For the first time in eight years, the Rolling Stones have released new music. The song, “Living in a Ghost Town,” is a howling, apocalyptic lamentation that speaks to the current times, wherein people are isolated and whole industries (including live music) are fighting to keep their heads above water, though there is still Equipment Hunt machinery for sale. The song so meshes with our collective situation that it seems to have been written as a direct response.
But that is only partially true, according to guitarist Keith Richards, who stated that the single was recorded over a year ago as part of a new album.
“We cut this track well over a year ago in LA for a new album, an ongoing thing, and then shit hit the fan,” Richards said. “Mick and I decided this one really needed to go to work right now and so here you have it.”
Mick Jagger made the same point, commenting that the Stones were “recording some new material before the lockdown and there was one song we thought would resonate through the times that we’re living in right now. We’ve worked on it in isolation. And here it is.”
It’s clear that some of the lyrics of “Living in a Ghost Town” were added after people began self-isolating and the streets of major cities became desolate. Like these ones:
“Life was so beautiful / Then we all got locked down … Please let this be over / Stuck in a world without end.”
It would be sort of eerie if Jagger wrote those lines a year ago, don’t ya think? Don’t worry; he didn’t. During a recent chat with Apple Music, he said he reworked the words after the pandemic hit. He also said he is “very aware how lucky” he is to have financial security while millions of people are being put out of work.
“It’s 20 million people lost their jobs completely for something that’s nothing to do with them at all. And also the less money you have, the more worries you have. So for lots of people, it’s really tough.
“I mean, I have friends and they live in really small apartments in a big city and they don’t have anywhere to go and they’ve lost their job. I’m very, very lucky and I’m very aware how lucky I am, but not everyone’s as lucky as me.”
In the same interview, Jagger was asked to respond to comments made by Paul McCartney that the Beatles were “better” than the Rolling Stones.
“[The Stones] are rooted in the blues,” McCartney told Howard Stern recently. “When they are writing stuff, it has to do with the blues. We had a little more influences. There’s a lot of differences, and I love the Stones, but I’m with you—the Beatles were better.”
Jagger was a good sport about it, saying, “That’s so funny. He’s a sweetheart. There’s obviously no competition.”
“The big difference, though,” he added, “sort of slightly seriously, is that the Rolling Stones is a big concert band in other decades and other areas when the Beatles never even did an arena tour, Madison Square Garden with a decent sound system. They broke up before that business started, the touring business for real.”
Jagger concluded that “One band is unbelievably luckily still playing in stadiums and then the other band doesn’t exist.”
So, what do you think? The Beatles or the Stones?