- 23 Apr 20
Having secured a bracing screwdriver and a pipe of the finest, Hot Press Stones bore Pat Carty passes judgement on the Holy Rollers' lockdown lob.
You can say what you like about The Rolling Stones – and Lord knows I’ve said plenty – but they still excite the rock n’ roller in me like no one else can. Witness their performance on last weekend’s One World: Together At Home telethon. While most of the artists who togged out were perhaps only too happy to sit around the old Joanna and have a good moan, The Stones at least gave it a bit of pep with ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ Yes, it was as rough as a sandpaper mountain, but it rocked. What is the story with Mick Jagger? Isn’t he supposed to be a thousand years old? He certainly didn’t look or, more importantly, sound like it. His voice put his contemporaries to shame – yes, I’m looking at you, Elton and McCartney – and Ronnie Wood, the young lad in the band, still hops around like some class of apprentice gypsy imp.
We must of course address the two elephants that were in their respective rooms. Was Charlie Watts playing the air drums to some pre-recorded track? Possibly, or perhaps he alone in the history of drummers can make the arm of a chair sound like a cymbal through sheer will power alone, because he is Charlie Fucking Watts, and he can do whatever the hell he pleases. Why was Keith Richards acting like he’d never even heard of a guitar before, much less held one in his hands? We may never know, but I refer you to my previous answer. This is Keith Richards, the lord of the riff, the most rock n’ roll rock n’ roller of them all. Ours is not to question why! Did they go out of time? Was it a bit raggedy? Wash your mouth out with Wild Turkey, they were glorious.
Mick ‘I never met a pound note I didn’t like’ Jagger knows full well that you must strike while the iron is hot, so what better time for The Rolling Stones to unleash their first new original recording in eight years? Details are, of course, sketchy at this early stage, but we are told that the single was created and recorded in Los Angeles and London, and “completed in isolation.”
Gasp in amazement as The Stones steal Dylan’s thunder, booting his meandering meditation on Kennedy and his commandeering of Whitman’s good ideas – both fatuously lauded by this magazine’s leading amadán - into touch. This is the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world we’re talking about here. They don’t need history, or poetry. They’ve got Charlie!
‘Living In A Ghost Town’ starts off with the definition of the slinky groove, and hints of a reggae beat. “Hang on!” you might well scream. “Some of us remember Superheavy!” But come back, there’s more than that car crash going on here. Charlie does his patented lift-the-stick-off-the-hi-hat-when-you’re-hitting-the-snare move, and the guitars from that beloved old firm of Richards and Wood call ever so slightly to mind the opening of 1994’s blues-slouch ‘Love Is Strong’, the song that kick started the underrated Voodoo Lounge. There’s the reliable backing vocals trope, going “Woh, oh, OH!” and the voice that time cannot tarnish comes in. “I’m a ghost, living in a ghost town.” A fan of The Radiators, perhaps? Probably. “Life was so beautiful, then we all got locked down.” Ripped straight out of the newspapers, surely? Not according to Keith Richards. “We cut this track well over a year ago in L.A. for part of a new album, an on-going thing, and then the shit hit the fan. Mick and I decided this one really needed to go to work now.” Who knows, that might even be true, and one can imagine Jagger roaring something down the trans-Atlantic blower at his erstwhile chum about today’s headlines being tomorrow’s chip wrappers.
All well and good so far, the toe is tapping and the head is nodding, and then, after about a minute, someone turns up the Stoli IV connected to Richards’ right arm, Charlie takes his magnificently-tailored jacket off, and they go for it. “Once this place was humming, and the air was full of drumming,” howls Sir Michael, as Keef n’ Ron do a bit of weaving and Charlie lets fly, relieved perhaps to not be playing a piece of drawing room furniture.
Things slow back down, the groove comes back in, Jagger’s “going nowhere, shut up all alone, just staring at his phone.” There’s a middle eight, of sorts, where Jagger dreams of someone creeping in his bed, because he’s still Mick Jagger, and then, in his frustration, he lets loose on the harmonica. Richards didn’t have many good things to say about his mate in his fine-in-places autobiography Life, but he did concede that, “Mick is one of the best natural blues harp players I’ve ever heard.” One can only agree as Dartford’s answer to Little Walter takes a good blow. Little Boy Blue is still in there somewhere.
“Preachers were all preaching, charities beseeching… it will all come tumbling down.” If he wrote this a year ago, Jagger must have known something the rest of us weren’t privy too. Has he finally taken his place in the Bilderberg Group? I refer you to the first rule of Fight Cub, but The Stones are not without form. Perhaps only the truly hopeless Mick n' Keith nuts will remember their Gulf War dig from 1991, ‘Highwire’? I thought as much.
Everything drops out, Jagger whispers in your ear, then they all barrel back in for the finish. “If I want to party,” our man moans, “it’s a party of one.” Well, there’s a first time for everything.
The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock n’ roll band of all time, and they’ve made the greatest rock n’ roll records of all time. That’s not the start of an argument, that’s just an Earth-is-round-and-Sun-is-hot fact. Is this up there with those pinnacles of all human achievement? Of course it isn’t. Does it rock? Yes it does. Why, it’s as catchy as Covi… well, you know what I was going to say. The twilight of the gods is a ways off yet.