Monday, October 22, 2012

More Than a Woman: songs on Jane

Press play.

I know I'm not the first person to think of the possible connection between all the song titles including the name Jane. However, to preface certain selections on the playlist, I may be one of the few who has included the late, great Rick James.

I begin with the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" because the song has one of the best beginnings in the history of song beginnings. Exaggeration aside, isn't it exciting when an intro sounds nothing like the rest of the song, and would itself make a really great song?

"Sweet Jane" is from VU's album Loaded --right before Lou Reed left the band, and after Nico had returned to outer space. The album boasts a great country rocker called "Lonesome Cowboy Bill," and a sweet, sad uptempo drama called "Who Loves the Sun?."

The song on this playlist focuses on three characters: Jack, Jane and the narrator who is self-evidently Lou Reed. "Jack wears his corset/Jane is in her vest/Me, I'm in a rock 'n roll band."

It reminds me of another three character tune featuring a Jack. You might know it as a little ditty called "Jack and Diane." John Cougar Mellancamp wrote this American love story to be the most depressing song about small-town love that is coincidentally the catchiest as well.

To quote the Coug: "Sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freez/ Diane's on Jacky's lap/He's got his hands between her knees."

Yum, romance. Nothing says love like eating a chili dog on your lover's knee while he's copping a feel. Is Cougar-Mellancamp attempting innuendo? I hope not. I'd rather not think about chili dogs and penises as texturally or fragrantly related.

In any case, just like Mellancamp, Lou Reed shows the lives of two lovers working to make it. All the while Reed interjects his idiosyncratic flare.

Speaking of flare, Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell loves the Velvet Underground and eyeliner. His song "Jane Says" could be paying homage to the Velvet Underground tunes featuring a woman saying something: "Candy Says," "Lisa Says," "Stephanie Says."

This Jane refers to Farrell's ex-housemate, a heroin addict named Jane. She and her condition are also the band's namesake.

I don't know much about Jane's Addiction, but I've been told they're the best band ever.

Nick Drake takes up the next spot on the list with his "Hazey Jane I." On Drake's second release Bryter Layter, the album also features the more upbeat counterpart "Hazey Jane II," and John Cale of the Velvet Underground on keys for several songs.

From Bob Dylan's sixth studio release Highway 61 Revisited comes "Queen Jane Approximately." Dylan offers a helping hand to Queen Jane, if she ever needs a reality check or maybe just a friend.

The jangly piano effectively brings the hook back around as Dylan coos, "Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?"

In 1973, Columbia released Dylan without Bobby's consent, comprised entirely of outtakes. While I don't believe that Columbia's actions were respectful, I'm glad we can all now listen to "Sarah Jane." According to the liner notes, the song is a traditional that Dylan rearranged for his purposes. A departure from the condescending tone of "Queen Jane," the endearing lyrics of "Sarah Jane"and its female back-up singers make it a feel-good toe-tapper.

The next two tracks focus on another Jane; Mary Jane to be exact.

Rick James gives a good-times vibe with his "Mary Jane." Flutes and light funk guitar accompany James' lyrics about a sweet lady. It all ends in a bass-heavy synth mess of passion.

The Mary Jane in Janis Joplin's blues track most likely refers to marijuana rather than a woman, but who knows. Joplin spends all her money on Mary Jane, and can see when other men are familiar with Mary Jane. Mary Jane keeps her company when no one else can be found. Drug addiction is great metaphor for the hopeless side of love. (See: Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love", Huey Lewis and The News' "I Want a New Drug")

David Bowie finds his way into the Jane playlist as Davie Jones and the King Bees. Saxophones rip it up in "Liza Jane", Bowie's first single that garnered little attention at the time of its release. 1964 wasn't the best of times for Bowie. He still went by his given name of Jones, and hopped from group to group attempting to find his voice.

Soon after "Liza Jane", David changed his stage surname to Bowie so as not to be confused with the Monkees' frontman Davey Jones. In 1967 his self-titled debut David Bowie came to introduce the world to the man who would become Ziggy Stardust.

And to think, it all began with a little woman half-named Jane.

Et la fin? Who else but Jane Birkin. The only artist by the name of Jane in this collection, Birkin is also the most French by association. "La Ballade de Johnny Jane", from what I can tell of the translation, is quite a sad song. Lines like "A search of love suicide" and "Time gnaws love as acid" resonate clearly as esoteric as they might seem. Translations never really express true nuance, but I'll take what I can get. Besides, a woman as cool as Jane Birkin can be esoteric.

Jane, she is plain. Yet, how many songs are written about her?
"Jane" is a muse. She is an archetype for the average girl.
She's more than a woman. She is woman.

1 comment:

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