Mick Jagger was sitting at home last month monitoring the coronavirus pandemic when he was struck with an idea for a new song. He was ruminating over the past year on both a personal and global level, noting that while the world remains gripped by the pandemic, a return to pre-pandemic life is inching forward. The result: “Eazy Sleazy,” a one-off track with Dave Grohl that notes the tragedies, absurdities, conspiracy theories, and hopefulness Jagger’s observed over the past year.
“Shooting the vaccine/Bill Gates is in my bloodstream/It’s mind control,” Jagger sings on the track in a verse he calls “a piss-take on conspiracy theories.” “The Earth is flat and cold/It’s never warming up/The arctics turned to slush/The second coming’s late/There’s aliens in the deep state.” Elsewhere, though, the Rolling Stones frontman exudes optimism for another Roaring Twenties. “Everything’s gonna get really freaky,” Jagger sings. “It’s gonna be a garden of earthly delights.”
After writing the music for the muscular, melodic song, Jagger sent the demo off to Grohl, who he says began working on it the next day. “It’s hard to put into words what recording this song with Sir Mick means to me,” Grohl tells Rolling Stone. “It’s beyond a dream come true.” The duo sent parts to each other back and forth over the past month, with Jagger on vocals and guitar and Grohl handling guitar, drums, and bass.
Produced by Jagger’s longtime musical collaborator Matt Clifford, the song is a more encouraging version of “England Lost” and “Gotta Get a Grip,” two politically charged tracks Jagger also released as one-offs in 2017. Jagger (who, incidentally, is fully vaccinated) hopped on the phone to discuss “Eazy Sleazy,” anti-vaxxers, and the difference between the Trump and Biden administrations.
How did the song came together?
I wrote the lyrics really quickly: Just the pandemic and hopefully coming out of the pandemic; the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel chorus. It sounded really good and I thought, “You gotta put it out now because it’s not gonna be any good in three or six months.” I said, “I’d love to do it with someone really great and is working from home.” I knew Dave and [Foo Fighters] just put out an album so I knew he got that out of the way. I phoned Dave up and said, “Dave, would you be interested?” He said [puts on American accent], “Yeah, I’m really bored!” “You just put an album out.” “I’m really bored! I want to do it. I want to work!” I said, “Fine, I’ll send you the song.” It was all done quite quickly. Dave likes it ’cause it rocks hard. I like to rock hard, too, so it feels good in that way.
What spurred you to initially write the song? Was there one particular event you saw or was it the general feeling over the past year?
I wrote most of the music first with some of the lyrics and then I just went and filled in the blanks. But yeah, it’s a reflection on the last year; the physical and mental strains put on society. The whole year, we’ve been doing this and going through different emotions through it and having false starts and stops and openings and closings. [Laughs] End of last summer, everything seemed to be going well and people were out and about and great and then, especially in Europe, everything’s shut down again and you haven’t had any kind of social interaction. It’s a long time for people to have to endure that. [Also] the deep psychological ramifications of it on people and children not going to school and not socializing. We don’t know what they’re really going to be [long-term].
“Everyone tried to do something, didn’t they? Cooking and dancing and learning another language badly.”
What about you personally? What’s been your overarching feeling and mental state throughout the pandemic?
Just pretty much rolling with the punches. The first thing was it was all going to be over in a few weeks and then the realization [came] that that [would be] pretty quickly dampened. And then you realize that you’re in for the long haul, so you say, “I see what’s going to happen here: I’m really not going to be able to do this.” [It went from] “Maybe it’ll just be inconvenient” to “All hell broke loose.” Then you’re feeling bad about so much death stalking the world. And of course, you don’t want to be included as one of those statistics either, so you want to keep safe.
People are really suffering in some places and don’t have the advantages that we have. So you went up and down and you had to be adaptable. Obviously, I’m luckier than most. I’ve never spent so long in the country. I always had somewhere I could go outside. The idea of being locked up in an urban apartment without being able to go out — which a lot of my friends were — must have been really awful. You miss seeing people; you miss conversation; you miss interaction; you miss playing music with people. All of that was difficult. But I can’t say I had a hard time. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I was able to deal with it because I was lucky enough to be able to have these nice places to hole up in. But not everyone does.
The second verse, where you mention TikTok dances, Zoom meetings, cooking, and copious amounts of eating, drinking and cleaning, seems to both reflect what everyone’s been doing in lockdown and also make fun of it.
The first verse is about how the beginning was horrible and you couldn’t believe people were dying. It was shocking. The people in government were all talking rubbish and would change their minds every five minutes. In England, it was quite a mess and under the Trump administration, he said all kinds of nonsense. Do you remember all these things that you had to get your head around? The graphs and the numbers. Then we got to the thing where we’re living in it, so now we’ve got invitations to see new movies virtually: virtual art galleries, virtual movie premieres, virtual concerts.
And then the more experiences of the kind of general long lockdown; you see a pretty girl, but you can’t take any chances before the vaccine. And then all the silly things that you could try and do to pass the time because you feel you got to “better yourself.” Everyone tried to do something, didn’t they? Cooking and dancing and learning another language badly.
Did you better yourself at all during the pandemic?
Not really, to be honest. No. It’d be so stupid if I said, [puts on sarcastic voice] “Oh yes. I did say that I bettered myself. It was an introspective time for me.” It’s a piss-take out of all these things; I mean, you try and learn another language and all this.
When “England Lost” and “Gotta Get a Grip” came out in 2017, you talked about the “anxiety [and] unknowability of the changing political situation” and added: “We obviously have a lot of problems. So am I politically optimistic? … No.” Have you gotten more or less optimistic since then?
In the U.S., there seems to be some people who want to make things right and there is a huge opportunity, I suppose, to come out of the pandemic and realize what’s got to be done. I don’t think the last administration, you really felt that. They were just like going from one week to the next not knowing what to do. There were no plans for anything. And I think at least with this administration, there’s longterm goals and things that have to be fixed. They’re not all going to work, but at least people are trying. I’m much more optimistic about the U.S. than I was this time last year.
Right. You were clear in recent years how you were hardly a fan of Trump.
Nooo! I wasn’t a fan. [Voice rising] And I just think he just winged everything. He was just winging it. And you can’t wing the pandemic. That’s not what you have to do. Trump at least went and bet on all these vaccines, which was a good thing. And that was a lot of money, and it was a good bet. And the government stepped up in both [the U.S. and U.K.] in a lot of ways. The difference was the U.K., at the beginning, had a rollout, which was much better than the U.S. The U.S. rollout was just non-existent in the beginning until the Biden administration came. But of course, we’ve got so many other problems that the economy in both these countries is pretty badly hit. That’s a big hole to get out of.
“[Trump] was just winging it. And you can’t wing the pandemic.”
Why did you decide to write about conspiracy theories?
It just seems to be that even people you know that are relatively sensible about a lot of things have one thing that they just don’t kind of get. I have several friends and relations and they go off on these things that just doesn’t… They’re just irrational. Of course, there’s no point in speaking to people about it. They don’t get it. They got what they believe in and they believe in that. And it doesn’t matter what you say, they’re gonna believe in it. And rational thought doesn’t work.
Even a country like France that prided themselves in the 18th Century on rationality is the most anti-vaccine country in Western democracy. It’s not as if [vaccines] are a new thing. When I was a child, which was a really long time ago, people would die from polio. They would just not be there the next day. And that’s been eradicated through vaccines. These poor children were either dead or crippled, and I had lots of friends like that. Would you rather have a vaccine if you had a child or would you rather their legs not work? You can’t argue with these people. So that’s how I got to the conspiracy theories; through the anti-vaxxers. Even I didn’t mention it in that verse; I probably should’ve though [since] I just went off on it. [Laughs]
Can we go back a little? You said you have “friends and relations” who were talking about conspiracy theories with you?
Oh yeah, I spoke to anti-vaxxers, yeah.
Yeah. But you can’t…
How does that even happen though? Under what circumstances does Mick Jagger talk to anti-vaxxers? Are you replying on Facebook?
No, no, just on the phone. It’s just saying to people, “When are you getting your vaccine?” Just passing the time of day. “Oh, I’m not getting it.” “OK. Why not? Are you in the queue?” “Oh no, because I don’t agree with it.” I started to realize that there really were quite a few people like that. I have a few of those. I think in this case though — a lot of people at the beginning of this kind of thing — maybe even I wouldn’t want to be the first to take it. After a while, some people maybe change their minds on this. But all these other ones like, “Trump won the election” and all these things, I didn’t bother putting them in [the song].
The song’s verses depict dismal situations, yet the chorus remains optimistic.
Each country’s different, but I see the amount of vaccines [increasing] and having to go through all these lockdowns and changing our minds and stop-and-start. But there seems to be, now, a light at the end of the tunnel in a lot of countries. I could see that light, so I thought I’d write a song about all the things that you’ve experienced in lockdown and now hopefully this is going to be the beginning of a bit more freedom.