- Clemmie Harvey
The Rolling Stones Have Arrived Right on Time
As the world entered into the grip of static lockdown life Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood saw an opportunity and took it. Released on the 23rd of April 2020, the latest Rolling Stones single ‘Living in a Ghost Town’ is the perfect example of art imitating life and vice versa. The song is dripping in blues as Jagger’s voice, which seems totally unaffected by the mishaps of ageing, taps into the frustration of having our freedom torn away as we were all forced into the grips of world in lockdown. The song originally came about through the 2019 recording sessions yet was finished and reworked remotely during lockdown. The lyrics, which Jagger claimed to have written in ten minutes, narrate an anguish and frustration about the current state of living without freedom and independence; ‘Life was so beautiful/ Then we all got locked down.’ It is a song about stagnation, about nostalgia and about the frustration of what it means to no longer have the freedoms of everyday life, the freedoms that we all took for granted.
Yet it is a song filled with life and energy. Its overall blues quality combined with slight reggae and dub accents creates a musical fabric that we can’t help but sleazily sway along to. It’s what The Stones do best; music that revives and injects life and soul, music that makes us want to clap our hands and stamp our feet as we sing along. The song begins with Richard’s sultry guitar riff, strutting around like ‘a cat on heat’. The music video is a fish eye walk through of the empty streets of the major cities in the midst of lockdown life. However, unlike the eerie ghostliness of the empty city in The Special’s ‘Ghost Town’ video, here we are marching, swaggering through the empty cities. It undoubtedly a big f*** you to COVID, as both song and video act to reinvigorate a world that has become static. As the song progresses and builds to the chorus so does Jagger’s anger. The rise in tempo led by Watts’ drumming creates a whirlpool of frustration and fury as Jagger recounts a past life now so foreign to us. He paints the ultimate picture of chaos, ‘The sound of cymbals crashing/ Glasses were all smashing,’ yet it is a chaos in which he revels and delights in, a chaos that he is nostalgic for. We are suddenly bought back to the realities of life. However as the tempo abruptly slows and returns to its sleazy bounce and we once again flounce around an empty city, we are reminded that certainly for now, this ghostly state of living has become the new normal.
It is yet another example of how the genius of The Rolling Stones defies age and transcends through space and time. It is a song that brings us together, tapping into a universal nostalgia and anger about a time now lost, but a song that nevertheless fills us with a sense, that despite it all, music still has the power to reignite and reinvigorate. It will no doubt become a time capsule, a narration of a very specific, very bizarre moment experienced in our history. As the world begins to slowly awaken from its lockdown slumber, we are once again reminded of the importance of art in all our lives. Never has the cliché ‘life imitates art’ been more apt and been more relevant.