The Rolling Stones have released a new single, “Living in a Ghost Town,” with a decidedly lockdown-influenced theme, even though the band said primary sessions for the track went down last year before it was completed from remote locations in recent weeks.
“So the Stones were in the studio recording some new material before the lockdown,” Mick Jagger said in a statement, “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.”
Keith Richards also started his announcement statement with a “so.” “So, let’s cut a long story short,” the guitarist said. “We cut this track well over a year ago in L.A. for part of a new album, an ongoing thing, and then s— hit the fan. Mick and I decided this one really needed to go to work right now and so here you have it.”
Listening to it, it’s clear Jagger has reworked at least some of the lyrics since the coronavirus crisis began, adding some timely specifics to what was presumably an already lonely-feeling track. “Life was so beautiful, then we all got locked down,” he sings. “Feel like a ghost living in a ghost town.”
Jagger and Richards both talked with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe as he unveiled the new track Thursday morning.
“It wasn’t written for now, but it was written about being in a place which was full of life, and then now (is) all bereft of life, so to speak,” Jagger told Lowe. “And when I went back to what I’d written originally lyrically, it was all full of… well, I didn’t use them in the lyrics, it was all full of plague terms and things like that. I never actually used that, but it was all there. It was very close to the times that we’re living through now.
“But Keith Richards and I both had the idea that we should release it. But I said, ‘Well I’ve got to rewrite it.’ Some of it is not going to work and some of it was a bit weird and a bit too dark. So I slightly rewrote it. I didn’t have to rewrite very much, to be honest. It’s very much how I originally did it. I was just jamming. I was just playing a guitar and just wrote it like that. I don’t know what frame of mind I must’ve been in. I mean, it was semi-humorous, then it got less humorous…
“Sometimes these things take a long time to write but this, I just wrote it really quickly in like 10 minutes. We played this song just Keith Richards and myself and a friend of ours, Steve. We routined it together after I’ve done it and we worked some parts out. And then we went and recorded it with a band. Then last week I redid the vocals for this. And it’s just open to own interpretation to a certain extent of course. But yeah, no, it was a little strange because the original was so much apropos of the times we were living through already.”
Richards added that the track was recorded in February 2019, to the best of his recollection. It’s sort of eerie when suddenly it’s coming to life… Mick and I have been in touch, but obviously only via the satellite. I had said to Don (Was, their producer) about a month or so ago, ‘Hey, this is a time for the ghost town track.’ And then Mick called me and said the same thing and that great minds think alike. And (he) said, ‘Yeah, I need to fix some of the lyrics or the vocal.’ So we sort of did it from outer space. But I actually liked the way it turned out.”