Dead Flowers

Album: Sticky Fingers (1971)

Songfacts®:

  • In this song, Mick Jagger addresses a girl named Susie with more than a little disdain: She's welcome to send him dead flowers, but he'll put roses on her grave. The music and lyrics both have a distinct country vibe. Jagger explained in 1995: "I love country music, but I find it very hard to take it seriously. I also think a lot of country music is sung with the tongue in cheek, so I do it tongue-in-cheek. The harmonic thing is very different from the blues. It doesn't bend notes in the same way, so I suppose it's very English, really. Even though it's been very Americanized, it feels very close to me, to my roots, so to speak."
  • Mick Jagger, 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." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2
  • The line, "I'll be in my basement room with a needle and a spoon" is probably a reference to shooting up heroin. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Julie - Chicago, IL
  • This song rolled during the final credits of The Big Lebowski. Allen Klein, Rolling Stones manager and owner of the song initially wanted $150,000 for the movie's use of it. He was then convinced to let them use it for free when he saw the scene in which The Dude says, "I hate the f---in' Eagles, man!"

Comments: 50

  • Terry From Gainesville from Gainesville, FloridaRaoul is correct. Keith Richards writes about this inspiration in his book "Life." The references in the song are as others have pointed out, but the incident with Gram Parsons was the direct inspiration.
  • Chris From Vancouver from VancouverI think the song is about heroin. The dead flowers are just a way of talking about poppies— and they are being sent to him on the road. And he is married to the needle. And the roses on the grave is probably a reference to ODing. My take.
  • Wanderer from The HighwayI appreciate all the comments but I see the song in a different way. I can understand how people would think the song is about a breakup and about using heroin but I don't think so. I think Susie is a metaphor for all the status obsessed, phony people who surrounded the Stones at the time the song was written and the heroin was a metaphor for the truth telling resistance the epitomized the Stones songs of this era. The song is an anti-hypocrisy song.
  • Zoff from CaliforniaI like all the thought , and Pallenberg per Keith's book was pretty involved with all guys. The pink Cadilac could easily be Keith's Rolls Royce that they took a few trips in....and I can't help but think the dead flowers are heroin... after all heroin is produced from a flower. And the new girls that's taken her place, is the new drug dealer.... Just my take. They played this last night in Pasadena, and I have to say they did a great job.
  • Josh from LondonThe song was definitely inspired by Anita Pallenberg, who got it on with three Stones, Brian, Keith and Mick. One source (there are many):

    https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/why-anita-pallenberg-rolling-stones-muse-was-queen-of-the-underground-204744/
  • Wave from BeachDusty, this song was written by Mick/Keith; Van Zandt did it on his album of cover songs "Roadsongs".
  • Dusty from Coeur D'alene, Idaho, UsaI really hate to bust bubbles but this song was written by Townes Van Zant. Check out his version of this song (on Youtube). The Stones version is great, Mick has a lot of fun with it. Van Zant's version is more personal and painful. A very haunting song. You can feel the sadness and his glee in his plan for revenge. Great number by both the Stones and Van Zant.
  • Meghan from MetairieDave Hallet from Buffalo! Your response gave me chills. I couldn't agree with you more . Thank you.
  • Dave Hallett from Buffalo, New York Seems like most everyone agrees that the song is about the end of a relationship and the struggle to cope with the loss, rejection and painful feelings that go along with unrequited love. For me it's also about the paradox of how drug addiction was both the reason the love was unrequited as well as an escape from the painful feelings that ultimately it was the cause of, the endless cycle, "my life is falling apart because I do heroin, I do heroin because my life is falling apart." Everyone caught the obvious, blatant connection to heroin addiction in the line, "... I'll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon...", but there's also more subtle references like "...send me dead flowers every morning." Anyone whose had any exposure to or knowledge of heroin addiction knows that an addict must "get straight" 1st thing every morning or they'll be "dope sick" until they do, or the fact that heroin is actually made from the "Dead Flowers" of the Poppy Plant. It's such a great song, open to many interpretations and and no one has the right to say that anyone else's is wrong. I'm sharing what it means to me, as a recovering heroin addict. I love the raw honesty of the song and how it talks about the grip addiction has on the addict. The very 1st verse talks about someone, possibly a girlfriend or wife in a silk upholstered chair Talkin' to some rich folk that she knows, possibly waiting for him, but he's somewhere else, ashamed, not wanting to be seen by her, presumably shooting heroin in ragged company, other junkies. Even though he'd rather be with her. Then he lays it right out in the next verse talking about how she's chilling in her rose pink Cadillac, making bets on Kentucky Derby Day and once again, he's in a basement shooting dope with some ho, even though he'd rather be with her, sipping a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby. That's the beautiful thing about music, it's very personal and open to interpretation. We listen to a song and notice similarities to situations they're singing about or the feeling that the song awakens in us. Pretty Magical.



  • Leslie from Minneapolis, MnThere's a reason I love this song, apart from the raw emotion it evokes every time I hear it. There's so much being said without actually... being said. In fact, the only thing that is directly communicated is the reference to intravenous drug use, i.e., "... I'll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon..." Funny how the most obviously stated line of the whole damn song has the most people theorizing about what is meant by it, and going even further as to apply that one little line to the entire meaning of the song. I have a theory about these people. Clearly they must have at least an idea of what's going on in those basement rooms with needles and spoons, however it remains an unconfirmed and rather vague suspicion as it is really quite a taboo ritual, shooting dope, and therefore highly stigmatized. Even if these people knew someone that imbibed, they wouldn't know it (unless they too were active participants). So, given their perspective it's easy to see how one small statement could take on such importance. Given the fact that it would seem to some as perhaps "veiled" information, it becomes a clue(!) in deciphering the latent meaning of the song as well as the artists' intent.
    For me, this is a song of a love unrequited. The endless haunting of a heart, a broken soul. The struggle to cope, the sense of loss, the rejection and the humiliation of it all. The undying devotion. The knowledge that everything after will be meaningless. The profound emptiness of innocence lost. The paradigm shift we all experience to differing degrees upon having loved and lost that first time. Nothing will ever hurt more, because you will never love more. For me, THAT is what this whole song is about.
    The dead flowers reference is so eloquently stated... it just means that she could do no wrong in his eyes. He loved her so deeply that he would overlook anything and still love her. True unconditional love that would go on even in death. For her to know that she will never be forgotten. It really is an achingly beautiful song.
  • Ryan from Vancouver, BcI read that this song, or at least part of it, was in response to what happened in San Fran. at the concert (Altmont Speedway??) where the Hell's Angels killed a guy when the Stones where playing on stage. I think the Stones hired the Angels as security, or approved them for the role, and a fan or fans were pissed at the Stones because of the incident. They were sent dead flowers I guess in protest.
    I guess this song is the Stones' response. Don't know if it's correct or not.
  • Richard from New Windsor, NyI think this song is more about Brian Jones. He suffered from heavy drug use to numb his personal problems. keith ended up with his woman Anita Pallenberg. Anyhow it seems that it's simple song about someone who lost at love and turns to substances to numb the pain. Dead flowers represents a relationship that died.
  • Simon from Barcelona, Spain The specific details, Pink cadilac and Kentucky derby point to it being about someone real rather than fictional or all about drugs. Also Micks mysoginist attitude is quite prevalent here. Gram's wife was called Gretchen. That is my 6 pennies worth.
  • Jim from Binghamton, NyI really don't care what the song pertains to, it is a great song performed by the great Rolling Stones.
  • Raoul from Calumet City, Il"Dead Flowers" actually has to do with Keith's buddy Gram Parsons' wife sending him flowers while he was in England. By the time they tracked him down, the flowers were, of course, dead. I remember reading this from perhaps the book by Rolling Stone editor and writer Ben Fong-Torres. Maybe another source? Anyway both Keith and Gram found it funny. Parsons' influence into the Stones "country" sound is irrefutable! You'll see him with Keith at Nell-Cote and in the desert in California. Which is another Stones song!
  • Keith from Tulsa, OkA great song but, in my opinion, EVERY lyric in it is a reference to the heroin-addicted life of Keith Richards. In my opinion, the song is directed to a non-addict friend whose life is 180 degrees different from Keith's i.e. silk upholstered chairs, Kentucky Derbies, etc. Dead flowers?--heroin that is made from dead poppies. Little Suzie, the queen of the underground? A dealer. Another girl will take my pain away? Again, a reference to his dealer--Little Suzie--not the object of the song who doesn't supply his heroin and, thus, can't take his pain away. He can't quit so he commands his dealer to send him "dead flowers" or heroin through the mail, to his wedding, etc. As gratitude, Keith will put live flowers, roses, on her grave---the fate ultimately shared by junkies.
  • Jon from Nashville, ArFor you who object to folks constantly searching for drug references, the whole Sticky Fingers album is packed with them. Thematically, I see "Take Me Down Little Susie" as a remake of the Dylan Song with the lyric "Like a Rolling Stone" (Dylan named his songs so whimsically at that time I never can remember what any one is called). Both songs appear to be addressed to a socialite junkie. They're both great rock songs of their time, BTW.
  • Demian from Buenos Aires, Argentinathis song is keith, jajaja. keith and heroine.
  • Kadir Köz from Istanbul, TurkeyThis song is cool and very NOBLE for me indeed.

    Can be junky stuff but it is a rolling stone stuff
  • Darren from Worcester, MaI definitely support the heroin theory. Heroin being made from poppies, a type of flowering plant.
  • Robbo from Long Beach, CaI think everyone is looking way too far into the tune. I think it's basically about some chick on the scene that Mick or Keith or whoever is involved with. She thinks she's some sort of underground, rocker chick but in reality is just a spoiled rich girl. You see it to this day still all over hollywood all the way to new york. Little daddy's girls who like to think they're hardcore thus the "i know you think you're the queen of the underground." The speaker just straight doesn't care what she does and is not going to change for anyone. "Hope you won't see me, and my ragged company" etc. She can do whatever she wants because he can go get a legit groupie to cook up some smack with. The sending dead flowers is sort of like, "you can curse me all you want anytime you want" but in the end, i hope you die before me, or i don't care if u live or die. "...roses on your grave."
  • Bob from Rockford, IlThe best part about music is that it can be interpreted to the listener's discretion. I didn't interpret it as a song about drugs, just a song that has drugs being mentioned in it.

    Most people are focusing on the line "send me dead flowers in the mail" but, like any anything, if it is taken out of context it means a whole different thing. Just this line by itself sounds like a statement, but it is actually part of a vow he is making to Suzie. He actually says "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."

    For me, this song is more about a guy who loves someone who doesn't love him back. Basically, Suzie could do anything to the guy and he would always love her. Most people would get mad at someone if they sent them dead flowers to their wedding, but this guy wouldn't.
  • Kankalin from Brighton, United KingdomAbsolutely love the song! If you fansy listen to it on youtube by Guns 'n Roses too, it's a fantastic unplugged version!
  • Tom from New York, NyI get the needle and the spoon drug reference but I don't think the song is about drugs. A woman, who prides herself as a bitch, broke his heart and now curses him (dead flower lyric). She goes after men with more while he tries to forget about her with drugs but in the end he will not be over her as he will put roses on her grave.
  • Jordan from Chattanooga, TnI think everyone should accept the fact that this song is about drugs. Not all rock songs are, but this one definitely is. I know the reference to the needle and spoon is about heroin or cocaine. I could be wrong, but I see this song as a message to a girl that deals smack or always has it on her, that also enjoys being around the high-life. I could definitely be wrong about this part, but isn't heroin the derivative of the opium flower? If so, couldn't "dead flowers" be a reference to heroin, since the Stones used to get drugs in the mail all of the time?
  • Joel from Columbia, ScYeah. I wouldn't be surprised. All the Stones did drugs. Herion addicts use a spoon to cook the dope and a needle to inject it into a willing vein. I don't shoot up btw (I prefer Vicodin) but I have worked in a hospital.
  • Ali from Melbourne, AustraliaIt annoys me also when every single song lyric is connected with drugs, however circuitous the logic has to be to make the non-existent connection. This is a fantastic song - remember listening endlessly to Sticky Fingers (best album)in 1971. The Suzy who is mentioned - "I know you think you're the queen of the underground" - is Suzy Creamcheese, who together with Marsha Hunt moved from "groupie" status, to becoming members of the Underground with significant prestige & social cachet.(see Richard Neville's Playpower - paperback ed. pp 87-8.

    Jagger developed a lot of his songs for the album, in the many long boring intervals between shooting "Ned Kelly" in the Aussie bush. I think he is drawing a comparison between the high life he sometimes was forced to live, due to his celebrity, & his real personality. I have always defined the "dead flowers" as a rather bitter reference to Marianne Faithfull walking out on him, while he still loved her & to her several suicide attempts.
  • Sca_tay from Any Town, Mo the line "I'll be in my basement room,
    With a needle and a spoon" IS NOT HEROIN as the rest of the line goes "And another girl to take my pains away" the word girl is slang for Cocaine
  • Bob from Chapel Hill, NcI remember when Keith was busted in Canada in 1978, he said when asked why he wrote songs about drugs, he said Mick had written all of them
  • Jason from San Francisco, CaI wish everyone would stop putting drug references in. Sure it has a few big ones, but what song of it's era didn't?

    I feel this song is about how the kind of guy the singer is, with the world and his friends giving his a bunch of trouble and hating him, and in the end he will always be loyal and care for them, but he dosen't care he's getting cheated, he is just that kind of man. Somtimes, theres a man. Somtimes. . . theres a man. . .
  • Derek from Nor Cal, Cai dont see how that is over the top with my interpretation of the song Andrew. this song was recorded during the peak of Keith's addiction to smack. Every single line in this song is a reference to heroin or him using the drug to get over the woman in the song. Dead flowers is heroin, he's talkin about poppy flower that is used to make junk. "send me dead flowers by the US mail" He used to get his drugs mailed to him before the government started violating personal rights and checkin for that stuff. "take me down little susie take me down" how can you not see that thats symbolic of brown heroin. i guess i just dont see how im "manufacturing" drug references. The only way the references could be more obvious is if they hit you in the head with a needle.
  • Dee from St. David, IlThis was written the Stone's country honk phase. Keith Richards became good friends with Gram Parsons, they did a lot of heroin and drinking together. Gram was in England and his wife at the time sent him flowers by mail - "send me flowers by the mail" of course when they arrived in England, they were "Dead Flowers" When they wrote Wild Horses, they let Gram record a version of it,it's pretty cool.
  • Andrew from New York, United StatesJulie said - "'I'll be in my basement room with a needle and a spoon' is probably a reference to shooting up heroin. "

    PROBABLY?? Try definitely. What else would you be doing with a needle and a spoon? I mean, really!
    You "cook" the heroin in a spoon with a little bit of water, then draw it up into the syringe through a little wad of cotton (off the end of a Q-Tip swab, usually) to filter out the "grosser" impurities. Hence, the "needle and the spoon".

    I would like to add that Derek is totally over the top with his interpretations, though. There are enough actual drug references on this album without manufacturing them! After this song, just listen to "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'": "Y'all got Cocaine eyes... Yeah, you got Speed-freak jive"! Not to mention "I'll be kicking [heroin], help me please"!

    Keith, upon being asked if "Sticky Fingers" was a "heavy drug album", famously said, "I don't think 'Sticky Fingers' is a 'heavy drug album' any more than the world is a heavy world." Right on, Keith! Whatever the hell you meant by that...

    Love the Dsus2 to D chords at the beginning of this song. Incidentally, Mick Jagger plays guitar on this song, too...
  • The Last Dj from Hell.a., CaGreat song! If you like to rock out then the Stones' version will suit you just fine. If you dig the melancholy ballads then Townes Van Zandts' is the one for you. It's a bit Dylan-esque but coming from a man of MENSA intelligence and who was diagnosed manic-depressive, you can appreciate his vision of the song.
  • Legwand from Rogers, Mnanybody who likes this song, check out townes van zandt's version. its the one from the end credits of the big lebowski. better then the stones if you ask me.
  • Eric from Milltown, InHas anyone heard the version by Willie Nelson, Keith Richards, Ryan Adams, and Hank Williams III? It's pretty good, worth a listen.
  • Derek from Nor Cal, Ca"Little Susie" is a reference to the "brown-eyed susan" which is a metaphor for brown heroin, one of the more common forms of the opiate.

    "Roses" is yet another flower which has been used as a metaphor or "street slang" for many years to allude to heroin.

    "Dead Flowers" in general means "poppies which have been harvested and from which the opiate has been derived."

    The power of heroin to kill pain is legendary -including the emotional pain from a broken relationship.

    Back then, before the days of technology to detect narcotics in the mail, heroin could be sent through the mail virtually risk-free to either the sender or the receiver.
  • Angie from The Sky, United Statesi wish people would stop trying to find hidden drug meanings in songs...when half of them probably dont even have drug meanings! not all songs by a great rock n roll band like the stones are about herion!
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaThe Big Lebowski rocks.
  • John from Edinburg, VaThis album has two of the best Stones' songs that are relatively unknown, Bitch and Dead Flowers. All the other stuff has been played into the ground--it is a real treat to rediscover these. This song is very much like Wild Horses (also saturated on the airwaves), but a hell of a lot more fun, for the band, I think.
  • Mike from Ann Arbor, MiI can listen to this song 10 times in a row, this is the STONES. Give a listen to Mick on the Alfie soundtrack, it kind of takes you back to this.
  • Lou from Sydney, Australiahow come i'm just learning to love this song!? they played it at the Sydney show on 11th Apri 06 and it was unreal! why arnt people singing songs like this anymore?
  • Mike from Sonora, CaThis is my favorite stones song. Its just really good. Its on the website " Opium Timeline" under the section called "Heroin In Music"

    Mike
  • Ethan from Portland, Orone of the all tiem greats!
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaThere are a lot of people in rock with the last name Van Zant
  • Brick Bradford from L.a., CaMick Taylor does some amazing lead fills on this song while Keith handles the rythmn.
  • Maya from Cal, United Statesi love this song, it rocks real hard
  • Homero from Monterrey , MexicoThis song capts the real scence of the rolling stones if we refer to their lyrics. They dont care much about returning a flower, this is not important for them. So they put it in their graves. May be they believe are inmortal ( at least in the concept ) Very cool...
  • James from Aurora, IlThe version from The Big Lebowski was done by Townes Van Zandt
  • Travis from Omaha, NeOne of the best Stone's song off of one of the best Stone's album "Sticky Fingers".
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