Prince Charming: Ten Songs About Princes. A Worldwide Television Audience of 700-Million Watch Prince Charles Marries Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. This Day in History, 29/07/1981.

1.  Adam & the Ants ‘Prince Charming’

(from the album Prince Charming, 1981).

2.  Manic Street Preachers ‘Charles Windsor’

(from the Life Becoming A Landslide EP, 1994).

3.  Madness ‘The Prince’

(from the album One Step Beyond, 1979).

4.  Rufus Wainwright ‘Rebel Prince’

(from the album Poses, 2001).

5.  Placebo ‘My Sweet Prince’

(from the album Without You, I’m Nothing, 1998).

6.  Amy McDonald ‘Poison Prince’

(from the album This Is the Life, 2007).

7.  Spin Doctors ‘Two Princes’

(from the album Pocket Full of Kryptonite, 1991).

8.  Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine ‘Prince in A Pauper’s Grave’

(from the album 30 Something, 1991).

9.  Queen ‘Princes of the Universe’

(from the album A Kind of Magic, 1986).

10. Keane ‘The Frog Prince’

(from the album Under the Iron Sea, 2006).

Song of the Day: Biography in Music (Day Seven). “If Joan of Arc Had a Heart ….”

On the 8th November 1981, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their third album, Architecture & Morality.   It became a commercial and critical success, selling over 4 million copies by early 2007 and becoming hailed as the band’s seminal work.  Architecture & Morality is widely regarded as one of the greatest electronic albums of the 1980s, with some publications calling it one of the best records ever made.  The singles from the album began with Souvenir on the 4th August 1981 …

… before being followed by Joan of Arc on the 9th October 1981 and Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc), a re-titled Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) to save confusion with the previous single, on the 15th January 1982.

The latter two singles released from the album tell the story of Joan of Arc and are placed together on the second side of Architecture & Morality with Joan of Arc as side two, track one and Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)  as side two, track two.  Having already penned possibly their most famous song, Enola Gay, named after and about the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, for their previous album Organisation (1980), …

… the two songs written about Joan of Arc were yet more examples of the band’s penchant for writing songs about unusual subject matter.  When band members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys were asked why their song lyrics were about such unusual subjects in a 2008 interview for Beatmag, the pair replied:

Paul Humphreys:  “We really didn’t want to do this traditional love lyrics.  We always hated those kind of ‘I love you’ and ‘You love me’ kinds of songs.  Kraftwerk always sung about really unusual things as well.  Also, another influence on us was Brian Eno and he always sung about some very unusual topics.  So, we kind of followed that line”.

Andy McCluskey:  “Again it was us wanting to do something new and not be clichéd and repeat things.  I tortured myself.  On the third album, the song Joan of Arc has the word ‘love’ in it and I kept thinking, can I use this word?  But love here is kind of third party – it’s not you or me, it’s she.  She fell in love, so I can get away with that.  It’s not a first or second love”.

Paul Humphreys:  “Because we thought love was such a cliché.  There were so many love songs, particularly at that time.  We just thought they became meaningless, really”.

Of the subject matter for Joan of Arc and Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans), Joan of Arc, a peasant girl living in France, believed that God had chosen her to lead France to victory in its long-running feud with England.  Without any military training, Joan convinced the embattled crown prince Charles of Valois to allow her to lead a French army to the besieged city of Orleans, where it achieved a momentous victory over the English and their French allies, the Burgundians.  After seeing the Prince crowned King, Charles VII, Joan was captured by Anglo-Burgundian forces, tried for witchcraft and heresy and burned at the stake in 1431, at the age of just 19.  By the time she was officially canonised in 1920, the Maid of Orleans, as she was known and hence the title of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s second piece about Joan of Arc, had long been considered as one of history’s greatest saints and an enduring symbol of French unity and nationalism.

Joan of Arc was thought to have been born around 1412 as Jeanne d’Arc, with Joan of Arc being an Anglicisation of her name.  Joan of Arc was the daughter of a tenant farmer, Jacques d’Arc, from the village of Domremy, in North-eastern  France.  She was never taught to read or write but her pious mother taught her to love to love the Catholic Church and its teachings.  During this time, France had been torn apart by a bitter conflict with England, later known as the Hundred Years’ War, in which England was winning.  A peace treaty in 1420 disinherited the French crown prince, Charles of Valois, amid accusations of his illegitimacy, and King Henry V was made ruler of both England and France.  His son, Henry VI succeeded him in 1422.  Along with its French allies, led by Philip the Good, duke of Burgandy, England occupied much of Northern France, and many in Joan of Arc’s village, Domremy, were forced to abandon their homes under threat of invasion.

At the age of 13, Joan began to hear voices, which she interpreted as having been sent by God to give her a mission of overwhelming importance: to save France by expelling its enemies and to install Charles as its rightful king.  This divine mission also led Joan to take a vow of chastity.  At the age of 16, following her father’s attempts to arrange a marriage for her, she successfully convinced the local court that she should that she should not be forced to accept the match.

In May 1428, Joan made her way to Vancouleurs, a nearby stronghold of those loyal to Charles.  Here, local magistrate Robert de Baudricourt initially rejected her claims to be the virgin who, according to popular prophecy, was destined to save France but after she had attracted a small band of followers, the magistrate relented.  Joan cropped her hair and dressed in men’s clothes to make the eleven day journey across enemy territory to Chinon, the site of the crown prince’s palace.

Joan promised Charles she would see him crowned king at Reims, the traditional site of French royal investiture, and asked him to give her an army to lead to Orleans, which was at that point under siege from the English.  Much against the advice of most of his counsellors and generals, Charles granted her request and Joan set off for Orleans in March of 1429.  She dressed in white armour and rode a white horse.  After sending a defiant letter to the enemy, Joan led several French assaults against the, driving the Anglo-Burgundians from their bastion and forcing them to retreat across the Loire River.

Following the victory, Joan’s reputation spread far and wide among French forces.  Joan and her followers escorted Charles across enemy territory to Reims taking towns that resisted by force and enabling his coronation as King Charles VII in July 1429.  Joan argued that the French should press on and attempt to claim back Paris, but Charles wavered, as even his favourite court, Georges de La Tremoille, warned him that Joan was becoming too powerful.  The Anglo-Burgandians were unable to fortify their positions in Paris and turned back an attack led by Joan in September.

In the spring of 1430, Joan was ordered by the king to confront a Burgandian assault on Compiegne.  During her effort to defend the town and its inhabitants, Joan was thrown from her horse and was left outside the town’s gates as they closed.  Joan was taken captive by the Burgandians and took her to the castle of Bouvreuil, occupied by the English commander at Rouen.

In the following trial, Joan was ordered to answer to upwards of 70 charges brought against her, including witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man.  The Anglo-Burgandians aimed to remove Joan from power as well as discredit Charles, who owed his coronation to her.  In an attempt to distance himself from an accused heretic and witch, Charles made no attempt to negotiate Joan’s release.

Following a year in captivity and under threat of death, Joan relented in May 1431, signed a confession denying that she had ever received divine guidance.  After several days, however, she defied orders once again by wearing men’s clothes and the authorities pronounced her death sentence.  On the morning of May 30th, at the age of 19, Joan was taken to the old market place of Rouen and burned at the stake.  Joan of Arc’s death only served to increase her fame and at a trial ordered by Charles VII twenty years after her death, her name was cleared.  Long before Pope Benedict XV canonised her in 1920, Joan of Arc had attained mythic stature, inspiring numerous works of art and literature over the centuries and becoming the patron saint of France.

The first of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s two pieces about Joan of Arc is titled Joan of Arc.  Upon its release, the single reached number five on the UK singles chart, number 13 on the Irish singles chart and number 4 on the Canadian singles chart.

The second of the two pieces, Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans), or Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc) for its single release, was described by McCluskey in an interview with The Guardian in 2011 as the band’s “Mull of Kintyre”.  When released as a single, the song topped the performance of Joan of Arc in the UK and Ireland by reaching number 4 and number 5, respectively, whilst it reached number 32 on the Canadian singles chart.  In Germany, the song became the biggest selling single of 1982.

Both songs take the form of love songs to the French heroine, and as a suite roughly tells the tale of Joan of Arc’s life through the slightly cryptic lyrics.  Joan of Arc begins with the lines, “Little Catholic girl is falling in love, A face on a page, gift from above”, telling of Joan of Arc falling in love with the Catholic Church and it’s teachings, with the “face on a page” possibly being an apparition of God and the “gift from above” being God instructing Joan of Arc to lead France to victory against England.  Maid of Orleans (Joan of Arc), written on the 30th May 1981, the 550th anniversary of Joan of Arc’s death, is a slightly more straightforward sixteen line love poem to Joan of Arc, including the lines, “If Joan of Arc, Had a heart, She would give it as a gift, To such as me”.  The song also describes the heroine’s death in its closing lines, “She offered up, Her body, To the grave”.

Song of the Day: Crime in Music (Day Seven). “Hey Little Girl, Do You need A Ride?”

Diane is a song recorded by St. Paul, Minnesota band Husker Du for their 1983 Metal Circus EP.  Written by drummer Grant Hart, the song concerns the abduction, rape and murder of West St. Paul waitress Diane Edwards, whom Hart vaguely knew, by Joseph Donald Ture in 1980.  Ture (pronounced Toor-ee) was convicted of the kidnap, rape and murder in 1981 and sentenced to life imprisonment.  Whilst serving his sentence, Ture was also found guilty of the 1979 murder of eighteen year old Marlys Wohlenhaus in rural Alton, Minnesota and sentenced to a second life, consecutive life term.  Ture was later also found guilty of the murder of thirty-six year old Alice Hurling and three of her four children at their home in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 1978.  At the time of these convictions, Ture was also serving consecutive sentences of three Minnesota rapes.  Ture has always protested his innocence in relation to the homicide charges.

Diane is a graphically dark song telling how the abduction, rape and murder of Diane Edwards took place, told from the perspective of the murderer.  “Hey little girl, do you need a ride?  Well, I’ve room in my wagon, why don’t you hop inside, We could cruise down Robert Street all night long, But I think I’ll just rape you, and kill you instead” sings sings Hart in the opening verse of Diane, detailing what happened to Edwards and giving the listener a glimpse into the thoughts, desires and psyche of the killer.

In the second verse, the killer is seen attempting to convince his prey that his intentions are honourable by attempting to get her to go to a party with him:  “I heard there’s a party down at Lake Cove, It would be so much easier if I drove, We could check it out, we could go and see, Oh won’t you come and take a ride with me”.

As the song continues, verse three offers more insight into the killer’s depraved and twisted mind and we see the scene of the murder, with the lines, “We could lay down in the weeds for a little while, I’ll put your clothes in a nice, neat little pile, You’re the cutest girl I’ve ever seen in my life, It’s all over now, and with my knife”.

As with many of Husker Du’s songs, the lyrical content is brief, with Diane having three verses.  However, this briefness is the key to Diane’s effectiveness because it doesn’t say any more than it needs to.  What it does say though makes for some very dark and disturbing listening.  The wonderful verses are complimented by one of the most deceptively simple choruses in music history.  The chorus is simply Diane sung three times but with the backing vocals putting an inflection on the pronunciation of the name to emphasise the first syllable, making it:  “Die Anne”.

Whilst Husker Du’s original version of Diane is stirring and frightening enough, Northern Irish band Therapy? covered the song in 1995 for their album Infernal Love and released it as the third single from the record.  This version, as opposed to the fuzzy guitar that adorns the Husker Du original features just a haunting cello and singer Andy Cairns’ mighty voice on the main vocal and backing vocal.  The ingenuity of the backing vocal is made even more apparent on the Therapy? version, perhaps because of the starkness of the song’s cello only backing track.  When released as a single, Diane was coupled with a video every bit as graphic and powerful as the song itself, directed by W.I.Z, which breathed even more new life into the wonderful song.

Speaking of the song in an interview with Thumped in 2012, Grant Hart, when asked “How much of yourself do you put into what you do?  What I mean is, are you inseparable from the music you make or the art that you create?  Or is it a different you that we hear on record or see on stage?”, replied:

“Perhaps the best answer I can give to that question is … if an artist is honest and is not trying to come off as something they are not, then they are putting as much of their self into the songs they write as they can.  I stopped playing Diane because I could no longer stand putting on the mask of a monster.  A book came out about one of Diane Edwards’ murderer’s other victims [Justice for Marlys by John Munday (2004)] and it made me physically sick.  There was not as much info about the Edwards murder as the other girls.  The cruelty that this psychopath confessed to made me bloody-minded myself”.

Disco Machine Gun: Ten Songs About Guns. Thousands See Pope John Paul II Shot in Rome. This Day in History, 13/05/1981.

1.  Lo-Fidelity Allstars ‘Disco Machine Gun’

(from the album How to Operate with A Blown Mind, 1998).

2.  The Clash ‘Tommy Gun’

(from the album Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978).

3.  Portishead ‘Machine Gun’

(from the album Third, 2008).

4.  Kings of Leon ‘Pistol of Fire’

(from the album Aha Shake Heartbreak, 2004).

5.  John Cale ‘Gun’

(from the album Fear, 1974).

6.  Pete Wingfield ’18 With A Bullet’

(single A-side, 1975).

7.  Throwing Muses ‘Bright Yellow Gun’

(from the album University, 1995).

8.  Depeche Mode ‘Barrel Of A Gun’

(from the album Ultra, 1997).

9.  Pixies ‘There Goes My Gun’

(from the album Doolittle, 1989).

10. The Beatles ‘Happiness is A Warm Gun’

(from the album The Beatles, 1968).

Belfast Child: Ten Songs About The Troubles. Nearly Blind and Close to Death, Bobby Sands Refuses to Meet with Human Rights Activists. He is on Hunger Strike Until the British Government Recognise Him As A Political Prisoner, Not As A Criminal. This Day in History, 25/04/1981.

1.  Simple Minds ‘Belfast Child’

(from the album Street Fighting Years, 1989).

2.  U2 ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’

(from the album War, 1983).

3.  Fun Boy Three ‘The More I See (The Less I Believe)’

(from the album Waiting, 1983).

4.  The Undertones ‘It’s Going To Happen!’

(from the album Positive Touch, 1981).

5.  The Pogues ‘Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six’

(from the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, 1988).

6.  Stiff Little Fingers ‘Alternative Ulster’

(from the album Inflammable Material, 1979).

7.  Paul McCartney & Wings ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’

(single, 1972).

8.  Francie Brolly ‘The H-Block Song’

(written and recorded in 1981).

9.  John Lennon ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’

(from the album Sometime in New York City, 1972).

10. The Divine Comedy ‘Sunrise’

(from the album Fin de Siecle, 1998).