole world knew that Brian Jones was dead.

I went home to America and threw up on my fathers bed.

I was antique. He had returned to light and I was holding baby hair.

Brian was a length ahead. He was gonna dig up the great African root and pump it like gas in every Stones hit. But it wasn't time yet. Unlucky horoscope. Imagination and realization were ticking on separate timepieces.

But Brian was in a hurry. Running neck and neck with his vision was his demon. He would soon as stick his dick up the baby dolls ass. Shove pins in the heads of innocents. Torn between evil energy and pure spirit. Bad seed with a golden spleen. The Stones were moving toward a mortal mergence of the unspoken monument and the hot dance of life. But they were moving too slow for Brian. So slow he split. In two.

Death by water. Just a shot away from the heart of Ethiopia. Rising to original heights. Up and over Adams apple sauce. There are blonde hairs raveling in the Stones vital breath. ha ha. Brian got the last laugh.

And the sacrifices continue. moving toward the perfect moment. the miracle of Altamont. The death of the lime green spade. Not shocking. Necessary. The most graceful complete moment. Compare his dance of death with Mick's frenzied movement. Mick's spastic magic. Unlucky motor.

Give history a chance. St. Meredith. his image in pure copper rising over the speedway. Our jesus of Brazil.

Look back Altamont. Our Rome. water babies. no flow. no one. gimme gimme. a private piece of the action. some footage. some tail. hold it to the ego like gold plate. no collective act.

And Mick was no flashing priest. A pretty sailor thrown in a cell of sissy athletes. All panting into anarchy. They pluck up Mick like the old fairy tale. Split the goose that lays the slow golden eggs. shake that magic maker. extract that diamond tooth.

I pray that its alright. well it wasn't. Not until that flash of silver. that very silent knife. skin pop. Washed in the blood of the lamb any villain comes out clean as Niagara falls.

That's the western movement. That's the way of rock n roll. At my first school dance Jo-Jo Rose got stabbed. U.S. Bonds was lip-synching "Quarter to Three." Nobodies erecting monuments to Jo-Jo Rose. Nobody's blaming U.S. Bonds neither.

Blame Mick Jagger? For what? for performing thru theory not grace. The alchemy was not there. The performer and the audience have got to be as intimate as the killer and his victim. Like in Performance. Takes two to make the radio. Contact pill. If you can see it you can get it. Brian dreamed of it. Mick failed at it.

But you know he's redeemed. Mick did it. This is no stylistic trick. Tuesday night July 25 1972 at Madison Square Garden. A sacred peep show. Pope don't bless my flashlight. I found my own way.

Born to be. Born to be me. Got my ticket for free. What would I wear? Keith Richards gear? bone in the ear? Naaa. Lay the flash aside. Dress like Don't Look Back. Just the right dark glasses. Blow my last buck to be cool. grab that taxi. adjust my shades and light a Kool. Pat my flask of Jack Daniel's. I get there. Completely solitaire.

My seat juts out. Overlook the ground floor. Left handed stage view. Nobody can get in my way. Nothing but ramp and space. A box seat. Tuesday was the off night. The double show day. Rock stars make their own labor laws. Inhuman work load. No party. No hip chicks. Just fans. Everyone a stranger. Good. I could play at being a cool and perfect stranger myself. I sat there feeling incognito hot shit. Then my stomach started feeling funny. Detached jello. Regulate my breath. Be a breathing camera. The hungry eye.

My eye rolled down the stream of light. Stevie Wonder was on. Funny bone. He sniffed out his territory. More suspicious than a tom cat. He wasn't singing he was breathing. That amazing thick veined neck. Motown was moving. Wall to wall production. A full blown track with no vocal. He was laughing. He could give a shit. He was great. He hit the drums. He just don't make mistakes. He makes it all up. As Judy Linn said: "I would not like to be Stevie Wonder's drummer. It would be like directing Orson Welles in a movie." A real visual performer. When he's behind his putney he deals in nouns. Look Stevie. Roll on. 20,000 eyes are watching you. Your eyes are turned in. When you sing you really sing. He set me up for the Stones. Pulling my vision in. Inverted flashlight.

I was sorry to see him go. In fact. Panic struck. It was too quick. The equipment men moved like magnets. Cleared the stage. Room to dance to breathe. The lights went out and the crowd rose up. Someone rested a birthday cake on an amp. The first hint of ritual. What are you doing on your birthday?

Then something snapped. I'm no screamer. I swear. When the roller coaster crashes. I hold my breath. I refuse to let loose. It's a matter of pride. But I cracked. My tear ducts burst. They were there in 4-D. Fell on one knee. Couldn't see. My brain cracked like an egg. The gold liquid spurted all over the stage. Mick bathed in it. Keith got his feet wet. Then I calmed quick. It was like coming without jerking off. They hadn't even finished brown sugar and I was cool as a snake. Physically for me the concert was over. Like hearing the punchline then sitting thru the long drawn out joke.

The rest was pure head motion. Like viewing any ancient ceremony. Pass the sacred wafer. Transfixed my open laughter. My brain was open as a loft. No mere image. I was ashamed. They were just men. Charlie raised over like King Drum. Bill in red velvet. His bass way up. His classic dignity. Mick Taylor completing the triangle. The maypole.

Mick and Keith wove their magic round. Keith a drunken kid. He was moving so good. Thin raunchy glitter. I don't care what anyone says. He's the real rolling stone. He got the silver. Basic black guitar. Like a convertible. Like heartbreak hotel. His plexiglass one got stolen.

Stealing stealing I feel so good when I'm stealing. Keith from Charlie. Mick from the crowd. It was plain to see their mercury was frozen. But it was Mick who seemed affected most. It got me shook. To hear him talk. As if we were to blame for.

His frothing mouth. His skeleton chest. No longer a boy with soft flesh. His nipples weren't hard. He wasn't erect. The warrior class gone fag. The dying Mayan. Infections on his fingers. He was decked out like a tacky harlequin. Were they holes or were they rhinestones on that white flight suit? Spangled satin open to the stomach. Covered in sentimental airplane leather. The leather was soon discarded. It was tougher than he was. He never raised his arm that high. Rather he twisted his fragile frame like the mime. The fluid monkey. Then more fluid. then water. then piss.

Mick you devil dog you. He was on the verge of collapse. But not in the way you gossip about. But the way that transcends into light. This was the off night. The night he really did it. The night he never dared to do. He got too much money riding on his act. The other concerts were fantastic polished sideshows. Mick spitting glitter. 40 carat dandruff. The flash of these premeditated concerts was only temporarily blinding. The one I seen was different. I'll hold forever. The one barely documented. The least star-studded. The magic accident. The hallmark of a ten year project. Mick do you know you really did it?

Redemption don't come easy. ringo. Mick needed help and we knew it. He tried to speak. He slurred jagged poetry:

You're very warm. warm warm warm.

here in new york. new york new york new york.

tired tired. bang bang bang.

It made some uncomfortable. Some threw rotten apples. Keith swept over. Magic mafia. He put his life in front of Mick. The Stones thru a field of protection over as relentless as barbed wire.

Some were afraid he'd drop. We can't let another human god collapse. There's a shortage. Crowd sent him energy. in waves. Invisible friction. A collective shot of speed and desire. "I'm a little hoarse," he begged. Wooooo. The crowd gave him what they had. Proud to offer a sliver of their vocal to Mick Jagger. So he breathed "Love in Vain." I swear in slow motion. The way a morphine man whirls. Clockless abandon. So slushy. The kind of confidence in death that cocaine produces. If he lost the beat a new one was invented. The true language of ritual. Not remote but in the moment. What a beautiful bird what a beautiful burst.

To Midnight Rambler he worked hard. Calisthenics. Frenzied push-ups. Mad shadow box. Anything to keep him up. No one dared rush the stage. Might break the current. Death of holy Frankenstein. It was less a rock concert than a battle for survival.

Completely protected by the Rolling Stones. In return he extended them. Their cosmic monkey. Their ballet flower girl. He was no strutting cock. Not now. He fluttered like a swan; a holy ghost.

Not without sacrifice. He was loosing his grip. He introduced the band. A long silence before Keith. Death rattle. Did he introduce Brian Jones? Freeze that moment. I got no Maysley video to look back on. What was he saying? The silence was anything but golden. Does the lion drown underwater? Or does he swallow the golden fish? Brian swimming thru the crowd. I looked down. They were modulating. Jagger was apologizing. Incoherent. drooling. the heat. the drink. I was in shock. My heart stopped this short. from stopping.

Now get this. The performer is given a character. The masked millionaire. A man of wealth and taste. One night he loses it. Lifts the veil and reveals. He moves outside his own choreography.

Mick did it. He whirled round and round. Spun all over the stage. Senile Magi. Identical to his true and original chemistry. Not childlike but the child itself. Not drugged but the uncut crystal. He had sacrificed the image of Mick Jagger. He had gone so far he could do no wrong. Or right. Just beyond judgement.

On stage there was a huge mirror. The amateur alchemists' trick. To blend the Stones and Mick and spectators as one. Two way X-ray. The stones have stolen from everyone and spit it back again. this is what you were. This is what we've become. The only surviving mirror of every great move in the sixties. They were playing as good as a record. That's rare for them. Not a false move and not perfect either.

The concert was ending. Mick passed the test. Proved he was a human god. He saw that death-light was just a shot away. He went berserk. Wild adrenalin. He went for broke. And captured the whole casino.

The goodie-goodie medicine man. Back up the sacred monsters. Rise up angel. You made it Mick. We could have chomped you up like raw meat. But you won. You drained our brain.

Some last minute flashes. Mick shook out olympic energy. He was a ring-a-ding baptist. Water water everywhere. On the skull and in the face. Good as spit. He hugged his hornplayer. He was popping like a weasel. His head bobbing like a drowning man. His face was full of silly grace. The sky was racing toward a full moon. He blew out his candles and the lights went up. At last we were revealed. The art of the spectator frozen forever. Got nothing live without audience.

We rose without shame. This was our show too. Raised our arm to jumping jack flash. Our Savior is a white nazi. Jesus..Hitler..Dylan..Jagger. Give it all to the total performer. The millionaire martyr. Light broke. Brian Jones. It was over. I ran home.

For the first time completely satisfied. Like a good cinderella I was home before midnight. A perfect stranger stopped me:

Did you ever see a concert like that?

Only in my head.

I tied a do-rag round it. My brain oiled. A texas gusher. Sick with the tropical heat I slept deep. and I dreamed this dream:

Mick Jagger lying down. I lay down. We fall asleep. We dream the same dream. Breathe the same air. In a circle. That widens encircles the room. the house. the universe.

and I dreamed this dream:

I steal the genet skin of my sleeping lover. With my new full blown cock I fuck every blonde in the world.

and I dreamed this dream:

Sick with white logic. I ride the roller coaster. higher and higher. thru cloud matter. Take the big plunge. My mouth a big white O. Everything explodes. Pure light. Undulating form. Contracting within a prism. Which widens like a pure white loft. Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere. Brian Jones enters. Very formal. Very aware. He explains his brain. and brain waves. and halo light.

I can't help it. I cry out. How are you? Have you been all right? He smiles. He turns away and says: "I have everything under control."


"In this life there is no pleasure greater
than coming back to life again
after having been torn to shreds."

           —The Popul Vuh

Copyright © Patti Smith 1973

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