In order to keep The 143 tidy, my aim is to regulate the size and style of each entry. I’m avoiding hyperlinks, for instance, and although it has been suggested, the purist in me has ruled out embedding YouTube videos or MP3s of the songs being described and dissemintated. (Others have created Spotify playlists.)
So, if anything comes up that’s an adjunct to the heavily formatted entries, I shall post it here.
The House Of Love Christine 1988
My memory of purchasing the first House Of Love album was piqued by the memory of a photograph taken by my college friend Robert Mills in his student digs. He printed two takes in the dark room: the first is too light to be able to make out the LP cover; the second, where you can’t make out me, is clearer. Together, I think they form a rather nice pair, and remind me of a time when buying a record you really desired was an occasion on which to take a photograph (and at a time when taking a photograph meant something, and had to be chosen very carefully). You can also see a copy of Follow The Leader by Eric B & Rakim, which I must have bought on the same trip to Our Price.
Having confidently interpreted the lyric to my favourite EBTG song in the entry, I was contacted in 2013 by that nice Tracey Thorn, who is something of an authority, having actually written the lyric. She provided a full and frank corrective to my interpretation – which was, in analytical terms, way off – and I asked if I might publish her version of events. She said yes.
I hope I’m not going to spoil it for you forever by telling you that it is not a love song at all, but one of my early attempts to write a swingeing attack on the patriarchy – albeit in disguise.
I’d got really fed up of the way the Marine Girls were written about by male journalists – a lot of the press seemed to me patronising and restrictive – a sort of, oh bless aren’t they sweet, and not bad for girls! So the opening line, “If you ever feel the time, to drop me a loving line”, doesn’t refer to a love letter, but a “nice” review from a journalist. And the rest of the song is me being fed up with the way I felt women’s achievements in general were belittled, their ambitions thwarted, the possible roles available to them set in stone. If you listen to the lyrics again now, it might sound different.
Now, I’m the first to admit that it is completely my own fault that no one ever really heard that in the song. It was way way too subtle, and the thing of writing a feminist song in disguise didn’t really work. i started being a bit less subtle from Love not Money onwards, though I’d still argue that often my lyrics are “heard” as being far more personal than they are, and any wider implications overlooked.
This is all in my mind because I’ve just written an essay for Radio 3 about The Book the Changed Me, on The Female Eunuch, and reading it at uni and how it started to influence my lyrics. Writing the essay reminded me of some of the songs on Eden, and how I wove my new feminist theories into them, but often in too discreet a way. I think I was trying to use pre-existing pop language, so that the songs still sounded like pop songs, rather than just me shouting – FUCK THE PATRIARCHY, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME TO DO.
Hope you don’t mind all this being sent your way. You seem to me like someone who likes to know the stories behind things, so here’s mine about Eden!
That told me. If any other songwriter wishes to add a similarly enlightening addendum, they now have an official forum to do so. Come on, Paul McCartney, tell me I’m wrong about Blackbird!