Meaning of “Memo from Turner” by Mick Jagger

Written By Michael Miller

Michael is a music teacher and professional cellist. He loves uncovering the deeper meaning of popular songs.

“Memo from Turner” by Mick Jagger is a provocative song, with lyrics seemingly delving into themes of hypocrisy, the loss of innocence, and societal critiques, possibly reflecting the chaotic socio-political environment of the 60s. The song appears to portray a variety of characters and scenarios, potentially illustrating the conflicting morals and values within society. The vivid and, at times, unsettling imagery might serve as Jagger’s method of prompting listeners to reflect on societal norms and their implications.

Looking for more insights on this intriguing piece by Jagger? Dive in below as we unpack the song’s lyrical intricacies, and explore the backdrop against which it was written.

“Memo from Turner” Lyrics Meaning

“Memo from Turner” starts with images of confrontation and conflict, potentially symbolizing a chaotic, morally conflicted society. The reference to “San Antone” on a “hot and dusty night” and a drawn knife might represent the tensions and eruptions of violence prevalent during the 60s.

The next line,

“Didn’t you drown that Jew in Rampton when he washed his sleeveless shirt,”

is laced with vivid and potentially controversial imagery, possibly illustrating societal prejudices and rampant racism of the era, highlighting the depth of societal division.

Mick Jagger then explores themes of identity and self-perception,

“I remember you in Hemlock Road in nineteen fifty-six.”

Here, the depiction of a “faggy little leather boy” could be interpreted as a critique of societal norms and sexual conventions, reflecting the evolving conversation about sexuality during that period. The “smaller piece of stick” and the “part that’s not screwed on” might illustrate perceived inadequacies and societal expectations of masculinity.

As the song progresses, the mention of the “Coke convention” and the “misbred, grey executive” perhaps delves into corporate and commercial critiques, possibly implying the moral compromises inherent in commercial success. The “great, gray man whose daughter licks policemen’s buttons clean” could be seen as a representation of the power dynamics and corruptive influences at play within society.

The chorus,

“Come now, gentleman, your love is all I crave. You’ll still be in the circus when I’m laughing, laughing in my grave.”

could be hinting at the transitory nature of life and the pursuit of ephemeral desires, juxtaposed against the lasting impact of one’s actions and moral choices.

Finally, the lyrics paint a haunting picture of dehumanization and moral decay,

“When the old men do the fighting and the young men all look on

And the young girls eat their mothers meat from tubes of plastic on.”

These lines potentially illustrate the disregard for human life and the detachment and desensitization of younger generations, possibly reflecting a society in moral turmoil. The subsequent lines seem to emphasize the responsibility of individuals to remain aware of their actions and the potential consequences, implicitly warning the listener to remain vigilant and morally grounded.

Why Was “Memo from Turner” Written?

Understanding the context and the environment in which Mick Jagger wrote “Memo from Turner” can provide further insights into the song’s meaning. It was a tumultuous time, marked by societal upheavals, evolving norms, and a counter-culture revolution. Jagger, known for his provocative and reflective songwriting, seems to use this song to hold a mirror to society, highlighting its contradictions, moral dilemmas, and the struggles between tradition and change.

The myriad characters and scenarios within the song may symbolize the multifaceted and conflicting nature of society. Jagger’s own experiences and observations likely influenced his portrayal of societal disparities and the questioning of established norms, reflecting his contemplation of individual identity, morality, and the human condition within a rapidly changing world.

In sum, “Memo from Turner” can be interpreted as a powerful reflection and critique of the societal landscape of its time, serving as a timeless reminder of the ongoing struggle between moral integrity and societal pressures.