A PARTY OF ONE
From London Street to London city, empty streets everywhere look like the deserted city scenes from the zombie apocalypse masterpiece, 28 Days Later.
You could say wherever you live looks like a ghost town.
Long before the global lockdown, the apparently immortal rock band The Rolling Stones had worked on their slow-burning, bluesy, harmonica-driven song Living In A Ghost Town. After the lockdown was announced, possibly 28 hours later, the band revisited the song in isolation, thinking it “would resonate through the times that we’re living in right now”.
“Mick and I decided this one really needed to go to work right now,” guitarist Keith Richards told news agency AP.
“Life was so beautiful / then we all got locked down,” sings Mick Jagger, with a slight reggae inflection in the phrase a little way into the track, before jacking up the tune with nihilistic recall.
“Once this place was humming/ And the air was full of drumming/ The sounds of cymbals crashing/ Glasses were all smashing/ Trumpets were all screaming/ Saxophones were blaring/ Nobody was caring/ If it’s day or night.”
There is even a section that sounds like a brief nod to Robbie Robertson’s 1994 song, Ghost Dance, except Jagger is crying for company in his lonely bed.
Both acts yearn for a better day to come, but whereas Ghost Dance is a vision for spiritual and cultural rebirth, Living in a Ghost Town steps up the beat and takes off with a political message of change in the world brought about by the pandemic as a great leveller.
“Preaches were all preaching/ Charities beseeching/ Politicians dealing/ Thieves were happy stealing/ Widows were all weeping/ There’s no beds for us to sleep in/ Always had the feeling/ It would all come tumbling down.”
Sure, some misery has complained the new song sounds like an out-take from Some Girls, but, with a slower beat and unwavering melody, the only similarity is in the use of a harmonica. For a band that still plays guitars and drums in the age of Moogs (synthesisers) and midis, the Stones have maintained their blues-rock sound for close to 60 years. Now in their 70s, Britain’s bad-boy balance to The Beatles have written an original song with no fall-back on familiar riffs.
“How is the band that released Satisfaction in 1965 still doing this?” asked one fan.
“The Rolling Stones through the ages, through plague and forever,” enthused another.
“The Rolling Stones newest song is actually I Can’t Get No Hand Sanitiser,” quipped an Anthony Scavone.
“If Keith Richards met the coronavirus, the coronavirus would need to self-isolate,” riffed a William Lester.
“The coronavirus outbreak is clearly going to inform a lot of rock and pop music in the not-too-distant future, but who would have thought that the Rolling Stones would be early to market with a Covid-19-themed song?” asked The Guardian music reviewer Alexis Petridis.
Living In A Ghost Town feels appealingly sleazy, as befits a song in which Mick Jagger complains, very Jaggerishly, that social distancing is preventing him having as much sex as he’d like, says Petridis.
“It’s also burnished by an intriguing sense of vaguely dub-influenced space. At one point, it breaks down to little more than a stabbing, echoing organ with a vintage reggae flavour. Elsewhere, you can hear a faint echo of Blue and Lonesome’s sound in the thin layer of distortion that covers Jagger’s harmonica and vocals.”
Check out The Rolling Stones’ Living In A Ghost Town music video on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/ybkabz3k. There aren’t many people in it so the song will resonate with you.