Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My Songs: The Prostitutes of London

I wasn’t a gigantic Lovin’ Spoonful fan, though I did love Darlin’ Be Home Soon, and the background vocals on You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice make me swoon. What I admired most about them was that each new single sounded very different from its predecessor. No relentless milking of a particular sound (a la The Kinks’ first three hits) for these boys! Around the same time, I very much admired how Revolver covered a wide range of styles, and created a wide range of sonic atmospheres. I have always tried in my own work to do the same thing.

When I presented The Prostitutes of London to Ms. Zelda Hyde, then recording as Mistress Chloe, in 2002, during the recording of her much-praised Like a Moth to Its Flame album, her green eyes filled with skepticism. “What does this have to do with rock?” she fretted. “Nothing at all,” I admitted happily, “and therein its great appeal.” It’s more like something you’d hear in a Lionel Bart musical, or in a pub, being bellowed by the same sort of people who pipe up with such ardour at the sound of Daydream Believer or Sweet Caroline.

(I don’t understand why rock is perceived as sacrosanct. Put on a leather jacket, sneer, step on your distortion pedal, turn your amp up too high and suddenly you’re no longer a spotty little twerp with no appreciable talent, but the living embodiment of cool? (Joan Jett, come on down!) I so don’t think so.)

It wasn’t until 2014 that I started a song with the lyrics, rather than the melody. Prostitutes was a jaunty little tune before it was anything else. I have long believed that a lovelier melody is apt to result when one composes it before writing lyrics, but there’s at least one major pitfall in this approach — one commonly discovers that the tune he’s devised forces a difficult rhyme or metrical scheme.

I thought it imperative that my new band, The Freudian Sluts, based in SW London, include this song in its repertoire, as it’s a nice change of pace from the mid-tempo, minor-key mediations on eating disorders, domestic violence, and romantic betrayal that make up much of the set list, and likely to appeal to those who enjoy being shouted at to sing along. We play two verses in a row before the chorus, and then two more verses before the next chorus. In both cases, we play the first half sort of sweet and loungey, and the second with every bit of funk we can muster. Andrew, the bass player, uses the percussive slapping style that Larry Graham of Sly & The Family Stone introduced in time for it to define Seinfeld musically.

The song will be performed live for the first time ever at Andrew’s big birthday party, on December 19. Ms. Hyde will hold up cue cards to help the audience sing along on the choruses. What fun everyone will have!

Speaking of Revolver, around the time it came out, I was in a band with a brilliant (very!) young guitar player who pointed out that the rhythm playing on the exquisite Here, There, and Everywhere was actually very sloppy. He pointed to the Spoonful’s Zal Yanovsky’s playing as far tidier. I remember being flabbergasted at the thought of anyone daring to compare The Beatles unfavourably to…anyone. And all these decades later, I remain puzzled by John Sebastian's asserting, in Darlin', that, at around 25, a quarter of his life was almost past. I'm no mathematician, but he seemed to expect to live to 100!

1 comment:

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