Album: Sticky Fingers
. . .
While the Stones had dabbled with country going far back as at least as Aftermath’s “High and Dry,” it wasn’t until “Dead Flowers” that they well and truly wrote a great country song. No doubt the influence of Gram Parsons — who took country music far more seriously than Mick Jagger — on Keith Richards was a key factor in how much better “Dead Flowers” was than their previous attempts.
Coming after the harrowing “Sister Morphine,” one might expect “Dead Flowers” — which starts with a reassuring lope and Mick affecting slightly too cornpone of an accent — to be a respite from all of the scary-ass drug songs that have dominated Sticky Fingers.
Well, when you’re sitting there in your silk upholstered chair
Talking to some rich folk that you know
Well, I hope you won’t see me in my ragged company
Well, you know I could never be alone
But then, “Dead Flowers” gets to its chorus, and with Keith right there on the harmonies, whatever respite it might have provided almost instantly dissipates.
Take me down, little Susie, take me down
I know you think you’re the queen of the underground
And you can send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won’t forget to put roses on your grave
Well, OK then. Of course, you can ignore all of this, if you want and just enjoy the sound of Mick’s acoustic guitar, Keith’s twangy little fills, Ian Stewart’s barrelhouse piano and Mick Taylor’s leads over the Wyman-Watts rhythm section, because “Dead Flowers” just flows like a river, and sounds like it was a blast to record. That said, it was kinda hard to ignore the second verse.
Well, when you’re sitting back in your rose pink Cadillac
Making bets on Kentucky Derby Day
I’ll be in my basement room with a needle and a spoon
And another girl can take my pain away
Yes, another drugs reference! When told by Rolling Stone interviewer Robert Greenfield — just as the sessions for the next Stones album were getting underway in the South of France — that Sticky Fingers was a “heavy drug album,” Keith hilariously responded with “I don’t think that Sticky Fingers is a heavy drug album any more than the world is a heavy world.”
After that second verse, Mick Taylor takes flight with a lovely liquid solo that takes the place of Mick having to write a third verse, because what is there to say? Which is why they just repeat the chorus a couple of times — the second time insisting that she send the dead flowers by the “U.S. Mail,” which unfortunately was a better idea in 1971 than in 2021 — and send the song to an ending with a couple of rings by Charlie Watts on his ride cymbal.
“Dead Flowers” was a fun song to play, which is why we covered it a couple of times in the second incarnation of Sedan Delivery, the last of the Stones songs that we learned to play. But of course, it’s been covered and covered and covered, probably to the point that it can’t really be considered a deep cut.
“Dead Flowers” live at the Marquee, 1971
“Dead Flowers” live in Miami, 1994
“Dead Flowers” Keith w/ Willie Nelson & Friends
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