“Dead Flowers” is a song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the rock band the Rolling Stones, appearing on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.
Recording of “Dead Flowers” took place in April 1970 at the Olympic Studios in London. The lyrics to the song are notably dark, and feature the line, “I’ll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon”, a reference to injecting heroin.
“Dead Flowers” was written during the period when the Stones were stepping into country territory, when Richards’s friendship with Gram Parsons was influencing his songwriting. Jagger commented in 2003: “The ‘Country’ songs we recorded later, like “Dead Flowers” on Sticky Fingers or “Far Away Eyes” on Some Girls, are slightly different (than our earlier ones). The actual music is played completely straight, but it’s me who’s not going legit with the whole thing, because I think I’m a blues singer not a country singer – I think it’s more suited to Keith’s voice than mine.”
Both Richards and Mick Taylor contribute the ‘honky-tonk’ style lead guitar lines throughout the album version. Richards’s choppier fills act primarily as a response to Jagger’s vocal lines during the verses, while Taylor’s more fluid licks counteract with the vocals of the chorus. It is Taylor who performs the guitar solo in place of a third verse.
“Dead Flowers” was performed live during the album tours for Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street in 1970-72, then once during the Black and Blue Tour in 1976. It was not played again until the Steel Wheels Tour in 1989. Live performances of the song from 1995 can be found on the Stones’ album Stripped and its 2016 edition Totally Stripped. The song, with its reference to “making bets on Kentucky Derby Day”, was appropriately played during a September 2006 concert at Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby.
Country music singer/songwriter Brad Paisley joined the Rolling Stones for live renditions of the song in Philadelphia in June 2013 and in Nashville in June 2015.
Mick Jagger – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Keith Richards – lead guitar, harmony vocals
Mick Taylor – co-lead guitar
Bill Wyman – bass guitar
Ian Stewart – piano
Charlie Watts – drums