Rolling Stones songs: Living in a Ghost Town
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Preachers were all preachin’/ Charities beseechin’/ Politicians dealin’/ Thieves were happy stealin’…
Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: Mick Jagger’s home studio, Pocé-sur-Cisse, France, Apr. 2020
Guest musicians: Darryl Jones (bass), Matt Clifford (keyboards, French horn, flugelhorn, sax)
The first original Rolling Stones song in eight years, the band originally cut “Living In A Ghost Town” in a Los Angeles studio back in 2019. When the coronavirus pandemic started spreading worldwide, Jagger and Richards thought the song would resonate. The four group members fine-tuned the track in isolation and released it on April 23, 2020.
Jagger explained to Zane Lowe of Apple Music that he was jamming on the guitar and quickly penned some lyrics “about being in a place which was full of life but is now bereft of life” in around 10 minutes.
Once the world started locking down because of COVID-19, Jagger and Richards both decided the band should release the reggae-flavored, harmonica-driven track. However, Jagger wanted to rewrite the lyrics. “Some of it is not going to work and some of it was a bit weird and a bit too dark,” he explained. “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.”
The previous original Rolling Stones songs released were “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot” from the band’s 2012 hits collection GRRR!
Dating from sessions with producer Don Was in Los Angeles in 2019, the song became eerily relevant when the pandemic swept the world. Jagger told Uncut magazine. “When I look back on my original lyric notes, I’d written it about being left in a semi-alive state after a plague. It was weird because it wasn’t really that different, if you know what I mean. I’d done some of the vocals, but I hadn’t really finished them.”
A songwriter named Sergio García Fernández (stage name Angelslang) bought legal action against Jagger and Richards, claiming “Living In A Ghost Town” copied his 2006 song “So Sorry” as well as his 2007 tune “Seed of God.”
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
The No Filter Tour, starting on September 9, 2017, in Hamburg, had to be
interrupted twice—first because of Mick Jagger’s major heart operation
(April 5, 2019) and then because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This did not
mean that the Rolling Stones would take a break during this period of
general confinement. They recorded a safely distanced version of “You
Can’t Always Get What You Want” for the One World: Together at Home
initiative, a series of virtual concerts organized by Global Citizen and Lady
Gaga in aid of the World Health Organization (WHO) and health workers.
They also recorded their first original composition since “Doom and
Gloom” and “One More Shot” in 2012.
Mick Jagger wrote “Living in a Ghost Town” in 2019 in a mere ten
minutes! As he explained to Far Out Magazine (faroutmagazine.co.uk) in
April 2020: “It wasn’t written for now but it was written about being in a
place which was full of life, and then now there’s all bereft of life, so to
speak…” Subsequently, having agreed with Keith Richards that they should
bring this song out as a single, particularly because of the pandemic and
lockdown, Mick Jagger adjusted the words a little, without completely
rewriting them: “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.” Coincidence or not, the words had, and still have, an intense and
somber relevance: I’m a ghost / Livin’ in a ghost town and Life was so
beautiful / Then we all got locked down. Keith Richards added: “It’s a
strange thing, you know what I mean? But it’s just something that happens
between Mick and me without us having to really think about it.”
“Living in a Ghost Town” was first made for streaming (April 23, 2020)
with a video by Joe Connor, showing the totally deserted streets of many
different cities of the world, including Los Angeles, Toronto, London,
Osaka, Cape Town, and Margate (a seaside town in southeast England). The
song then came out as a single on CD (May 29, 2020) and on a 25 cm vinyl
disc (June 26, 2020). Reaching number 1 in France and Germany and
number 3 in the United States (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs), it reached
only number 61 in the United Kingdom
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