New York Series: The Rolling Stones ‘Memory Motel’

We spent a lonely night at the Memory Motel  It's on the ocean, I guess you know it well

Everyone needs a vacation sometimes, even rock legends in their prime living outlandish fantasies common folk couldn’t possibly dream up. Unfortunately (fortunately), the music never stops, so in 1975 when The Rolling Stones decided it was time to take a break and just mess around while they planned their summer tour and cut their next album, they spent their spring held up in Andy Warhol’s Montauk compound named Eothen (meaning “at first light” in Ancient Greek).

memory motel

While today Montauk is thought of as THE place for New Yorkers to spend their summer, during the mid-1970’s it wasn’t quite as popular. Warhol purchased the compound in 1971 for what seemed like a hefty sum of $225,000, and to show how much the area has blown up, it went back on the market in 2015 for a jarring $85 million (and sold for $50 million).

memory motel
Lee Radziwill, Mick Jagger, and Bianca Jagger at Warhol’s estate.

Some believe Warhol’s compound is what really put Montauk on the map, with guests such as Jackie Kennedy, John Lennon, Liza Minelli, and Elizabeth Taylor coming out to enjoy the quiet sun. (Warhol himself believed Mick Jagger is the reason for the area’s popularity.) However, when The Stones visited in the spring of ’75, things were anything but quiet.

As the Stones practiced for their upcoming tour and worked out new songs for their upcoming album, Black and Blue (which Warhol ended up designing the artwork for), they played during all hours of the night. A local newspaper at the time wrote:

“sensationally loud music [that] welled through the windows, into the ruts and hollows over the tangled crab-grass of an estate in Montauk… Residents of the Ditch Plains trailer park were woken in the night – yapping dogs, even wolves, the loud grief of coyotes. From East Hampton to New York the word spread with the ferocity of a brush fire: The Rolling Stones were rehearsing!”

memory motel
The Rolling Stones at Eothen

While they were hard at work rehearsing whenever they could find the time to get everyone together (usually after midnight), during the days the band spent most of their time enjoying the beach or local hot spots. Mick Jagger enjoyed eating at a local place called the Shagwong, where his wife, Bianca, would go into the kitchen and open clams herself, disregarding her designer clothing. On one occasion when Jagger was drunk and tired of people playing the only Stones song on the jukebox, ‘Get Off My Cloud,’ he went over to jukebox, put on the disco song ‘Shame Shame Shame’ and sang along loudly in his best falsetto.

While the trip was very laid back compared to their normal touring and studio schedule, the band was inspired by the area. The song ‘Memory Motel’ was written about the only motel in Montauk that had a piano and pool table. The band would hang out, get drunk, shoot pool, and mess around on the piano. The memories at the motel didn’t last long, however, as the owner was not a fan of The Stones and was not too keen on having them hanging around his business, but they did last long enough to inspire a song. As you listen to the song, you can feel the fleeting memories of a lost summer love falling through your fingertips, which reflects the short time the band spent in Warhol’s paradise.

Today the Memory Motel still exists, and features live music on weekend nights through the summer, though The Stones haven’t played there (yet). Eothen, Warhol’s compound, is now owed by J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, so it can only be assumed that the wild parties that took place there no longer occur, or at least happen in a different fashion. Montauk is no longer the secret hideaway only for rock stars and celebrities, though it helps if you have money. The next time you’re driving out to visit the infamous Montauk lighthouse, about six miles before you reach “The End,” take a stop at the Memory Motel, close your eyes, and imagine what it must have been like in the spring of ’75.

‘Memory Motel’ Lyrics:

Hannah honey was a peachy kind of girl
Her eyes were hazel
And her nose were slightly curved
We spent a lonely night at the Memory Motel
It’s on the ocean, I guess you know it well
It took a starry to steal my breath away
Down on the water front
Her hair all drenched in spray
Hannah baby was a honey of a girl
Her eyes were hazel
And her teeth were slightly curved
She took my guitar and she began to play
She sang a song to me
Stuck right in my brain
You’re just a memory of a love
That used to be
You’re just a memory of a love
That used to mean so much to me
She got a mind of her own
And she use it well
Well she’s one of a kind
She’s got a mind
She got a mind of her own
And she use it mighty fine
She drove a pick-up truck
Painted green and blue
The tires were wearing thin
She turned a mile or two
When I asked her where she headed for
“Back up to Boston I’m singing in a bar”
I got to fly today on down to Baton Rouge
My nerves are shot already
The road ain’t all that smooth
Across in Texas is the rose of San Antone
I keep on a feeling that’s gnawing in my bones
You’re just a memory of a love
That used to mean so much to me
You’re just a memory girl
You’re just a sweet memory
And it used to mean so much to me
Sha la la la la
She got a mind of her own
And she use it well
Mighty fine, she’s one of a kind
On the seventh day my eyes were all a glaze
We’ve been ten thousand miles
Been in fifteen states
Every woman seemed to fade out of my mind
I hit the bottle and hit the sack and cried
What’s all this laughter on the 22nd floor
It’s just some friends of mine
And they’re busting down the door
Been a lonely night at the Memory Motel

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