The End. That’s what the locals call it— Montauk, that is. But I’ve always thought of it as the beginning. I’ve been finding my way out there for fifteen years now. It’s a place that echoes of the great artists who’ve come and gone— and those that still remain. My husband first took me there one November. I vividly remember turning the corner as we headed into town that first time and I can recall seeing it, the Memory Motel. I was immediately drawn in, gravitated by its simplicity and, of course, its name. And the song. Isn’t there always a song?
Mick Jagger first came to the casual fishing village at the invitation of photographer, Peter Beard. You see, Peter was covering The Stones tour in ’72, which wrapped up at a lavish birthday party for Mick, hosted by Ahmet Ertegun, president of Atlantic Records in his suite at the Regis Hotel. Afterwards, Peter invited Mick and Bianca to his home “out east” as a place to continue the celebration. The town was Montauk and his neighbor was Mick’s friend, Andy Warhol, who had recently conceived of the idea for their 1971 album, Sticky Fingers. It didn’t take long for Mick to become intoxicated by the sleepy town and three years later, The Stones rented Andy’s compound, Eothen, for $5,000 a month, as they holed up to write what would soon become, Black and Blue.
Memory Motel was the only bar in town with a piano and a pool table. For those reasons, The Stones would hang out at the bar, get drunk, and play the piano. It was their late night, devil-may-care release. The town itself was overwhelmed with fans and groupies alike— the newspapers further fed the frenzy by reporting how the band took over the town of Montauk:
“Sensationally loud music that welled through the windows, into the ruts and hollows over the tangled crabgrass of an estate in Montauk…”
“Residents of a Ditch Plains trailer park were woken in the night…”
“From East Hampton to New York, word has spread with a ferocity- The Rolling Stones are rehearsing!”
The buzz was exhilarating. But, not everyone was a fan. As hard as it is to imagine, the motel’s owner hated The Stones and didn’t appreciate them hanging out at his establishment. In return, The Stones weren’t too fond of the motel either, just the name. Suffice it to say, their motel memories were short lived. Well, all but one.
Back at Eothen, Mick— along with Keith Richards, started penning “Memory Motel,” a song about Hannah who was a peachy kind of girl, with hazel eyes, and a nose that slightly curved— but the big question remains: Who was Hannah, this protagonist who haunts the singer’s memory? Some say it was Mick’s one time love, Carly Simon, and much to my delight, others offer up that it was Annie Leibovitz, who was their traveling photographer at the time. Well, whoever she was, that Hannah, she was just a memory…
A memory of a love that used to be.