Then and now…
Speed was important for Mick Jagger when he wrote and released these two songs of protest that you’ll read about here… “I didn’t want to wait until next year when they might lose any impact or meaning.” he said in an interview with The Guardian England Lost: Mick Jagger writes Brexit inspired songs. Perhaps this gave them a freshness and an edge. Jagger says that he wrote the songs to reflect the vulnerability of the country and to express his anxiety; this coming in the aftermath of the EU referendum and more generally, our age of fake news, fear and insularity. I don’t believe that they have lost their meaning though.
Neither fame, wealth nor age seem to have dampened his spirit. The sound of both numbers is a blues-rock fusion, full of energy yet dark, especially in the case of ‘England Lost’. Yet there is fire too, including what The Guardian describes as “primitive rap” from Jagger along with a contribution from the grime artist Skepta.
Jagger’s lyrics contrast with both those of Plan B and Captain Ska (featured in my previous Songs for Broken Britain posts). Perhaps they fall somewhere in between the two, being maybe not as complex and multilayered as those from ‘Ill Manors’, but more open to interpretation than those of ‘Liar Liar’. I like them – they are honest, natural and raw.
Gotta Get a Grip
Perhaps reflecting the speed with which ‘Gotta Get a Grip‘ was written and Jagger’s frustration, some of the words in this song flow ‘stream-of-consciousness’ style. One after the other, we hear baffling elements of world (not just UK) society in ‘chaos, crisis, instability, ISIS…..’ followed by a list of coping strategies such as ‘meditation and medication’.
Anna Leszkiewicz of The New Statesman questions whether the words in this song are meaningful, quoting the phrases ‘Let ’em eat shit. Let ’em eat cake.’. Maybe I read too much into things (it’s so much more interesting that way!). Surely though ‘Let ’em eat cake’ is a reference to the rumour that Marie-Antoinette suggested this as a solution for the poor? I don’t think it is difficult to draw parallels with these lines and the actions of many politicians and colluding elements of the media who seek to confuse, sweeten and quieten us.
Probably the most bleak song, England Lost has an unnerving black and white video with the actor Luke Evans, who seems to be trying to escape from a desolate looking Britain. “You can’t get in and you can’t get out. I guess that’s what it’s all about.” Jagger sings. The song begins with a football match analogy and “I went to see England, but England lost.”. Later this wording shifts to “England’s lost.” As with so many serious messages, there’s still some humour as in “London’s gonna be like Singapore… but not as hot.”.
Going back to the country’s vulnerability, in Jagger’s England Lost remix featuring Skepta, the rapper says “Everybody wants your head on a spike, but they were singing your praises the day before.”. For me this describes the fragility of our society where attitudes and dynamics can switch so suddenly.
Getting a grip…
So are there any positives here? Well, I always like to find at least one and end on that… ‘Pull yourself together’ the runaway in ‘England Lost’ was told. ‘Gotta Get a Grip’ sings Jagger too. As described in NME it is a reminder that, whilst we shouldn’t ‘shut up’ (Mick Jagger hasn’t), in difficult times we do have to continue with life and look after ourselves and our loved ones. To do what we can…