Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Girl: Jane of the Waking Universe

I’m still thinking about my previous post, so I bring this burning question to the fore: Why are there so many songs about girls named Jane?

I mentioned Jane’s Addiction, and their eponymous femme subject who has become perhaps the most popular Jane in rock and rock, though The Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane might want to argue that she holds top honors. And I’ve thought of a whole lot of other Janes, and I wonder: why is the name Jane so popular in the arts?

There are seriously a lot of songs about Janes. I searched a few lists of Jane-related songs, and f I could still add a few Janes I knew that weren’t included.

It’s an omnipresent moniker Tarzan had his Jane; Dylan had his Queen Jane, approximately; we all wonder still what happened to Baby Jane…I’ve know exactly one Jane my entire life, which seems an odd ratio: for someone who’s name appears in so many songs, you’d think I’d have known more.

OK, so, enough of my brain working through these odd trenches it gets lost in.

One of my favorite Jane songs is Guided By Voice’s Jane of the Waking Universe. Off 1997’s Mag Earwhig! Not their greatest album, but it did mark their transition into a more sonically sound and well-recorded band. Do the Collapse would follow, which was produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars, which is like, all BV albums, brilliant in its own way, in its own special, sonic universe. Jane rounds end the end bit of a typically 20-plus track suitcase of pop rock oddities and anthemic hallelujahs to the god’s of indie rock joy. The lyrics mine the typical mystical beer can visions of Robert Pollard, who, whether he’s writing about kicking elves, having bulldog skin or being a tree, is a prolific madman genius who has given me some of my greatest and most beautiful musical moments. Jane of the Waking Universe is but one. And, on a new listen (It’s been a while since I dug Mag Earwhig! out for a listen, I’m going to say this: it’s freaking great. I may never meet many Janes, but goddamn if I’m not happy about being able to go back to old friends like GBV…Any Janes out that want to comment on why you’re so damn popular as an appellation, motif and theme…? 

 By the way...I can hope that when I'm Mitch Mitchell's age, I can still kick as much ass...

Girl: Beatles Girl

When the "Girl" theme first popped up, it seemed a natural to go with a post featuring the Beatles - "Girl" from Rubber Soul. The more I delved into the Beatles/Girl idea, the more I was amazed at the number of Beatles songs that reference "girl".

Enough so that it prompted me to dig deeper into the word itself: just what is "girl"? My research indicates that first and foremost, a girl is younger than a woman, So, I wonder how cognizant of this the Beatles were as they penned their lyrics - there is an element that might be flagged inappropriate today: a little on the young side. A "girl" is certainly un-married (and the term girl-friend only dates back to the 1890s apparently). The OED guesses that the word comes from "gyrle" , that meant a child - either male or female, but possibly around the 14th Century, it became mostly female. That said, there isnt much doubt that today it means an unmarried female, likely younger than 20 (that number is mine).

The term also seems to embody a certain amount of protective ownership. That is, if "she" is your girl, your have taken responsibility - for care, upkeep and maintenance. (And that could possibly continue beyond her marriage)

But, back to the Beatles and their girls. The band has girls all over the place - not just in the obvious song title alluded to above: I count 4 beatles songs with "girl" in the title, but more songs than you would beleive have the word in the lyrics! I'll start you off with a few, but suggest you head over to the quiz below to quench your thirst for more.

"Moscow girls make me sing and shout" - Back in the USSR; "She's not a girl who misses much" - Happiness is a Warm Gun; "She was a girl in a million my friend"- I'm a Loser; "You know you twist little girl..."- Twist and Shout. Here's the quiz:

If pressed, I might call Rubber Soul my favorite Beatles album (after the White Album, which is so eclecticly perfect).

Herewith, a collection of "girls":

Ukelele version

Monday, May 23, 2016

Girl: Slade's Gudbuy T’Jane

Purchase Slade, Gudbuy T'Jane

It might make things easier to start this post off by asking, “What song isn’t about a girl?” I’ve certainly never written one that isn’t about a girl.  When I was young, spinning the AM dial endlessly looking for music, I was struck by the fact that almost every song was about love. Most of them about being in love with girls.

So, it was particularly hard to choose a song for this post, but for some reason I got on a Slade kick and few weeks back, and thought: why not Gudbuy T’Jane?

Why was I on a Slade kick? Why not? Slade was a glam rock outfit from England, who, while never really going over the top in terms of acclaim, did notch 17 consecutive top 20 hits in the early 70s. Not a bad run. Brits know them better than Americans, but those of us who went a little nuts for Quiet Riot’s Cum on Feel the Noize owe Slade a certain debt of gratitude. I don’t recall how I got down the Slade rabbit hole recently, but I did. And I’m glad of it.

Slade is an interesting band. A little glam, very British looking, but they always sounded to me like a bottom-heavy southern rock band. Perhaps it the vocal delivery, twangy and snarly, or maybe it’s just the very American riffs that power most of their tunes. Try not to pay attention to the ridiculous Viking cum Highlander cum Martian explorer get ups: these guys looked goofy, but they capture and very specific, 70s riff rock vibe that sinks in, like only the best pop songs can.

“Gudbuy T'Jane" is about a girl, of course named Jane. A little research says it was written for a particularly spaced out San Francisco radio DJ who allegedly assaulted one of the band members. Supposedly she kicked him, hard, with heels. But then again, there’s also the claim it was written about witnessing a very specific sex act on some obscure San Francisco game show. Again, by a girl named Jane. The song was originally titled Hello T’ Jane. Details are murky. What is clear is that the song was written as the single follow up to one of those top 20 tracks, Mama Weer All Crazee Now. Hello again, Quite Riot?  (That’s a connection of explore sometime, perhaps: bands that do multiple covers of the same band.) What’s also pretty clear is the fun riffed-out groove of this peon to our mysterious girl, Jane. Rock like this put Jane in good company with the likes of Queen’s Fat Bottom Girls, Rod Stewarts Hot Legs and maybe even the girl with American Things, in AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long. I would count her in the same company as Jane’s Addiction’s Jane, but, then again, you never know. We never to know our Jane’ as well as we’d like, do we?