Listen to this track from the soundtrack of Donald Cammel’s and Nicholas Roeg’s 1970 film Performance, as performed by the star of that movie, one Mick Jagger. It’s “Memo From Turner”, a song which can be found on The Rolling Stones’ The London Years, and credited to Jagger/Richards. But, this tune was Jagger’s first solo piece, also released in 1970, even if it was recorded in mid-1968 during the filming of the movie, with none of the other Stones featured on the song.
Still in the thrall of his own Byronic image, and presenting it so winningly that he was immediately noticed for cinematic appeal, Mick Jagger took the role of the burned-out rock star Turner in the Cammel/Roeg film that would capture something of the dark side of 60s London. Faced with his first role in a film, and coached by his actress-singer girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, Jagger decided not to play himself, but rather to amalgamate the dueling personalities two of his colleagues at the time; laconic Keith Richard (later to be known of course as “Richards”, his actual surname), and paranoid, drug-beleaguered Brian Jones.
The film is a dark, impressionistic achievement, marrying the glamour of both rock musicians and 60s gangland London together, revealing the two to be the mirror images of each other. The tonal darkness to be found here in the movie is perhaps helped along by the fact that the project proved to be a stumbling block for the Jagger/Richard partnership, then at a crucial turning point, creatively speaking.
Jagger’s steamy scenes with Anita Pallenberg, his partner’s girlfriend at the time, which depicted allegedly unsimulated sex between the two, didn’t sit well with Richard. So, when it came to writing a song for the movie, Jagger found himself abandoned by a fuming Keith Richard. The full details of this account of the events can be read in Victor Bockris’ Keith Richards biography.
Yet, with the help of studio musicians under the leadership of producer Jack Nitzche, and supplemented by a truly incendiary slide guitar from a 21-year old Ry Cooder, Jagger’s first solo single was something to celebrate. And in the end, Richard got his musical credit anyway. Despite the unusual circumstance which tested it, their partnership as a creative unit remained intact.
This is just as well, seeing as many of the songs they’d write together to be celebrated as classics of the era were still ahead of them. Also ahead of them of course would be a real clash between the rock world and the world of organized crime – the free concert at Altamont raceway , captured as it was in another film Gimme Shelter, in which Jagger finds himself in quite a different role as the wide-eyed, sheltered rock aristo in a sea of violence, mayhem, and murder that is well beyond him.
Learn more about the film Performance by reviewing the Performance Wikipedia page.