24 Jun 2005

Helena Josefsson, backing singer at AGM Studios (X): The Swedish Dream of Doug Wyatt (III)

If you want to know what is doing Helena Josefsson these days, you should go here. Doug Wyatt continues the recordings of his new album at AGM Studios.

Day 11
9 hours sleep last night. Made some progress on assembling the new arrangement for Where You Lay before starting the session. We’re close to being done with this one. 2 down, 7 to go. 7 days left. That probably means finishing 2 a day for the last 4 days, since Tuesday and Wednesday will be drum days (with Jens Jansson), the string quartet will be here Thursday afternoon, and Helena Josefsson will sing Thursday night. That seems only marginally sane yet not impossible. Justin and I liked the so-called crappy Danish roadside restaurant we went to last week so much that we went back this evening. I will suggest that I take a shot at redoing the piano track while Jens is here, either before he plays on it, or maybe even better, at the same time.

Day 12
Did the 15-20 minute walk from the guest house to the studio for the first time, enjoying the perfect weather. Jens arrived around 1; we hung out for quite awhile before getting set up to record drums. We were interrupted by a truck honking; half a ton of 2” tape had arrived from Los Angeles. Justin and I joked that we should have brought it with us since Icelandair seemed so friendly about extra baggage. Dinner at the Danish place again. The poor ancient Volvo stalled while pulling into the restaurant and after dinner I was concerned about it starting again, but it did—then stalled at the corner at the top of the first hill. We push-started it and out of paranoia I kept racing the engine to keep it from stalling once more. But a few kilometers from the studio, it began to sputter again, and I couldn’t keep it running. Possibly an alternator or battery problem. We got out. To the west, golden rays of sun were breaking through the clouds. In front of us was a grass field full of yellow wildflowers. I was reminded of descriptions of heaven by near-death experiencers. Christoffer came to rescue us. Justin and I were advocating a tow truck; Jens and Christoffer were saying no, that would cost a thousand dollars, in Sweden we tow our own cars. Indeed, Christoffer had a tow line, and I steered the Volvo as Christoffer towed us back to the studio. Towing with a line like that is illegal in the U.S. and I see why; my instincts were screaming as we followed Christoffer at probably 70+ km/hr at a distance of just a few meters. Fortunately he slowed down very gradually for the turn, because without the car running, the power brakes didn’t work. It took some time here for Jens to work out parts for the multiple sections, but he made it bigger and more aggressive than Justin or I had imagined based on the demo; somehow the real drums made the electronic percussion sound more evil and alive too.

Day 13
Today we recorded Jens Jansson playing drums. Justin Winokur took Jens back to Malmö so I had dinner with Christoffer and family. After dinner, Christoffer Lundquist took some time off. After maybe 90 minutes, Christoffer came in and started preparing the studio for the string players. Justin returned and helped Christoffer. By midnight, all the string parts were done. There was a silly episode with finding a printer driver for C’s printer. Justin and the Internet came to the rescue. The string charts were sitting in a nice pile on top of my keyboard when we left the studio at the entirely sane hour of 1 am. Tomorrow promises to be a long day—Helena Josefsson arrives to sing at 11 am, and the string quartet arrives at 5 pm. Christoffer's wife asked if I felt homesick. I thought about it and said, no. I mentioned that this area reminds me a lot of the countryside around Ithaca, where I grew up. I thought about home for the first time today when I saw that my bill payer service had received an electric bill that was a little larger than I expected. I just wondered if I’d left anything on. There are people I miss talking to, but I don’t miss my usual routine—I have my musical tools and I’m spending most of my energy making music, so what more could I wish for?

Day 14
Today was indeed a long day. Helena Josefsson came to sing a little after 11 am. First we worked on Cobblestone Mirrors, for which I’d composed an extensive vocal part the week before coming to Sweden. That part shrank a bit when we arranged the song, but it was still substantial; it’s the focal point of the song in three separate sections, one short one with 6-part harmonies, 4 of which she sang triple or quadruple-tracked (the 2 lower ones I will attempt myself, later). She was the consummate pro, needing just a few takes at the beginning to adapt to the situation before nailing most of the rest of the takes on the first try. Her voice has an unusual quality to it, and we later noticed that it bore a surprising resemblance to the vocal stack samples that I’d used when composing the parts. That song took maybe two or two and a half hours. Then we did Where You Lay, where there’s a vocal line just in the chorus (and chorus tail). That went quite quickly, slowed only a little by taking some time to arrange a part for her based on some of the synth lines. On Don’t Know I Know, I’d had an idea: there’s one tiny spot where one of the synth sounds is morphing on the fly, hits a vocal sound and then changes to something else quickly—what if that voice sound were amplified and extended? That was way too subtle. Instead Christoffer made a “vocal fishtank”, a big delay and a bit of distortion “that is unavoidable when you start chaining together lots of analog gear.” Helena just improvised over the track, never having heard it before, and there were a couple of stunningly beautiful moments. It was so good that we did another pass on the whole track and there were some more magic bits that we’ll keep. C said later that it seemed she just got inside the music, and I agreed.
Christoffer suggested that she improvise over Implications, which has some key changes in some surprising places. Since she was hearing it for the first time, it wasn’t surprising that she didn’t always hit the transitions, but on one or two she happened on a common tone between the key. There were some other really nice moments in this one too. We found one choir-like line for her to cover in Artifacts and Fantasies; that went quite quickly. Then on the spot she invented a catchy melody for Serentripidy, which we’d just opened on a whim. We weren’t sure if it takes the song in the direction we’re aiming, but it was a great effort. Helena’s singing moved me to tears at least 5 times over the course of the afternoon. I’d feared that some of the melodies in Cobblestone Mirrors (played by synths in my demos) were too simple, bordering on trite, but sung, they were completely different. I went outside for a smoke and Justin went to pick up pizza from the Danish place. Helena came out and we were still chatting when the string quartet arrived at 5 pm. Justin returned with pizza shortly thereafter, and we asked the string players to please get set up and tuned while we ate quickly. We started with Cobblestone Mirrors where the strings did something I think will mesh nicely with Helena’s vocal. It was quite a rush to hear my first string quartet arrangement played. I was a little concerned about Artifacts and Fantasies; there are a number of bizarre meter shifts that attempt to follow an improv. To add to my anxiety, we’d done something to the sequence that had made the click track out of phase; it took a few minutes to fix that. We started with the end, where the piano, cello and one of the synths are off in a world of odd-length phrases, while the violins and viola superimpose a (mostly) constant quarter-note feel. It took some time to get that section right, but the players graciously worked out phrasing and dynamics despite my charts not having any, and got increasingly comfortable and confident with the part. I was very happy when we finished that song; it sounded so big and alive. Somewhere in there I ended up in the room with the players, doing some kind of impressionistic twisting of the hands, arms and body, in ways that might conceivably assist in the performance and interpretation of the music. Some might call it conducting. I did manage a few gestures to indicate dynamics and downbeats. I was really happy with all of the string parts. Friday is a national holiday in Sweden, Midsummer’s Eve. Christoffer’s family has taken off for the weekend. We’re invited to join them for a celebration.
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19 Jun 2005

Helena Josefsson, backing singer at AGM Studios (IX): The Swedish Dream of Doug Wyatt (II)

Doug Wyatt continues the recordings of his new album at AGM Studios. Helena Josefsson will record backing vocals for this album very soon. We can read his day-by-day notes here. They are really interesting.

By the way, Justin Winokur told his friend Doug about AGM Studios and is also taking part in the recordings.

According to Anders, from Junk Musik:
"The super slick, ultra–polished, internet fashion magazine Se7en just published an editorial about Justin Winokur. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. The writing is great. The pictures are great. And they like Junk! They ran the article about Justin Winokur on the very first page of the music section—before Weezer and Coldplay and NIN. You will find the magazine here. If you want to go directly to the part with Justin, go here.

Justin Winokur recorded his album "Thirteen songs about love" at the AGM Studio and released it in 2004.

Day 5
Christoffer Lundquist suggested that this piece seemed to be well along its way and that we pick up another after dinner. Justin Winokur had gone to Malmö for the rest of the day, which made it best that we work on one of the pieces where we weren’t going to collectively rework the structure. I’m feeling much better about our pace now; if we continue to “launch” one song a day now, we should have everything ready for Jens Jansson to add drums on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Days 6-7
The last two days have gone by in a blur. Fatigue has become a factor. Whenever I’m not in the studio working, I’m finding myself keenly aware of the schedule. Jens is coming to play drums on Tuesday, and we’re taking the weekend off, so that leaves two working days. We now have 1 “finished” song that he won’t play on, 4 songs that are ready for him to play, Where You Laid (which needs some more structural work Friday) and then three more songs to prepare for him. Justin and I planned to go a music festival over the weekend but I find myself contemplating either just holing up in the guest house or going to Malmö and getting a hotel room instead. I could catch up on sleep instead of continuing or getting further into deprivation.

Day 8
I kept to myself as Christoffer finished the arrangement. Justin left for the festival around this point. We listened and made notes on this one too, and agreed that Justin Winokur should be present for any arrangement decisions and that we were too tired to go back and work on anything else; got back to the guest house just now (23:30). Tomorrow I’ll probably go visit Copenhagen, wander around the city a bit, try to put a good dent in my homework, and make sure I get a good rest. After that bit of “anger management therapy” with the chair the other night I told Christoffer that I’d found it fascinating when at the dinner table one evening his daughter had used a Swedish word that was translated for us as “shy/angry.” In English those are unrelated concepts. But I’ve had a tendency towards shyness ... and a tendency to repress and internalize anger. Then we went and looked at the “programmer or serial killer?” web site (Google knows where it is and I’m offline at the moment) and laughed a lot.

Day 9
Chris Lundquist had an engagement in Lund at 3 pm, so he picked me up at 2 and I had no trouble finding the train station after he dropped me in the old city. I got there around 3:15 and bought a ticket; there was a train to Copenhagen at 3:39 so I got a cheese sandwich and a bottle of juice. Thought I might sleep on the train, but I just watched the countryside and then the monumental bridge across the Baltic between Malmö and Copenhagen. Got to Copenhagen around 4:45, got cash in the train station, wandered around the station a bit looking for tourist information. There was a tourist office just up the street from the station where I reserved a room for the night. Spent an hour walking around looking for the hotel in vain; by the time I’d found it I’d walked on both sides of just about every nearby street. I’d forgotten how confusing many European cities’ street numbering systems can be. Took another half-hour nap. After a bit, used the “follow the crowds” algorithm for exploring a strange city without a Lonely Planet guide or equivalent. After maybe an hour of wandering, found a nice Thai restaurant and took my time for dinner. Marveled that the young waitress spoke Thai, Danish and English. Enjoyed smoking between courses of a meal (after initially thinking that I wouldn’t, out of consideration for those around me—until I realized they were all smoking.)
Wandered around some more for a couple of hours, mingling with the crowds, finally went in a bar, had a couple drinks, then returned to the hotel. One part of me is screaming “there’s so much to do; work!” and another “sleep! you’re going to need it!” Sleep wins. Hopefully I’ll get a couple hours in the morning to work over coffee before noon checkout time, then have some time to explore Copenhagen a bit more before returning to Sjöbo by train and bus. And theoretically, having gone through the new arrangement in my mind so much today should make it easy to start dragging notes around when I get back to the guest house tomorrow night.

Day 10
It was gorgeous day in Copenhagen, sunny, temperatures around 75 with an occasional cool breeze coming in from the sea. Took off walking around the city, this time with a bit more premeditation based on a map. Followed the crowds through the new harbor district and along the harbor up to the famous mermaid statue. Walked through an old fortified castle surrounded by a moat, with houses dating probably back to the 1700's inside, then back to the train station around 3:15 pm.
Missed one every-20-minute train to Malmö by not being able to figure out the automated ticket machine. It didn’t like my Visa card. Went to the ticket office counter instead, which let me pay cash, and have time to exchange remaining Danish crowns for Swedish ones. Missed another train when it mysteriously didn’t appear on the platform the signs had said it would (train to Hamburg was there instead). Got to Malmö around 4:40 pm. Indulged in a Burger King veggie burger. Spent 30 minutes trying to get information about buses to Sjöbo—the woman in the tourist information office didn’t know, the woman at the train ticket office didn’t know, a few locals buying bus tickets from the automated machine didn’t know, and the regional bus departure monitor said nothing about Sjöbo or any cities I knew to be in that general direction. Finally I found a policeman (or transit official?) and he told me I had to take a city bus to a bus depot. Got there around 5:45.
Ah, there was the schedule to Sjöbo. Last departure 18:30, whew. Uh oh, it says Montag-Fretag. No Lördtag schedule as with some of the other buses (and if Montag-Fretag are Monday to Friday, and Lördtag is Sunday, what is Saturday?). I appeared to be stuck in Malmö. I called Justin Winokur, who was driving back from the festival. He was willing to come get me but first suggested I make some other calls. Called Jens Jansson and Magnus, who live in Malmö. No answer. Called Christoffer’s house. No answer. Magnus called back. He was out of town. Tried Jens again and got through. He made sure I was at the right bus depot and said, no problem, just take bus 176 to Sjöbo. I was happy and thankful when I hung up, but then I looked at the schedule again to see how I’d misread it. Bus 176 was the one that ran Montag-Fretag only! Indeed, the departure monitor for the next hour (18:15 to 19:15) did not include bus 176. Called Justin, who was closer to Malmö than he’d thought and would divert to come get me. Went back to the central train station.
From a bit outside the city, Justin just followed the train tracks to find the station, arriving around 7:30. Splurged on sushi and tiramisu. (Justin decoded the dinner bill and determined that sales tax is 25%. Ouch.) I drove us back to the guest house, finally arriving a little after 11. Today it seems the “I’ll figure it out as I go” travel planning method works better in cities than in getting between them.

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14 Jun 2005

Helena Josefsson, backing singer at AGM Studios (VIII): The Swedish Dream of Doug Wyatt (I)

Doug Wyatt, the musician from New Orleans, has flied to Sweden in order to record his new album at Chris Lundquist's Aerosol Grey Machine Studio. Helena Josefsson will record backing vocals for this album. We can read his day-by-day notes here.

Day 0
Despite Justin Winokur never before having been charged for excess baggage, we’d agreed that we would pack as if we were going to. Justin dropped me and the luggage outside the international terminal at SFO, returned the rented minivan, and reappeared 12 minutes later. Shuttled the bags to a spot near Icelandair’s checkin counter. I got perhaps 4 or 5 solid hours of sleep on the plane. We arrived Copenhagen without Justin’s clothes. Major endeavor getting all the gear onto train to Malmö. Fortunately two friends of Justin’s had met our plane and helped. Just a little under 24 hours after meeting Justin outside my apartment, we arrived at the studio guest house. Fell asleep quickly.

Day 1

Got 5.5 hrs sleep Thu. night, at the right time. Optimistic about adapting to time change. AM: Got cash, food, gas (43 liters=11.4 gallons, 476KR=US$64, $5.60/gallon!). A steady diet of salmon, cheese, bread, mustard, and herring? Yum! Hit it off well with Christoffer Lundquist—major common musical influence: Genesis’ A Trick of the Tail. PM: Listened to all 9 tracks and discussed arrangements. Considering major surgery (simplification) on perhaps 3. There’s some healthy diversity of opinion but we seem to be agreeing on the big things. Jens Jansson(drummer) arrived around 4 and listened with us. After dinner, set up to record drums. Moved Logic session onto Christoffer’s G5. Slaving mac to 24 track was working well (that day :-/). Set up keyboard rig in control room. Recorded drums and some percussion for Implications.

Day 2
Got to the studio around noon. Practiced piano while Justin and Christoffer had lunch, then told them I wasn’t really ready to perform Cobblestone Mirrors that day. Christoffer suggested Artifacts and Fantasies instead, which made me happy because it’s the one piece I’d been practicing a lot on piano in the last week. By dinnertime we’d gotten the first half of Artifacts and Fantasies rearranged, adding a reprise of the opening theme. Then Christoffer, Justin and I doubled the chords under the theme with 4 layers of 3 “monks” singing 2 parts, and Christoffer replaced my bass track with the real thing. Christoffer experimented with microphone positions for awhile and ended up capturing a glorious, sweet, singing tone.

Day 3
Now it seems we have a solid workflow going forward. We talked about it before breaking for dinner and agreed, it’s kind of inevitable that whenever you bring prerecorded material to a session, there’s going to be a certain amount of time spent just figuring out how best to integrate it. It’s not the kind of thing that’s easily planned, especially when we hadn’t worked together before and had no idea of how the other worked. On the way back from dinner I noticed a Swedish flag on someone’s house and remarked to Justin, do you think that in Sweden, flying the national flag has the same jingoistic, nationalistic connotations as it does in the U.S.? He laughed because he’d been wondering the same thing on our drive to town the other day (as had I). He said, the Swedes might have as much of a nationalistic streak as we do, but it’s for different principles; great concern for the environment, social welfare, etc. I said, maybe I will plaster my car with Swedish flags.

Day 4
After dinner, we took some publicity photos in the studio and then got down to the business of replacing the digital piano track. The one other overdub we did was Christoffer playing a low note on a bass ocarina (?!) that added a really nice organic quality to the ending. I’ll have to come back and finish in the fall. But it’s natural for things to move more slowly at the beginning before everyone’s sure of what they’re doing.

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Helena Josefsson, backing singer at Malmö's studios (IV): Fredo - Smack

Fredo is the solo project by Mitsunori Matsuno from Tokyo. He's the resident DJ and the organizer of one of the highly popular party in Tokyo "Freaky!" at Shinjuku Oto. He made a successful debut with the limited first single "Square" in October 2003 and the song from this single titled "Fantastic Festa!" made waves in the clubs across Japan.

Fredo makes dance music with a mixture sound of house, breakbeats, hiphop, rock, electro-disco and so on. His music is also pop, catchy and melodious, and can be accepted also by indie-pop/rock fans. The first full length album, Smack which was produced by Tatsuki Hasimoto (Strauss) is out in June 2005. According to himself, listening to the debut album means that you will experience the cutting-edge sound of the daily pop / club culture in Tokyo. This album features Bastian (Dutch track maker/producer) and Helena Josefsson (Swedish singer from Sandy Mouche). Helena sings in the song Teenage Monster.

11 Jun 2005

P, C & C have a party in their heads (IX): Junk Musik, Monkeystrikes and David Birde’s Guide to Great Lyrics

The record company of Christoffer Lundquist and his friends, Junk Musik, has had lots of activity these days. Jens Jansson is playing with the band Monkeystrikes, Jens and David Birde play in Germany with Florian Horwath and David has written an interesting guide to great lyrics that could be useful to Per Gessle's forthcoming album. Let's begin, LJdM's readers.

Monkeystrikes is the other band from Brainpool's drummer Jens Jansson. According to their website, http://www.monkeystrikes.com
Why the name Monkeystrikes? We were thinking hard for a long time to find a band name that would suite the energy of their music. One evening we came to think of our almighty English photographer friend, Monty Strikes. Since we wanted to hail him and liked the brutality of his name we decided to call ourselves Monkeystrikes!!!We have always felt like apes and our music actually is more direct than smart.
Monkeystrikes formed in August 2002, when Johan Nordlund (bass) and Cecilia Karlsson (vocals, guitar) met Stig Larsen (Stig, the Dane). After a couple of years of separation Johan and Cecilia decided to start a new band together since they realised that they couldn't make rock without each other.Cecilia and Johan used to play in the well known and respected rock band Souls, that released 2 albums on/with Telegram/Warner Music. Souls also got signed with Trauma records/Interscope, USA in 1997 and supported Bush (the band not the president) on their arena tour across USA, Canada and Europe. Since the break up of Souls (1997), both Johan and Cecilia have played with different creatures. Among others Johan has played with Courtney Love and Joakim Thåström. Stig has played with Danish rocker Allan Vegenfeldt.

However... one hot summers day, Johan and Stig took the train from Copenhagen over the bridge to Malmö where Cecilia lives and on their very first rehearsal they made the motorcycle fuck off song "Lost on The Lawn. As soon as they could Monkeystrikes left for London to record with their mighty old legendary friend, the producer Nille Perned (also member of "The Chinamen"). They needed a drummer and Jens Jansson (from Brainpool) joined in 2004. Andreas Danielsson Grevsten (guitar) also joined them. Monkeystrikes recorded in Tambourine studios, Malmö, with mighty producer and hockey player Herman Söderström and Nathan Larson. Their first album, You hate my beautiful love, was released in 2005. Junk Musik has published two digital singles outtaken from the album, You hate my beautiful love (April) and Let's go to Hawaii (June). They recall the force of another Malmö's band: The Cardigans.

Tonight, our artist Florian Horwath supports Beck at Tonhalle in München (Germany). Beck personally chose Florian for this gig, which of course is flattering. Florian called David Birde & Jens Jansson from Brainpool just two days ago, and told them that their presence was needed in Germany today. Luckily, they managed to find airline tickets a couple of hours ago… Good luck tonight, boys.

Don’t miss our release party next June, 14th at KB, Malmö: today, 18-01! Here are the new songs released by Junk Musik this week!

Number 1: The Projects – “If There Are More Of Us”
The Projects is a GREAT band from London. Their performance of “If There Are More Of Us” was described like this by NME: “…in which The Clash get about halfway through rocking the kasbah, only for Mark E Smith to stumble in drunk, spilling two pints of hot Stereolab onto the keyboards and causing the sound to warp into great curls of eeriness.”

Number 2: Monkeystrikes – “Let’s Go To Hawaii”.
Yes, Monkeystrikes are back! This is the follow-up to the praised song “You Hate My Beautiful Love”. Get their new single exclusively on here Junk.

Number 3: Fight Family – “Star-Eyed Dim”.
Previously known as Colubrids, this wonderful band from Malmö recently took a new name. Why? They can’t agree on anything. Except that they like each other. Well, never mind: this is truly beautiful music.
Anders Mildner (Junk Musik)
Anders Mildner


It all begins in a very strange way: As I sit down to think about great pop lyrics, the first line that enters my mind is this one: ”Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man, in a factory downtown…” A line from a song by a band that I had totally forgotten about - I can’t even recall their name (but I remember that their singer was tall, bald and annoying). For some weird reason that particular line got stuck in my mind.

I shrug it off and try to focus. Great lyrics… great lyrics…. let’s see… What happens next almost scares me. I start to sing to myself: ”If you want to destroy my sweater – pull this thread as I walk away…” I do remember the bands’ name: Weezer – and the song must be ”The Sweater Song”. It really must be.

At this moment I’m starting to feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe I’m not the right person to write about great lyrics after all. Maybe I’m just a little to shallow for a task like that. But then I slowly start to realize that these two lines have something in common; they are absolute nonsense, but still they make perfect sense. They are totally naive and at the same time (or maybe just because of that) intelligent in some bizarre way. And isn’t that exactly what a piece of great pop poetry should be?

Neither Weezer nor the band whose name still eludes me will be listed here. But that’s just because they’re already mentioned. Lines like the ones above are, in my world, reason enough for a place in the lyricists’ hall of fame.

This list will be very personal, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find Bob Dylan here (you won’t actually). It’s just that so far he hasn’t come up with anything that says anything to me about my life (to paraphrase another beloved lyricist who won’t be mentioned here). But Dylan and that other guy have recieved so much credit for their songs already, so I’m sure they won’t mind.

Having said all this, you might think that my selection of great lyrics will be shallow and ironic and that I’m trying to make a point of excluding the obvious ones. Not at all, I will simply pick a few songs that for some reason make me cry, laugh, shiver or itch – et cetera. And I’m sure that your own list would be completely different from mine. Which is good!

Song: No Regrets
Artist: The Walker Brothers
Music/Lyrics: Tom Rush
Album: No Regrets
Recorded: 1975
Genre: Mature Love

I don’t know anything about Tom Rush. Should I? A little research tells me that ”No Regrets” was written by Mr Rush in 1968 and that it has been covered by artists as disparate as Emmylou Harris, Shirley Bassey, Midge Ure and Olivia Newton-John. I didn’t know that. The only version I have heard is the Walker Brothers’ and that’s the one I’m writing about.

I read somewhere that Scott Walker was a rather serious drinker in the 70’s. If nothing else, that explains why he is holding a can of beer on the cover of The Walker Brothers’ reunion album ”No Regrets” from 1975. Maybe his drinking habit is also - at least partly - the reason why he sings ”No Regrets” in such a heartbreaking way; indolent and dejected but still with complete presence all the way through. This is truly the voice of a man who had it all and then lost it. With a crisp seventies production, complete with pedal steel, female backing vocals and a pompuos, almost lecturing string arrangment as a backdrop, Scott croons his way through this sad tale of impossible love. Not once does he raise his voice, which only adds to the feeling of hopelessness.

The key lines to me (or actually the ones that always make me cry) are these: ”I woke last night and spoke to you - not thinking you were gone. And it felt so strange - to lie awake alone….” Oh, the beauty of understatements! ”It felt so strange - to lie awake alone…” He isn’t crying, screaming, destroying stuff and shooting heroin. No, he just feels strange, lying awake alone.

A thing with ”No Regrets” that separates it from other songs in the same vein is that it doesn’t have a ”twist”. There is no: ”Please come back” or ”I know we can make it if we try” or ”I’ll always remember to close the toilet lid from now on”. No, the decision is final: ”There’s no regrets, no tears goodbye - I don’t want you back, we’d only cry again - Say goodbye again.”

He still loves her, that’s for sure. But he realizes that they can’t go on, so he keeps telling himself that the break up was the right solution.

Even though it feels so strange to lie awake alone.

Song: Common People
Artist: Pulp
Music: Pulp
Lyrics: Jarvis Cocker
Album: A Different Class
Recorded: 1995
Genre: Class war

She comes from Greece with a thirst for knowledge which she satisfies through sculpture studies at St. Martins College. This is where Jarvis Cocker, the singer from Pulp, catches her eye.
She tells him that her father is rich and Jarvis’ snotty reply is: ”In that case I’ll have rum and Coca Cola”. She gladly accepts and half a minute later she lets him in on her secret wish: To try the life of the ”common” people. She even goes as far as to express a wish to sleep with someone common - him for example.
Jarvis is rather shocked by her suggestion and stutters: ”I… I’ll se what I can do…”

”I took her to a supermarket - I don’t know why but I had to start it somewhere. So it started - there.
I said: Pretend you’ve got no money. She just laughed and said: Ha - you’re so funny! I said: Yeah…?
I can’t see anyone else smiling in here… (Whispered): Are you sure…?

This whisper is surely the single most chilling moment in the history of britpop (not much competition I know, but anyway…) He manages to squeeze in a number of emotions in these three whispered words: They’re flirty - he is attracted to her and the possibility to have sex with this beatutiful lady is still rather tempting.
At the same time the whisper ooze of despise. He is disgusted by her because she thinks that ”poor is cool” and he is even more disgusted by himself for actually playing along with her.
This is is the turning point of the song. Jarvis has made up his mind, there won’t be no more romance.
Gone is the smoothe voice, the drinking and the joking. The remaining four minutes diplays an affected Jarvis, lecturing this poor little rich girl about the real world, a place that she will never be able to experience.
And what a lecture it is:

”Rent a flat above a shop - cut your hair and get a job - smoke some fags and play some pool - pretend you never went to school - but still you’ll never get it right - ’cause when you’re laid in bed at night - watching roaches climb the wall - if you called your dad he could stop it all yeah…”

There is no information available about the greek sculpture student’s reaction to this tsunami of loathing but I guess the only reasonable reply would be something like: ”Yeah, well ok, guess I’ll see you in the cafeteria some time…”

Song: Perfect Day
Artist: Lou Reed
Music / Lyrics: Lou Reed
Album: Transformer
Recorded: 1972
Genre: Angst

Lou Reed’s ”Perfect Day” is surprisingly often mistaken for a so called ”feel good-song”, just a playful run-trough of activities that, when combined, makes a day - ehrm - perfect. This is a misconception, very far from the truth. In fact, I think ”Perfect Day” is one of the scariest songs ever written. It starts out with two people, presumably lovers, consuming sangria in a park until nightfall, when they decide that it is time to go home. That’s all fine, but next we learn that the couple feed animals in the zoo and then watch a movie before they go home. Hmmm… This is confusing. No mentioning of the sangria or the park at all. Is the song perhaps describing two different days? Or are the couple going through the variety of options they have, to make the most of their day together? Or is it all happening in the narrator’s head?

I realize of course that my reasoning is unnecessarily analytical and that the questions that I pose are quite irelevant. It might or it might not be the same day, that doesn’t really matter. We can easily put it on the ”artistic freedom-account”. What does matter, though, is that Reed already after a few lines has sown a little seed of uneasiness, at least in my mind, before the anthem-like chorus kicks off, with Lou just a little bit too affected to make me relax completely.

On now, to the second verse, which starts with a few general remarks about the perfect day and how much fun it is. Then, without warning, the ground opens before your feet: ”Just a perfect day - you made me forget myself - I thought I was someone else - someone good…” Hey, wait a minute here… The day and the company is apparently perfect to the degree that the narrator for a while manages to forget about his true nature and instead fools himself that he is ”someone good”. Thus we can - without risking too much - deduct that he usually is bad. Someone bad - the opposite of ”someone good”. (There is another - more far-fetched - way of interpreting these lines: The narrator has always thought himself to be a good person, but now - in the company of his lover - he realizes that this is not the case: He is actually bad. However you decide to think about it, I would say that either of the options are rather horrible.)

The song ends with a deadpan Reed, repeating the biblical-sounding prediction: ”You’re going to reap just what you sow…” … over and over again and horrified, you slowly understand that the crack in the ground that you’ve been facing since the end of verse two, is nothing less than the gateway to hell. We are all doomed and in the end we’re going to have to pay for our sins. We can temporarily forget about our destiny, distracted by a perfect day (or two!), but it is unavoidable and surely nothing to look forward to.

OK, maybe I got a bit carried away here. There are probably ”lighter” ways to interpret this song, but that’s not up to me. Let’s just agree that ”Perfect Day” is very far from your average feel good-song. Nevertheless, I have heard of people who actually had it played at their weddings. In a sense, it is easy to understand their argumentation: ”A wedding day is supposed to be perfect, so why not kick it in the right direction with this little jolly tune, huh?”

(As a matter of fact; by making a prediction about something, you dramatically increase the possibility that it will come true. In a way you unconsciously strive to fulfill any prediction, be they good or bad. But this is - as the alert reader already might have observed - a parenthesis.)

The argumentation quoted above, of course presupposes that the person who chooses to play ”Perfect Day” at his or her wedding, merely has skimmed through the lyrics, if even that. I mean - just imagine to have the line: ”You’re going to reap just what you sow”, echoing in your head on the night of your wedding. Scary shit indeed, especially considering what we now know about predictions.

David Birde (Junk Musik)
David Birde