Song of the Day: Travel in Music (Day Five). “Could Taste Your Sweet Kisses, Your Arms Open Wide, This Fever for You Is Just Burning Me Up Inside”.

I Drove All Night is a song written by songwriting duo Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg.  The duo have also exhibited their vast tune crafting skills on some of pop’s best known hits, including Madonna’s Like A Virgin, released on her 1984 album Like A Virgin; …

… True Colours, which was first recorded by Cyndi Lauper on her 1986 album, True Colours …

and later by Phil Collins on his 1998 compilation album, Hits …; …

… Alone by Heart, from their 1987 album Bad Animals; …

… So Emotional, recorded by Whitney Houston on her 1987 album Whitney; …

… Eternal Flame, recorded by The Bangles for their 1988 album Everything; …

… I Touch Myself, recorded by The Divinyls for their 1991 album, Divinyls …

… and Night in My Veins …

… and I’ll Stand By You, recorded by The Pretenders and both featured on their 1994 album, Last of the Independents.

Like many of their songs, I Drove All Night started with merely a title thought up by lyricist, Steinberg.  Steinberg lived in Coachella Valley in California at the time and spent a lot of time driving backwards and forwards between Los Angeles and the desert.  It was on one of these many drives that he came up with the title for the song.

The song tells of a driver and his desperation to reach their loved one, whilst utilising a key theme in Steinberg’s lyrics, sex and sexual desire.  There is a certain filmic quality to the lyrics, complimented by the driving rhythm, particularly on the Orbison version.  The narrator of the song tells of how, “I had to escape, the city was sticky and cruel, Maybe I should have called you first, But I was dying to get to you”.  The narrator continues to tell of his desperation as they escape the oppressiveness of the city in the following lines, “I was dreaming when I drove the long straight road ahead, Uh-huh, yeah, Could taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide, This fever for you is just burning me up inside”.  In the song, the heat of the city which the singer escapes and the “fever” caused by their desire is likened to the heat associated with sexual interaction.  Further into the song, the narrator tells of how “I think about you when the night is cold and dark, uh-huh, yeah” before stating, “No one can move me the way that you do, Nothing erases this feeling between me and you” re-enforcing the feeling of emptiness when not with the object of their desire.

The desire felt by the narrator reaches its climax in the monolithic chorus of “I drove all night, To get to you, Is that alright?  I drove all night, Crept in your room, Woke you from your sleep, To make love to you, Is that alright?  I drove all night”.

I Drove All Night was first recorded by Roy Orbison in 1987 but was left unreleased until 1992, four years after the singer’s death, when it was finally released as a single and featured on the posthumous King of Hearts album.

In an interview with Songfacts in 2009, Steinberg spoke of Orbison influencing on his and Kelly’s songwriting:

“Tom and I were both huge Roy Orbison fans.  Tom grew up in Indiana and I grew up in Palm Springs, California and we really are as different as night and day as people, but the one thing that we have always shared in common is that we always liked the same music when we were kids.  We both loved the Everly Brothers, Laura Nyro and Roy Orbison.  We had, like most songwriters do, certain artists who inspired us and would inspire our songwriting, and one of those was Roy Orbison.  When we wrote the song I Drove All Night, we didn’t entertain any fantasy about Roy ever recording this song.  We just set out to write a song sort of in the style of Roy Orbison.  In fact, what I would refer to as the B section of that song, the British would call it a pre-chorus, when it goes, “Taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide”, that part that lifts into the chorus, it has a definite similarity to the Roy Orbison song Running Scared [single A-side, 1961 / Crying, 1962].

We had great fun writing that song because it felt like it authentically captured the spirit of the drama that Roy Orbison would inject into the great songs that he wrote, songs like Running Scared, Crying [Crying, 1962] …

… or In Dreams [In Dreams, 1963]”.

Despite the fact that I Drove All Night has all the hallmarks of a great Orbison single, the song was actually first offered to another artist, Peter Kingsbery, a Texas-based singer from a band called Cock Robin.  Steinberg said of this:

“We heard Cock Robin play live and this guy Peter Kingsbury had this great voice very much like Roy Orbison – it’s a powerful voice.  We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if he would sing I Drove All Night, so we invited him over to Tom’s house where we had a studio.  Peter was a good guy, a little bit arrogant.  He heard the song and he liked it, but he said, ‘Well. I’m a songwriter myself.  Why would I record one of your songs?’  It was a nice meeting but he didn’t have any interest in recording our song”.

On the 9th February 1987, Steinberg and Kelly saw Orbison perform at a supper club in Lakewood, California called The Hop:

“When we walked in, the place was jammed and most of the people there were middle-aged women.  At that time, Roy hadn’t had a record on the charts in many years. He did not have a recording contract.  Roy hadn’t been heard in a long time.  The band went up on stage, Roy was not in sight and there were a couple of background singers.  The band starts playing and the girls start singing the intro to Only the Lonely [single A-side, 1960 / Lonely and Blue, 1961] …

… I sort of braced myself.  I said to myself, ‘His vocals on his records are so otherworldly and so unbelievable that there’s no way the guy’s going to walk in this club and sing those songs he did on those records’.  Roy Orbison walks out and he sang Only the Lonely and he sang all his hits and if it’s possible, he sang them better than he did on his records.  It was just unbelievable.  It was one of the great moments in my life, just to be there in this small club and hear Roy sing one hit after another.  When the show was over, Tom and I wandered outside and there was his trailer.  Of course, we were hoping to meet Roy.  We didn’t, but we met somebody who I guess was Roy’s manager at the time.  We mentioned we had written a few hits an were Roy Orbison fans.  Not much came out of that, then for some reason I went into a recording studio called Record One in Sherman Oaks and Roy Orbison was in there recording.  I went up to him and said, ‘A few months ago, Tom and I heard you play at this club and you were so good’.  We kind of connected and somehow we arranged that he would come by Tom’s house and do some work with us and that maybe we would write together.  We had already written I Drove All Night’.  We had a demo of it with Tom singing it.  Tom and I walked out and were standing out in the street.  We looked down the street and we saw in the distance a red Ferrari convertible coming up the street and we both knew that it had to be Roy Orbison. He was driving slowly like someone would who was looking for a street number.  As the car pulled up, we saw a guy with big black sunglasses, black hair, and there on the residential street in Woodland Hills was Roy Orbison getting out of his red Ferrari to work with Tom and me.  Working with Chrissie Hynde, The Bangles or The Divinyls is one thing because those are people of my generation, but Roy had been a childhood idol.  Roy was somebody whose songs just changed my life when I was a kid, so to have him standing there as a peer, someone I was going to work with, my knees wanted to buckle.  We walked into Tom’s house and there was the idea we could write something together and he just didn’t seem to really want to start writing a song, so rather than write something we said, ‘Well, we’ve got a song that we think you could sing really well’, and we played him I Drove All Night.  He said he liked it.  Tom played either piano or guitar and taught him the song.  Roy stepped up to the microphone.  We all had headphones on and Roy sang two takes of the song.  Tom and I had written into that song a section that goes, “Uh-huh, yeah”, and when Tom sang it on our demo, we would laugh because Tom was blatantly trying to sound like Roy and then when Roy did it, it was a moment that was just unbelievable because Roy did it like it was supposed to be done.  Roy did two takes of the song and I gave him some song lyrics.  He took them with him with the idea that he might write something to them or that we could work on something in the future.  So we had this demo of Roy Orbison singing I Drove All Night, but Roy didn’t have a recording contract at the time and Tom and I didn’t have the wherewithal to do anything with Roy Orbison’s version of the song.  We couldn’t sign him to a recording contract or promote him with anything at that point in time.  We didn’t know what to do with it.  By that time, True Colours had been a big hit for Cyndi Lauper and she had expressed an interest in meeting us and writing with us, so Tom and I flew to New York and we took with us the demo of I Drove All Night sung by Tom because we figured that she could sing it well.  We wrote a couple of songs with Cyndi and we presented this song, I Drove All Night, to her and she liked it and immediately went about recording it.  Tom and I even participated in demonstrating that song to a couple of musicians she worked with.  She recorded it and it came out on her record called A Night to Remember (1989)”.

Additionally, Lauper stated that she recorded the song because she “liked the idea of a woman driving, being in control” whilst in an interview with The Guardian in 2012, she said of the song:

“You don’t put accounts in charge of music.  When that happens, you just have shit-ass music that sells but doesn’t have soul.  Music is not a fucking graph.  It’s a phenomenon.  I didn’t just want to have a hit bubblegum song – I wanted to lift people up with music that had a message.  Even when I sang I Drove All Night, I did that because there weren’t enough songs about women drivers”.

When released as a single, Lauper’s version of the song reached number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100, the singer’s last US top 40 single to date.  It also reached number 7 on the UK singles chart, was certified gold by RIAA and received a nomination for Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.  The music video for Lauper’s version was directed by Scott Lalvert and Lauper herself and features shots of an antique car, some characteristically manic dancing from Lauper and a movie projected onto Lauper’s naked body.

Following Orbison’s session with Steinberg and Kelly, he had secured a recording contract with Virgin Records and set about recording what would become Mystery Girl with Jeff Lynne as producer.  The album was released in February 1989, two months after Orbison’s death.  The album featured the hit single You Got It, also released in 1989.

In 1988, Orbison also joined the Traveling Wilburys with Lynne, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, recording the album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988).  Steinberg said of this period:

“From afar we sort of watched Roy’s career come back.  We were pleased for him but we didn’t participate because of all the great admirers of Roy had started to come out of the woodwork.  People like Jeff Lynne, Bruce Springsteen and Bono.  He didn’t exactly need Steinberg / Kelly when he had people of that calibre wanting to work with him.  Roy died and a number of years went by.  Tom and I took our demo of I Drove All Night to Jordan Harris, who was an A&R guy at Virgin.  We got to know Jordan because we worked with The Divinyls, who were signed to Virgin.  We said to Jordan, ‘Did you know Roy did a version of I Drove All Night early on?’  And he said, ‘No, I had no idea’.  We played it for him and he said, ‘We want to make a record of the remaining masters that we have on Roy. We’d love to use that’.  Our demo had been a very rough 16 track affair.  We gave it to Jeff Lynne and Jeff rebuilt the track around the vocal we had cut.  That was very satisfying for us”.

When it was released as a single, the Orbison version of the song reached number 7 on the singles chart, the same position that Lauper’s version had reached three years earlier.  The music video for Orbison’s version features Jason Priestly and Jennifer Connelly.

Song of the Day: Travel in Music (Day Four). “Well It’s Alright, We’re Going to the End of the Line”.

The Traveling Wilburys were an English-American supergroup made up of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.  The band recorded two albums, Traveling Wilburys (Vol. 1) (1988) and the mischievously and misleadingly titled Traveling Wilburys (Vol. 3) (1990).  Orbison died in December 1988, two months after the release of the first album.

Harrison had first mentioned the Traveling Wilburys during a radio interview with Bob Coburn on the Rockline Radio station in February 1988.  In answer to Coburn asking Harrison what he planned to do as a follow up to his 1987 album, Cloud Nine, Harrison replied:  “What I’d really like to do next is … to do an album with me and some of my mates ,,, a few tunes, you know.  Maybe The Traveling Wilburys … it’s this new group I got:  it’s called the Traveling Wilburys, I’d like to do an album with them and later we can do our own albums again”.

The band’s name derived from a slang term first used by Harrison during the recording of Cloud Nine with Lynne as producer.  ‘Wilbury’ referred to any small mistake in the performance, with Harrison saying to Lynne, “We’ll bury ‘em in the mix”.  Harrison originally suggested the name Trembling Wilburys for the band but Lynne suggested Traveling Wilburys, to which all members agreed.

The band name uses the American-English spelling, ‘Traveling’ in order to compliment the American / English membership of the band.  The ‘Wilbury’ joke was extended to the pseudonyms used by the band.  Taking on the guise of the Wilbury brothers, Harrison became Nelson Wilbury; Lynne became Otis Wilbury; Orbison became Lefty Wilbury and Petty became Charlie T. Jr. Wilbury.  Harrison had already used a number of pseudonyms in the past.  Take for example on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).

Additionally, as a session musician, he had gone under names such as L’Angelo Misterioso, George O’Hara and Hari Georgeson.  The five men stated that they were half-brothers and sons of the fictional Charles Truscott Wilbury Sr.  The real names of the band members never appear anywhere on any Traveling Wilburys release.

The band began with a meal between Harrison, Lynne and Orbison.  Shortly afterwards, they convened at Dylan’s home in Malibu, California to record a B-side for Harrison’s single, This Is Love (Cloud Nine, 1987).  Petty’s involvement came by chance due to Harrison leaving his guitar at Petty’s house.  When Harrison went to collect it, he took Petty back with him.  The resulting song was Handle with Care.  Those involved in the recording and Harrison’s record label felt that the song was too good to be thrown away on a single flipside and the five friends set out to record an entire album.  Recording took place in the home and garden of Eurythmics member, Dave Stewart.  Handle with Care is the opening cut on the resulting album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.

The theme of travelling in the music of the Traveling Wilburys is most prevalent on the band’s second single and closing track of Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, End of the Line.  The single was released in January 1989.  The riding-on-the-rails rhythm of the song compliments the travel by train themed lyrics and the on-the-move nature of the band.  The whole band take on main vocal duties on the song, with the exception of Dylan.  Harrison, Lynne and Orbison take turns in singing the chorus whilst Petty sings the verses.  By the end of the song, the riding-on-the-rails rhythm has expanded into a freight train style rhythm.  Due to the video for the single being shot after the death of Orbison, the band opted to pay tribute to him with a single shot of a guitar sitting in a rocking chair next to a photo of their late friend.  The video shows the band members in a carriage of a steam train playing the song.

The song’s title refers to the train’s last stop whilst the lyrics contain the folk style wisdom derived from the band members’ past experiences.  As the song starts, Harrison takes the lead vocal with backing vocals from the other Wilburys.  The opening chorus sets the scene for the song, portraying the band members as free spirits:  “Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze, Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please, Well it’s all right, doing the best you can, Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand”.

In the first verse, with lead vocals by Petty, the band tell of how they are unconstrained by every day things:  “You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring, Waiting for someone to tell you everything, Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring, Maybe a diamond ring”.

Following this, the second chorus, with lead vocals by Lynne finds the band telling the listener not to take any notice of what anybody else says:  “Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong, Well it’s all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay, Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgement Day”.

Verse two, with lead vocals from Petty, finds the narrator thinking of somebody he has left behind:  “Maybe somewhere down the road aways, You’ll think of me, wonder where I am these days, Maybe somewhere down the road where somebody plays, Purple Haze”.  “Purple Haze” refers to the Jimi Hendrix song, Purple Haze.  Purple Haze was released as the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s second single in 1967 and was the opening song on the North American edition of his debut album, Are You Experienced?, also released in 1967.  Here, Petty is expecting his muse to associate the song with him whilst she is thinking of him.

The third chorus, with lead vocals by Orbison, continues the joyous celebration of being unfettered by worrying about the troubles of life:  “Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove, Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love, Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine, Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine, Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line”.  This verse is poignant due to “the end of the line” being an analogy for death as well as the end of the railway line.

The third verse, with lead vocals by Petty, tells of how the narrator cares little about material possessions and states that he doesn’t even mind if anybody is “by his side”, perhaps meaning a loved one or those who criticise him in general:  “Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive, I’m glad to be here, happy to be alive, It don’t matter if you’re by my side, I’m satisfied”.

The fourth chorus, sung by Harrison, begins with the lines, “Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and grey, Well it’s all right, you still got something to say”.  When the band formed, Harrison was 45 years old Dylan and Orbison were even older.  Whilst traditional societies have often emphasised the wisdom of older people, modern rock music usually considers even the relative middle age of 45 as being too old to be relevant.  This verse is notable for being adapted as the theme tune for the BBC series New Tricks (2003 – present) and sung by cast member Dennis Waterman.

As the fourth chorus continues, we find the line “Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live”.  “Live and let live” was the name given to the strategy used by soldiers of both sides in World War One to avoid killing each other if it could be helped, often via the negotiation of truces between low-ranking soldiers.  The war was essentially a pointless one, with the common man not having much to gain or a cause to fight for.  As a result, these truces were quite common.  The most famous truce occurred on Christmas Day, 1914 when the opposing sides took part in a football match.  Unfortunately, such truces were easily broken with high ranking officers organising raids to encourage the violence to start again or disciplining soldiers for cowardice if they objected to killing.  The punishment for cowardice was death.  In the context of this song, however, “live and let live” means something akin to “let sleeping dogs lie”; i.e. live your life without harming others if necessary.  The final line of the fourth chorus, “Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive” suggests that we should forgive those who have wronged you in order to be free of bitterness and therefore, happy.

The song comes full circle with the final chorus, with lead vocals by Harrison, which starts with the same two lines found in the first chorus.  The verse continues with the line, “Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine”.  The sun and clouds were reoccurring metaphors in Harrison’s songs, representing peacefulness and clarity.  For the best examples of this, see All Things Must Pass (All Things Must Pass, 1970); …

… Blow Away (George Harrison, 1979) …

… and Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles, 1968).

The song and the journey are neatly brought to a close with the line, “Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line”.

In 2000, End of the Line was used at the close of the last episode of BBC television comedy One Foot in the Grave, Things Aren’t That Simple Anymore.  The song was played over a montage of clips from the lifetime of the show, following the death of its main character, Victor Meldrew.  Interestingly, Eric Idle, who provided provided the liner notes for Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 under the pseudonym Prof. Tiny’ Hampton, wrote and sang the theme tune for One Foot in the Grave.

Song of the Day: Biography in Music (Day Three). “This is the Story of the Hurricane, The Man the Authorities Came to Blame”.

Hurricane is a protest song written by Bob Dylan for his 1976 album, Desire.  The song, co-written with Jacques Levy, is based on the imprisonment of American / Canadian boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.  It compiles the alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter, which led to his trial and wrongful imprisonment.  He was later freed via a petition of habeas corpus after spending almost twenty years in prison.

Carter (6th May, 1937 – 20th April 2014) was arrested in 1966, along with his friend John Artis, for a triple homicide committed in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey.  Police stopped Carter’s car and brought him and Artis, also in the car, to the scene of the crime.  When the police carried out their search of the car, they found ammunition which fitted the weapons used in the murder.  Police took no fingerprints at the crime scene and at that point in time, did not have the facilities to conduct a paraffin test for gunshot residue.  Carter and Artis were convicted twice for the murders, in 1967 and 1976, but after the second conviction was overturned in 1985, prosecutors chose not to try the case for the third time.

In 1975, Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, was published by Warner Books.  In the book, Carter maintained his innocence.  The Sixteenth Round moved Dylan to such an extent that he visited Carter in Rahway State Prison in Woodbridge County, New Jersey and began to write what would become Hurricane.  At first, Dylan was unsure whether he could do justice to Carter and his predicament in song form but using the storytelling method previously used on other topical ballads such as The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (The Times They Are a-Changing, 1964) …

… he eventually found that the words flowed reasonably quickly, such was his contempt for those who had wrongfully imprisoned the former middleweight boxer.  Hurricane was one of Dylan’s few protest songs of the 1970’s and became his fourth most successful single of the decade, reaching number 33 on the US Billboard Chart.

Hurricane was first recorded in July 1975 with Scarlet Rivera on violin and Vinnie Bell on Danelectro Bellzouki 12-string guitar.  In October 1975, Dylan was forced to re-record the song with its lyrics altered, after concerns were raised by Columbia’s lawyers who feared a lawsuit regarding references to Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley, petty criminals who were in the area to burgle a factory, robbing the bodies.  Bello and Bradley had never been accused of such acts.  Due to the amount of leakage on the multi-tracks, making it difficult to achieve a vocal ‘punch in’, Dylan decided to record the entire song.  The resulting final version of Hurricane is faster than the original cut and in addition to Rivera on violin, uses other musicians from Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue as the back-up band.  The final version was put together from two separate takes, both recorded on the 24th October, 1975, and clocks in at over eight minutes in length.

Despite the fact that some offending lyrics had been rewritten, the song still managed to attract legal action, from eyewitness Patricia Graham Valentine.  However, her case was dismissed by a federal district.  The dismissal was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  Other lyrics to receive criticism included the line “Number one contender for the middleweight crown” because according to the May 1966 issue of The Ring, Carter was ranked ninth at the time of his arrest and had never been placed higher than third.  Additionally, at the time of the song’s release, reporters for the Herald News, a New Jersey newspaper published not far from the scene of the crime, questioned Dylan’s objectivity and accused him of excessive poetic license.  Others noted that there was no reference to Carter’s criminal history or violent temper.  Another song from Desire, Joey, about the life and death of mobster Joey Gallo, received similar criticism.

Hurricane brought Carter’s case to the attention of the wider public and is credited with harnessing popular support to Carter’s defence.  Following the release of Desire, Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue played a benefit concert for Carter in New York’s Madison Square Garden.  The concert raised $100,000.  Dylan and his band also played another benefit at the Houston Aerodrome a year later, alongside Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr and Dr John, whom Dylan had personally managed to get to play the concert after meeting with managers Richard Flanzer and Roy Silver.  Despite its all-star line-up, after expenses were paid, the Houston failed to raise any money.

Despite winning the right to a new trial, Carter and Artis were once again found guilty and on the 9th February 1976, Carter was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.  Dylan and Carter’s other high-profile supporters did not attend the trial.  In 1985, Federal Judge H. Sarokin of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that Carter had not received a fair trial and set aside the conviction, commenting that the prosecution had been “based on racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure”.  Ironically, Sarokin had declined to listen to Dylan’s song when it was offered to him by his family.  In 1988, following the prosecution stating that they would not seek a third trial and filed a motion to dismiss, a Superior Court Judge dropped all charges against Carter.

Lyrically, Hurricane is a straight, or as straight as can be from a writer who wasn’t present at the scene of the crime, retelling of the events that led to Carter’s arrest and his incarceration.  The song sets the scene with its opening line, “Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night”, placing the listener at the crime scene.  The star witness, Patty Valentine, who was awoken by the sound of the gunshots, is mentioned in the second line, “Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall”.  Following this, we find Valentine’s view as she entered the bar:  “She sees the bartender in a pool of blood, Cries out, “My God, they killed them all”.  “All” refers to bartender, James Oliver and two customers, who were killed instantly.

The following section of the song and probably its most famous, “Here comes the story of the Hurricane, The man the authorities came to blame, For something that he never done, Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a-been, The champion of the world” finds Dylan lamenting on how Carter lost twenty years of his life along with his career and his chances of reaching the top of his profession in the process.

Following this, we once again find Patty Valentine’s view, “Three bodies lyin’ there does Patty see”.  The prosecution believed that the murders at the Lafayette Bar and Grill, particularly that of white bartender James Oliver, were motivated by the murder of black bartender, Leroy Holloway, who happened to be the stepfather of one of Carter’s friends.  The next lines, “And another man named Bello, movin’ around mysteriously, “I didn’t do it”, he says and throws up his hands, “I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you undertand, I saw them leavin’”, he says and stops”, refer to Bello’s testimony at the 1966 and 1976 trials, in which he stated that he saw Carter and Artis outside the Lafayette Bar and Grill with a shotgun and a pistol immediately after the triple murder.  He apparently came face to face with them on the sidewalk and saw their getaway car.

“”One of us had better call up the cops”, And so Patty calls the cops, And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin’, In the hot New Jersey night”.  Due to the murder taking place on the 17th June, the temperatures would most probably have been at an extreme high, common at that time of year.  It has been said that heat can cause people to be enough on edge to commit murder.  This idea was also famously used by Spike Lee in his 1989 film, Do the Right Thing.  In both Hurricane and Do the Right Thing, heat is portrayed as a major physical and psychological factor for rage and violence.

The next lines, “Meanwhile, far away in another part of town, Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around, Number one contender for the middleweight crown, Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down”, find Carter and his friends driving through town, completely unaware of what was about to happen.  Carter, at this stage in his life, was in the middle of his career.  He had a record of two wins, twelve losses and one draw.  As several publications have noted since the song’s release, Dylan neglects to mention that Carter was far from a law abiding citizen, having done several stints in jail for mugging and assault.  However, on this occasion, Carter was wrongfully convicted by the US’s corrupt justice system.  In the following lines, “When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road, Just like the time before and the time before that”, Dylan suggests that the police continuously pulled Carter over as they were racist.  The idea of the police being racist is carried over to the next lines, “In Paterson that’s just the way things go, If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street”, which suggests that racism against black men like Carter was institutionalised and was readily practised by the local police.  In the following line, “’Less you wanna draw the heat”, “heat” is this time used to refer to the police.

The following lines feature further testimony from Bello and Bradley:  “Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops, Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around, He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights, They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates”.  Note the vague way in which the men say, “they looked like middleweights” expressed in Dylan’s lyrics.  Additionally, Bradley refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and neither prosecution nor defense called him as a witness.

The line “And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head” refers to the way that Valentine simply agreed with what other witnesses had seen without actually knowing anything.  Valentine provided a description of the car to the police, which changed at the second court case.  Valentine claimed that the lights “lit up like butterflies”.  However, on Carter’s car, this was not the case, as only the end two lights lit up.

“Cop said, “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead”, So they took him to the infirmary, And though this man could hardly see, They told him, that he could identify the guilty man, Four in the mornin’ and they haul Rubin in, Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs, The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye, Says, “Wha’d you bring him in here for?  He ain’t the guy!” refers to Willie Marrins who was not killed instantly and the police attempt to have Carter identified as the murderer.  Marrins told the police that Carter was not the murderer but his testimony was ignored.

Further into the song, we find the line “He ain’t no Gentleman Jim”, a reference to James J. Corbett, who is considered to be the father of modern boxing.  Carter is said not to be a “gentleman” because, unlike Corbett, Carter is black.  Other lines of interest in Hurricane include “And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger, No one doubted that he pulled the trigger”.  Here, Dylan, a white man, single-handedly invented a rhyme (“trigger” and “nigger”) which today is one of the most popular rhymes in hip-hop.  For example, see Nas’s N.Y. State of Mind, from the album Illmatic (1994).

One wonders whether Hurricane’s closing lines, “Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been, The champion of the world” may have influenced Carter receiving an honorary World Champion title in 1993, five years after his release from prison.  Additionally, following his release and before his death in 2014, Carter headed the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted for twelve years and founded Innocence International in 2004.

Song of the Day: Music About Other Artists (Day Four). The Go-Betweens on Patti Smith on Kurt Cobain and Others. “When She Sang About A Boy, Kurt Cobain, I Thought What A Shame It Wasn’t About Tom Verlaine”.

Patti Smith, along with her husband Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, began work on her sixth studio album, Gone Again (1996) in 1994.  Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, previously of the seminal garage band MC5, was a highly influential force on what would become Patti Smith’s first album since Dream of Life in 1988, teaching her to play acoustic guitar so she could write songs by herself and providing her with titles and concepts to develop.

The first of these songs was Summer Cannibals, the eventual single from the album, which discussed the darker side of being a rock musician.  The couple drew from Fred’s Indian ancestry in order to compose a song told from the point of view of a tribe’s shaman.  The song tells of an old woman coming down from the hills in order to tell her people of their history, informing them of, in times of strife, the cycle of life and the changing seasons. And thus began the potent theme of death on Gone Again, a theme inspired by the deaths of several people close to Smith.

Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe had died March 9th 1989, aged 42, from an AIDs-related illness …

… and Patti Smith Group pianist Richard Sohl had died on June 3rd 1990, aged 37, from heart failure.

During the writing of Gone Again, Patti Smith was devastated yet further when on November 4th 1994, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith died suddenly from heart failure, aged just 45.   The loss of her husband informs a vast majority of Gone Again but specifically the final song, Farewell Reel.  Played on the acoustic guitar which her husband taught her how to play, Farewell Reel opens with the spoken message, “This little song’s for Fred; it’s G, C, D and D minor”.

Shortly after the death of her husband, her brother, Todd, also died, aged 45.  Gone Again is also notable for featuring the last studio performance by Jeff Buckley, who added his voice to Beneath The Southern Cross.

Smith was also moved by the death of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, with whom she had sympathised.  Cobain committed suicide, aged 27, on 5th April 1994.  Smith didn’t know Cobain personally but told Seattle Weekly News in 2010:

“My reaction to Kurt Cobain was much more emotional.  I was heartbroken when he committed suicide.  I loved Nirvana.  And I knew that Kurt Cobain was very fond of my husband and the MC5.  We felt so badly.  We just wished that we would have known him, and been able to talk to him, and had some sort of positive effect on him.  Seeing Robert [Mapplethorpe] doing everything to live, and then seeing this very gifted boy kill himself was painful to factor”.

Smith’s reaction to Cobain’s death can be heard on the song About A Boy, a suitably etheral and sometimes funereal lament, the title of which is a play on Nirvana’s About A Girl, from their 1989 album Bleach.

Lyrically, About A Boy, much like many other songs on Gone Again, is spiritual and almost hymnal with lines such as “Toward another, He has gone, To breathe an air, Beyond his own, Toward a wisdom, Beyond the shelf, Toward a dream, That dreams itself”.

The verse “From the forest, from the foam, from the field, That he had, Known, Toward a river, Twice as blessed, Toward the inn of happiness” tells of Cobain’s ascendance to heaven but also refers to his hometown of Aberdeen in the US State of Washington.  The forest mentioned in the verse is most likely to be Olympic National Forest in the State of Washington, whilst the river mentioned is the Wishkah River, a tributary of the Chehalis River which flows south through Washington and empties into the Chehalis at Aberdeen.  Linking in with the Indian theme on Gone Again, the name “Wishkah” is an adaptation of the Chehalis Indian word ‘hwish-kahl’, meaning “stinking water”.  More importantly, however, the Wishkah River has a great deal of significance in the legend of Kurt Cobain, as he lived under a bridge on the river during a period of homelessness after dropping out of high school and being thrown out of his mother’s home.  The song Something In The Way from Nevermind details this time in Cobain’s life.  After his death, one third of his ashes were scattered in the river.  Additionally, the river gave its name to the Nirvana live album, From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, released in 1996 and featuring live performance recorded between 1989 and 1994.

A band who had been listening to Smith’s tender tribute to Cobain was Australian band, The Go-Betweens.  For their 2000 album, The Friends of Rachel Worth, Robert Forster wrote When She Sang About Angels, in part an answer song to About A Boy.

When She Sang About Angels includes the slightly sarcastic sounding riposte to Smith choosing to pay tribute to Cobain, “When she sang About A Boy, Kurt Cobain, I thought what a shame, it wasn’t about, Tom Verlaine”.  Tom Verlaine is best known as the front man of seminal New York rock band Television, most notable for their critically acclaimed and highly influential debut album Marquee Moon (1977).  Verlaine was a stalwart of famous New York punk clubs such as CBGB and Max’s Kansas City and dated Patti Smith whilst they were both up and coming artists.  Verlaine has collaborated with Smith many times over the years, most notably adding guitar to Smith’s albums Horses (1975); Easter (1978); Gone Again (1996) and later, Gung Ho (2000) and Twelve (2007).

The song’s title and lyrics “When she sang about angels, She looked at the sky …” refers to both Smith’s songs about people who have died on Gone Again and to Smith’s song Ask The Angels, the opening track on, and third single taken from, her 1976 album Radio Ethiopia.

Additionally, When She Sang About Angels includes lines such as “When she sang about the fields, She raised up her arm, As if she was pushing back the cotton on some Midwestern farm”, a reference to Smith’s powerful stage mannerisms and the imagery of fields which inhabits some of her songs.  Take for example, in About A Boy where she sings, “From the field that he had known”; Ask the Angels, in which she sings “Across the country through the fields” and Birdland (Horses, 1975) in which she sings, “Him and his daddy used to sit inside, And circle the blue fields and grease the night”.

Despite the hint of sarcasm which pervades Forster’s critique of Smith, there is also a lot of tenderness expressed towards Smith in When She Sang About Angels.  Take for example the refrain, “Anybody else, anybody else, but I let it go by”, absolving Smith of her various lyrical and performance tendencies and the reminiscence of the lines “Then she threw some names, Like she always did, She threw some names, she dropped some names, Like she used to when I was a kid”.  Smith is known for writing songs about other people and in particular other artists.  Take for example, her song Frederick (Wave, 1979), written about Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith before their marriage in 1980.

Smith would pay further tribute to Kurt Cobain on her 2007 album of cover versions, Twelve, when she covered Nirvana’s 1991 mega-hit Smells Like Teen Spirit, from the album Nevermind.

Smith’s version of Smells Like Teen Spirit strips away the thundering bombast of the original, the sound which inspired a thousand other bands and almost single-handedly invented ‘Grunge’, and delivers it with a sparse country-tinged arrangement featuring a bass guitar, acoustic guitar, violin, banjo and her voice, which much like Kurt Cobain’s, has influenced whole generations.

Song of the Day: War in Music (Day One). “Hold My Breath As I Wish For Death, Oh God, Please, Wake Me”.

One, from Metallica’s fourth album … And Justice for All (1988) is an anti-war song, written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, depicting the plight of a World War I soldier as he tries to come to terms with the horrific injuries he has suffered on the battlefield.  The soldier has lost all of his limbs, cannot hear, speak or see.  The inspiration for the song and its music video comes from the 1971 movie Johnny Got His Gun, which was in turn adapted from the 1939 novel of the same name by Dalton Trumbo.  The specific message of the film and novel that inspired One is:  “How could a man lose as much of himself as I have and still live?  When a man buys a lottery ticket, you never expect him to win because it’s a million to one shot.  But if he does win, you’ll believe it because one in a million still leaves one.  If I’d read about a guy like me in the paper, I wouldn’t believe it, cos it’s a million to one.  But a million to ONE always leaves one.  I’d never expect it to happen to me because the odds of it happening are a million to one.  But a million to one always leaves one.  One”.  A startling choice for the third and final single from the album, it marked the band’s breakthrough into the US Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 35, and reached number 13 in the UK singles chart in 1989.  The song went on to earn Metallica the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1990.

The first 17 seconds of the song feature a series of sound effects, an artillery barrage and a helicopter, placing the listener right in the middle of the battlefield on which the soldier in the song suffered his horrific injuries.  Following the song’s cinematic introduction, the lyrics tell of the full horror of the soldier’s situation, with him pleading to be put out of his misery.   The first verse introduces us to the soldier, lying in his hospital bed, who “Can’t tell if this is true or dream”.  “Now that the war is through with me, I’m waking up, I cannot see, That there is not much left of me, Nothing is real but pain now” continues singer James Hetfield, showing us the full horror of the soldier, though blind, realising that his injuries are probably as bad as they could possibly be.  The first chorus of “Hold my breath as I wait for death, Oh please, God, please wake me” finds the soldier feeling that he would be better off dead than in his predicament.  The lyrics of the chorus were directly inspired by a scene in Johnny Got His Gun where the soldier attempts to take his own life by refusing to breathe.

As the song continues, the lyrics grow increasingly darker, with the soldier contemplating what existence he will have following his life-altering injuries.  “Back to the womb that’s much too real”, sings Hetfield at the beginning of the second verse.  This disturbing image depicts the soldier’s current state of being like a foetus in the womb.  As the verse continues, we are presented with images of the soldier being kept alive by hospital machinery in the line, “In pumps life that I must feel”.  The only sensation that he now knows is pain and his life support machine only causes him to feel more of it.  The lines “Can’t look forward to reveal, Look to the time when I’ll live” state how bleak the soldier’s future will be.  It seems that he will never ‘live’ again in terms of interacting with the world around him.  More disturbing images follow with the lyrics “Fed through the tube that sticks in me, Just like a wartime novelty” telling of how disgusted the soldier is with the feeding tube that keeps him alive and forces him to live with more pain.  He regards the tube as a vile souvenir from his time in the Army.  The final lines of the second verse, “Tied to machines that make me be, Cut this life off from me” refer to the fact that now the soldier can only exist by power of the machinery that surrounds him, he wants to be rid of it.

In verse three, the heavier section of the song, we find the soldier terrified upon realising that he has lost most of his senses, including his sight:  “Darkness imprisoning me, All that I see, Absolute horror”.   “I cannot live, I cannot die, Trapped in myself, body my holding cell”, the song continues.  The soldier can never truly live again but is prevented from dying.  His useless body is now merely a prison for his consciousness.

In the final verse of the song, “Landmine has taken my sight, Taken my speech, Taken my hearing, Taken my arms, Taken my legs, Taken my soul, Left me with life in hell”, we are given a final summary of the catastrophic damage inflicted on the soldier.  The trauma of unrelenting pain has deprived him of any joy or positive feelings, “taking his soul”, leaving him to spend the rest of his days in endless misery and torment.

When coupled with the video for the song, the message of One is made even more powerful.  One was the first Metallica song to have a music video.  Directed by Bill Pope and Michael Salomon, the video is almost all in black and white and features dialogue and several scenes from the movie of Johnny Got His Gun.  The video stars Timothy Bottoms as Joe Bonham, the main character in the novel.  The quote at the start of the video, “For democracy, any man would give his begotten son” poses the question of what the price of war can do for the cause of preserving the freedoms held in America.  Much of the … And Justice for All album is highly critical of these freedoms, see also Eye of the Beholder.

When Metallica appeared on The Howard Stern Show in September 2013, James Hetfield said that rather than being just an anti-war song, One is an observation:  “War is a part of man”, he said, “We’re just writing about it.  It’s not good or bad, it’s just a thing”.  Hetfield went on to explain that the character in the song reminded him of himself due to the singer’s troubled childhood.  He said that he often felt like a “prisoner in [his] own body”, with no means of escape.  Hetfield’s father walked out on the family when he was 13 and his mother died a few years later.

One quickly became a favourite amongst fans and has been a staple of Metallica’s concerts since it was written.  The song showed its versatility when it became possibly the greatest of the many highlights of the S&M project with The San Francisco Orchestra, conducted by Michael Kamen in 1999.

Song of the Day: Crime in Music (Day Two). “Let Him Have It, Chris”.

In 1953, Derek William Bentley was hanged for the murder of the police officer Sidney Miles, committed during the course of an attempted burglary.  The murder of the police officer was actually committed by 16 year old Christopher Craig.  However, Craig was too young to hang.  Bentley was convicted as a party to the murder, by English law principle of common criminal purpose “joint enterprise”.  The judge in court, Lord Chief Justice Goddard, sentenced Bentley to death based on an interpretation of the phrase “Let him have it”, Bentley’s alleged instruction to Craig.  Goddard described Bentley as “mentally aiding the murder of Police Constable Sidney Miles”.

The crime took place on the 2nd November 1952.  Bentley and Craig attempted to burgle the warehouse of the Barlow and Parker confectionary company at 27-29 Tamworth Road, Croydon.  Craig armed himself with a Colt New Service .455 Webley calibre revolver.  Craig had shortened the barrel of the gun so that it could be easily concealed in his pocket and also carried a number of undersized rounds for the revolver, some of which he had modified by hand to fit the gun.  Bentley carried a sheath knife and a spiked knuckle duster, both of which Craig had given to Bentley.

At around 9.15pm, a nine year old girl in a house opposite the warehouse spotted Craig and Bentley climbing over the gate and up and a drainpipe to the roof of the warehouse.  She alerted her mother, who called the police.

When the police arrived, Craig and Bentley hid behind the lift-housing.  Craig taunted the police.  Detective Sergeant Frederick Fairfax climbed the drainpipe onto the roof and grabbed hold of Bentley but Bentley broke free of Fairfax’s grasp.  What happened next s something that has been debated ever since.  Police witnesses claimed that the police officer asked Craig to “Hand over the gun, lad” before Bentley shouted the ambiguous phrase, “Let him have it, Chris” to Craig.  Craig fired his revolver at Fairfax, hitting him in the shoulder.  Despite his injury, Fairfax was able to restrain Bentley.  Bentley told Fairfax that Craig was armed with a revolver and had further ammunition for the gun.  Bentley had not used either of the weapons that he had in his pockets.

A group of uniformed police officers then arrived and were sent onto the roof.  The first to reach the roof was Police Constable Sidney Miles.  Miles was immediately killed by a shot to the head.  After his ammunition had run out and he was cornered, Craig jumped around 30 feet from the roof onto a greenhouse, fracturing his spine and left wrist.

Bentley and Craig were both charged with murder and tried at the Old Bailey in London between the 9th and 11th December 1952.  At the time of the crime, murder was still a capital offence in England and Wales.  However, those under 18 year old could not sentenced to death, meaning that of the two defendants, only Bentley could have been hanged if convicted.  The doctrine of felony murder or “constructive malice” meant that a charge of manslaughter was not an option, as the “malicious intent” of the armed robbery was transferred to the shooting.  Bentley’s best defence was that he was effectively under arrest when Miles was murdered.  There were three main points of contention during the trial:

Firstly, the defence claimed there was ambiguity in the evidence with regards to how many shots were fired and by whom.  Forensics later cast doubt on whether Craig could have hit Miles if he had shot at him deliberately.  The fatal bullet was not found.  Craig had used bullets of different under-sized calibres and the sawn-off barrel made it inaccurate to a degree of six feet at the range from which he fired.

The second contentious point was the exact meaning of Bentley’s alleged command to Craig, “Let him have it, Chris”.  Both Craig and Bentley denied that Bentley had said the words but the police officers testified that he had said them.  Furthermore, Bentley’s counsel argued that even if he had said the words, Bentley could have meant “give him the gun, Chris” as opposed to “shoot him, Chris”.

Thirdly, there was a disagreement as to whether Bentley was fit to stand trial in light of his mental capacity.  Bentley had undergone diagnostic tests during his time at Kingswood Approved School, where he served a three year sentence for theft.  In December 1948, at the age of 15 years and 6 months, Bentley’s mental age was estimated at 10 years and 4 months.  He had a reading age of 4 years and 6 months.  He scored just 66 on an IQ test in December 1948 and 77 in 1952.  Following his arrest for the murder of Sidney Miles, he was described as “borderline feeble-minded”, with a verbal age of 71, performance IQ of 87 and full scale IQ of 77.  Bentley was also examined twice by EEG.  A reading taken on the 16th November 1949 indicated that he suffered from epilepsy and a reading on the 9th February 1950 was “abnormal”.  In February 1952, Bentley had undergone a medical examination for National Service in which he was judged “mentally substandard” and unfit for military service.

Principle Medical Officer, Dr Matheson, referred Bentley to Dr Hill, a psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital.  Hill’s report stated that Bentley was illiterate and of low intelligence, almost borderline retarded.  Bentley was also known to suffer from epilepsy.  Matheson, whilst agreeing that Bentley was of very low intelligence, was of the opinion that he was not suffering from epilepsy at the time of the alleged offence.  He also stated that Bentley was not a “feeble-minded person” under the Mental Deficiency Acts.  Matheson considered Bentley to be sane and fit to stand trial.  At this point in time, English law did not recognise the concept of diminished responsibility due to retarded development, with this only being introduced by the Homicide Act in 1957.  The only medical defence to murder at that point in time was criminal insanity, where the accused is unable to distinguish right from wrong.  Whilst he did suffer from severe debilitation, Bentley was not insane.

The jury took 75 minutes to decide that both Craig and Bentley were guilty of Miles’ murder, with a plea for mercy for Bentley.  Bentley was sentenced to death on the 11th December 1952 whilst Craig was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.  Craig was released from prison in May 1963 after serving ten years in prison and later became a plumbing engineer.  Bentley was originally scheduled to be hanged on the 30th December 1952 but this was postponed to allow for his appeal.  Bentley’s lawyers filed appeals highlighting the ambiguities of the ballistic evidence, Bentley’s mental age and the fact that he did not fire the fatal shot.  The appeal was unsuccessful on the 13th January 1953 and Bentley was hanged on the 28th of the same month.

For his 1989 album, Spike, Elvis Costello composed the song Let Him Dangle based on the events of the murder, the trial and subsequent questioning as to what happened on the night of Sidney Miles’ murder, particularly what the phrase “Let him have it, Chris” actually meant: “Bentley said to Craig, “Let him have it, Chris”, They still don’t know today what he meant by this”.  Let Him Dangle also questions whether Bentley should have been hanged when it was Craig who killed the police officer:  “Craig fired the pistol but was too young to swing, So the police took Bentley and the very next thing, Let him dangle”.  Later in the song, Costello tells of the shock at Bentley’s conviction and the failed plea for mercy:  “Not many people thought that Bentley would hang, But the word never came, the phone never rang, Outside Wandsworth Prison there was horror and hate, As the hangman shook Bentley’s hand to calculate his weight”.

Speaking of his comprehensive retelling of the events in the Bentley case in a 1989 interview with On the Street, Costello said:

“It’s one of those cases that’s always brought up when they have a big debate about capital punishment.  And as you can hear in the song, I didn’t want to make any ironical point, it’s fairly much a statement of what I understand the facts of the case to be, and what I feel about it, and the way the debate is used as a distraction from the horror of an execution.  The song is kind of written like a Woody Guthrie song.  It tells a story and then says, ‘And the moral is …’”

After years of battling from Bentley’s sister, Iris, Bentley was eventually granted a partial posthumous pardon in 1993, followed by a complete pardon in 1998.  Additionally, there have been many questions as to whether Bentley even said the infamous phrase “Let him have it, Chris”.  In September 1991, Christopher Craig broke a forty year silence and was interviewed by Thames Reports.  Craig even took a lie detector test to say that it was police lies which hanged Bentley and that Bentley had never said “Let him have it, Chris”:

“He didn’t say a word.  It only needed one sentence from me and that is to agree with the prosecution that Bentley did say that remark.  I haven’t said it, I never will say it, even [with] all the pressure, because it never was said and my principles, whatever happens to me, I will go to the grave with the truth”.

Song of the Day: Hollywood in Music (Day Six). “It’s Your Favourite Foreign Movie”.

Hikers and Park Rangers in Griffith Park, the home of the famous Hollywood sign, have noticed some strange happenings over the years.  There have been many reported sightings of an attractive blonde, blue-eyed woman dressed in 1930’s garb.  The woman looks forlorn and lost.  Many have tried to approach her but when they do, she vanishes.  In the park, a pungent smell of gardenia perfume litters the air.  Could this be the ghost of Peg Entwistle?  ‘Who?’ I hear you ask.  Peg Entwistle isn’t known for her movies.  In fact, she only made one movie in her lifetime, Thirteen Women, which was released after her death.  Peg Entwistle is most known for finding the most novel way to use the Hollywood sign:  Her suicide.

Peg Entwistle was born Millicent Lilian Entwistle on the 5th February 1908 in Port Talbot, Glamorgan, Wales.  The exact details of the doomed actress’s early life are shady.  When she was young, her  family moved to West Kensington, London.  Her mother is said to have died when she was very young.  There are reports that she and her father were in Cincinnati, Ohio and New York City as early as 1913.  Her father Robert S. Entwistle was a theatre actor and is listed in the cast of several plays by The New York Times in 1913.  Entwistle’s father died in 1922, the victim of a hit and run accident on Park Avenue and 72nd Street in New York City.  Thereafter, Peg and her two younger half-brothers were taken in by their uncle who had moved with them to New York and was the manager of Broadway actor Walter Hampden.

By 1925, Entwistle had moved to Boston as a student of Henry Jewett’s Repertory (these days known as Huntington Theatre).  She was a member of the Henry Jewett Players, a group of theatre actors who were gaining national attention.  Walter Hampden gave Entwistle an uncredited walk on part in his Broadway production of Hamlet, with Ethel Barrymore as its main star.  In the play, she carried the King’s train and brought in the poison cup.  Other plays followed, with parts including that of Hedvig in Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck in the same year.  In the audience was a young Bette Davis who excitedly told her mother, “… I want to be exactly like Peg Entwistle”.

Peg Entwistle’s star seemed to be in the ascendant as she continued to receive praise for her theatre work.  This led to her being recruited by the New York Theatre Guild in 1926 and receiving her first credited role in The Man from Toronto, playing the role of Martha.  Entwistle appeared in 9 more Broadway productions between 1926 and 1932.

In 1927, Entwistle married actor Robert Keith but was granted a divorce in 1929.  It was an unhappy marriage with Entwistle accusing Keith of cruelty.  She also claimed that Keith neglected to tell her that he had been married previously and was father to a six year old boy, Brian Keith, who would later become an actor.  During this time, Entwistle continued to give acclaimed performances in a number of plays.  In 1927, a production of The Uninvited Guest closed after just seven performances, with New York Times critic J. Brooks Atkinson writing, “ … Peg Entwistle gave a performance considerably better than the play warranted”.

By May 1932, America was in the grips of the Great Depression.  Entwistle was in Los Angeles, having got a small part in the Romney Brent play The Mad Hopes alongside Billie Burke and Humphrey Bogart.  The play ran from the 23rd May to the 4th June at the Belasco Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.  Once again, Entwistle garnered much praise for her performance.  Her part in The Mad Hopes led to Entwistle’s first and only movie role, playing the small but credited part of Hazel Cousins in Thirteen Women for Radio Pictures (later RKO).  The film would be released a month after Entwistle’s death to neither critical or commercial success.

On the morning of 18th September 1932, an anonymous woman made a shocking discovery.  The anonymous woman called the Los Angeles police to report that whilst she was hiking, she had found a woman’s shoe, purse and jacket below the famous Hollywood sign.  The woman told the police that she had looked in the purse and found a suicide note.  She had then looked down the mountain and saw a body.  According to the police transcript of the call, the woman said she “wrapped a jacket, shoes and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the Hollywood police station”.  The anonymous woman never identified herself.

Later that day, a detective and two radio car officers found the body of a well dressed, blonde haired, blue eyed woman in a ravine below the sign.  Entwistle’s body was not identified until her uncle, with whom she had been living in Beachwood Canyon, connected her two day absence with the description and the initials “P.E.” on the suicide note which was found in the purse and published by the newspapers.  Her uncle said that on Friday, September 16th, Entwistle had told him that she was going for a walk to the drugstore and to see some friends.  Instead, it appears that she made her way to the southern slope of Mount Lee to the foot of the Hollywood sign, climbed a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and jumped.  She was just 24 years old.  Her suicide note read:

“I am afraid, I am a coward.  I am sorry for everything.  If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.  P.E.”

When people talk of Hollywood history, Peg Entwistle is for the most part forgotten about.  You won’t see her name in many cinema history books because she only ever made one film during her short lifetime.  Instead, if anything, Peg Entwistle has come to symbolise the dark side of Hollywood:  The aspiring movie actress who’s hopes and dreams were smashed by the Hollywood system.  So next time you visit Hollywood, look out for the ghost of poor Peg and breathe in the pungent smell of the gardenia perfume, reportedly the actress’s favourite perfume.

Somebody who the ghost of Peg Entwistle has obviously had an effect on is Donald Fagen, who along with co-songwriter Walter Becker, wrote the song Peg for his band Steely Dan’s 1977 album Aja.  Released as a successful single from the album, Peg tells the tale of Peg Entwistle’s attempted big break through the eyes of the film’s director, George Archainbaud.

“I’ve seen your picture, Your name in lights above it, This is your big debut, It’s like a dream come true, And when you smile for the camera, I know they’ll love it” sings Fagen in the guise of Archainbaud telling Entwistle that this is her big break.  Despite the uplifting and vibrant nature of the song, there is underlying darkness when one thinks of the subject matter.

There is even a slight sleaziness about the way in which the director tells Entwistle, “I got your pin shot [meaning pin-up photograph], I kept it with your letter [the one the actress perhaps sent in the hope of breaking into the movies], Done up in blueprint blue, It sure looks good on you, So won’t you smile for the camera, I know I’ll love you better”.  Add to this, the fact that the name Steely Dan derives from the name of a strap-on dildo in William Burroughs’s novel Naked Lunch (1959) and reading into the lyrical content of the song becomes quite a disconcerting affair.

The line “Your favourite foreign movie” could be alluding to pornography, suggesting a sexual advance from the director.  This could in fact be a song about the casting couch as opposed to the filming of the movie.  The line “You’ve seen it all before” is suggestive of a struggling actress who is weary of attempting to break into the movies and knows all the tricks of the industry.  The song could therefore could be representing the dark side of Hollywood, the one that exists but it is rarely presented to those living outside it’s glittery bubble.  In Peg, Steely Dan could be suggesting that it was the reason for Peg Entwistle’s suicide.

The final verse could refer to disturbing memories of an act on the casting prompting Entwistle’s suicide:  “Peg, It will come back to you … Then the shutter falls, You see it all in 3-D, It’s your favourite foreign movie”.  These lines are poignant as Peg Entwistle would never actually get to see her only film appearance, instead the shutter fell on her short life as Peg fell from Hollywood’s “H” on that fateful day in 1932.

As a footnote, Peg Entwistle’s ghost lives on in music as Peg by Steely Dan was sampled for De La Soul’s song Eye Know from their classic 1989 debut album 3 Feet High and Rising.

Song of the Day: Visual Arts in Music (Day Seven). “Slicing Up Eyeballs”.

“Got me a movie, I want you know, Slicing up eyeballs, I want you to know”.  The movie that Black Francis wants you to know about on Debaser, the opening track of the 1989 album, Doolittle, is Un Chien Andalou, a 15 minute long silent movie by Surrealist painter Salvador Dali and Surrealist filmmaker Louis Brunel made in 1929.  Un Chien Andalou was the pair’s first film and became very popular after its first showing in Paris, running for 8 months.  The film’s premiere was attended by Pablo Picasso, Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau, Christian Berard and George Auric, as well a vast majority of Andre Breton’s Surrealist group.

The film has no discernible plot, with a disjointed chronology jumping from “Once upon a time” to “8 months later” with tenuously related scenes in a dream-like narrative structure.  The most famous line in the Pixies’ Debaser, “Slicing up eyeballs” is a reference to the film’s equally famous opening scene in which a woman’s eyeball is cut by a straight razor.

In Debaser, Black Francis changes the name of the original movie, Un Chien Andalou, to “Un Chien Andalusia” because he thought that ‘Andalou’ ”sounded too French”.  Un Chien Andalou means “An Andalusian Dog” in French.  As expected of both Salvador Dali and Louis Brunel, Un Chien Andalou was a highly experimental film, quite unlike anything the cinema audience of that time had seen before.  The film was seen to debase morality and the art community of the time, hence the title of the Pixies’ song, Debaser.  According to Black Francis, the earliest version of Debaser featured the line “Shed, Apollonia!” instead of “Un Chien Andalusia”, in reference to a scene in the Prince film Purple Rain (1984).  Talking about Debaser with a Spanish magazine following the release of Doolittle, the songwriter said:

“I wish Brunel was still alive.  He made this film about nothing in particular.  The title itself is nonsense.  With my stupid, pseudo-scholar, naive, enthusiastic, avant-garde-ish, amateurish way to watch Un Chien Andalou (twice), I thought, ‘Yeah, I will make a song about it’.  (He sings:) “Un chien andalou” … It sounds too French, so I will sing “un chien Andalusia”, it sounds good, no?”

The lines “I wanna grow up to be a debaser” are telling of Francis’ desire to subvert the world of rock music in the same way that Dali and Brunel subverted the visual art world.  This was feat that the Pixies continually managed, particularly on their earlier albums such as the Come On Pilgrim mini album (1987), Surfer Rosa (1988) and the aforementioned Doolittle, with their oddly twisted tales of sex, incest, reincarnation, mutilation, death and disease as well as bizarre spins on Biblical stories and plots from films, all carried out with a distinctly Surrealist feel.  The Doolittle album is very much influenced by Surrealism, something that heavily influenced Black Francis during his college years.  In a 1989 interview with the New York Times, he said of Surrealism:

“I got into avant-garde movies and Surrealism as an escape from reality … To me, Surrealism is totally artificial.  I recently read an interview with the director David Lynch who said he had ideas and images but he didn’t know exactly what they meant.  That’s how I write”.

Heart As Big As Liverpool: Ten Songs About Liverpool and Hillsborough. 96 Die At Hillsborough Stadium, This Day in History, 15/04/1989

1.  The Mighty Wah! ‘Heart As Big As Liverpool’

(from the album Songs of Strength and Heartbreak, 2000).

2.  The Bangles ‘Going Down To Liverpool’

(from the album All Over The Place, 1984).

3.  Gerry and The Pacemakers ‘Ferry Across The Mersey’

(from the album Ferry Across The Mersey, 1964).

4.  The Pogues ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’

(from the album Red Roses For Me, 1984).

5.  The Stone Roses ‘Mersey Paradise’

(B-side of She Bangs The Drums, 1989).

6.  The Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’

(from the single Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever, 1967).

7.  Shack ‘Streets of Kenny’

(from the album HMS Fable, 1999).

8.  Amsterdam ‘Does This Train Stop On Merseyside’

(from the album The Journey, 2005).

9.  Cilla Black ‘Liverpool Lullaby’

(B-side of the single Conversations, 1969)

10. Manic Street Preachers ‘SYMM’

(from the album This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours, 1998).

Song of the Day: The Bible in Music (Day Three).

“Well, I read The Bible, me … I read The Koran as well.  I’m a believer.  They’re powerful.  I’ve been to the Coliseum and I went to the place where the Roman emperors sat and you get a feeling off all that.  And I went to the Sistine Chapel and I got a feeling off that.  And the steps that the Catholics stole.  The Holy Steps.  They took them during The Crusades.  I’m interested in all that and when you write lyrics, it’s going to permeate through” – Ian Brown, speaking to Q Magazine, 1995).

Befitting for a band that inspired a whole new generation and led to the second coming of British rock music, The Stone Roses’ debut album The Stone Roses (1989) could be said to be based around the life of Jesus Christ.  Notably, the album begins with I Wanna Be Adored, which could be seen to reflect the birth of Jesus and the closing track, I Am The Resurrection could be seen to be about Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Elsewhere on the debut album, as well as its heavy references to the Paris Student Riots of 1968 with its references to the way in which the students carried lemons to counteract the effects of the tear gas used by the police (“Choke me, smoke the air, in the citrus-sucking sunshine, I don’t care”), Bye Bye Badman could be seen to be likening the Parisian students to Jesus, who, like the students, denounced the authorities of the time.  Like I Am The Resurrection, Bye Bye Badman depicts Christ’s crucifixion and because Jesus dying for the sins of mankind is central to the Christian faith, the song is positioned in the centre of the album.

This is the One is about a girl who is consumed by fire and her struggle to escape.  The title of This is the One refers to John The Baptist’s proclamation that Jesus is the promised Messiah:  Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me” (John 1: 29 – 30).  The idea of the girl being on fire could be derived from The King of Tyre being consumed by fire in Ezekiel 28: 17 and 18:  “You profaned your sanctuaries.  Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; It has consumed you, And I have turned you to ashes on the earth In the eyes of all who see you”.  It could also be said that Waterfall has religious leanings with the lyrics “Chimes sing Sunday morn” and that She Bangs The Drums, with the lyrics “Passion fruit and holy bread” could be about The Last Supper”.

If we are to look at the lyrics of The Stone Roses in a Biblical sense then the line “Pack on my back is aching, The strap seams cut me like a knife” in the non-album single Fools Gold (1989) could refer to Matthew 5:41: “And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles”.  It is also possible that “the pack” in question may be the cross that Jesus carried, thus making the song partly about Jesus travelling to his crucifixion.  In hindsight, the lyrics of Fools Gold were the first sign that all might not be well in the Stone Roses camp.  Fools Gold is about greed and inspired in part by the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  In Q Magazine in 2009, Ian Brown said:

“In the film the friends go up a mountain looking for gold. But as they go on, they start turning on one another. That’s how it felt once the Roses started getting successful. Suddenly everyone was after their piece of gold.”

What the World Is Waiting For, which was twinned with Fools Gold as a double A-side single, finds Jesus on the cross shortly before his death, reflecting on his life.  What the World Is Waiting For juxtaposes images from Jesus’s birth, life and his current predicament with lines such as “Here comes the wise man and there goes the fool”, referring to the wise men travelling to see his birth, the way in which Jesus was seen by his followers during his lifetime and how he is seen as a ‘fool’ by many following his arrest and as he is dying on the cross.  The lines “Here comes the donkey, Chained to a ten ton plough, He’ll never make that hill in a million years, Whip crack beating down” refer partly to Mary’s arrival in Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus riding a donkey and if we were to take the word ‘donkey’ in the slang sense of the word, meaning ‘a stupid person’, this also fits in with the term ‘fool’ in the previous verse, referring to many peoples’ view of Jesus at his death.  The image of the donkey chained to a “ten ton plough” could also refer to the cross which he forced to carry and the line “He’ll never make that hill in a million years” could refer to people jeering Jesus as he carried the cross up Calvary Hill.  The image of the donkey and plough in this verse may also refer to Luke 9:62 in which Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”.  This verse, therefore, is a depiction of Jesus upon the cross, reflecting on his life and absolving himself of sin in order to reach the kingdom of his father.  The lines “He loves his brother but he’d sell him for a fist full of gold” refers to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, taking money to frame him.  Judas had been one of the 12 disciples, one of Jesus’s ‘brothers’.  This line also fits nicely with the theme of greed  expressed in Fools Gold and if we were to see What the World Is Waiting For / Fools Gold as a complete package, perhaps the band are likening their own experiences with the effects of greed to Jesus’s experiences.  The title of What the World Is Waiting For itself refers to how the world is waiting for Jesus to die on the cross in order that mankind can be saved.  The coda of “Stop the world, I’m getting off” could be seen as Jesus’s last moments upon the cross.  If we were to look at the work of The Stone Roses at this point in time as being based around the life of Jesus, then What the World Is Waiting For is Jesus’s swansong, The Stone Roses’ equivalent of My Way.

Also from this era, Something’s Burning, the B-side of the One Love single (1990) features the line “I am the vine and you are the branches” is a direct lift from John 15: 5.  Something’s Burning is a song about loyalty and morality, possibly in a relationship.  By saying that he is “the vine”, Ian Brown places himself in the position of the Messiah figure.  Similarly, the companion song to Something’s Burning, One Love saw The Stone Roses singing “You feel my flow and you flood my brain”, also referring to John’s Gospel.  In John 7: 37-38, Jesus proclaims, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture said, streams of living water will flow within him”.  This was a band who knew they were a force to be reckoned with, a band who had you in the palm of their hand:  The Stone Roses were messianic and you were the disciples.  They were “your vision, your wild apparition”, this was a band who could get inside of you and “sink to the depths of your soul”.  They were saying, they were your “one love” and you “don’t need another one”.  One Love was the band drawing together their disciples in collective worship:  “One love, one heart and one soul, We can have it all, Easy peasy”.

But, just as stated in One Love, “What goes up, must come down, Turns into dust or turns into stone”.  It is telling that on the band’s second album, released some five years after their highly influential debut, aptly entitled Second Coming, the first song, Breaking Into Heaven, is a song about your one and only chance of making it into heaven being during your time on Earth and the controlling forces that might try to barricade your passage.  These barricades are thought to refer to the series of legal disputes with record companies and management which had stopped the band from putting out any new material for five years.  Following Breaking Into Heaven, Driving South tells of an encounter with the devil at a crossroads:  “I stopped for an old man hitcher at a lonely crossroads, He said, “I’m going nowhere, I’m only here to see if I can steal your soul””.  The devil is likely to be a metaphor for either their record company, who had put an injunction on the band to stop them recording and releasing any new material or, perhaps, and more likely, their former manager Gareth Evans, whom the band had sacked, feeling that he was dishonest and untrustworthy.  For example, at one point, the band were awarded a Christmas cash bonus of £10,000 each by their record company, which Evans kept for himself to pay the legal costs for their court cases.  Additionally, after finding out about the cash bonus and sacking Evans, he sued them for a large percentage of their earnings and won.

Most surprising though, in terms of analysing the theme of faith in the Stone Roses’ catalogue, is the first single from Second Coming, Love Spreads.  Imagery of the crucifixion abounds, with lines such as “Love spreads her arms, Waits there for the nails” and “Too much to take, Some cross to bear”.  However, Love Spreads is curious in the way in which it attacks the traditional image of Christ by portraying the crucifixion of Christ with a black woman on the cross:  “Let me put you in the picture, Let me show you what I mean, The messiah is my sister, Ain’t no king, man, she’s my queen”.

In an interview with Melody Maker, May 13, 1995, John Squire said of the song, “The idea of the song is, ‘Why couldn’t Jesus have been a black woman?’ It’s just an attack on the white guy with a beard sitting on a cross, because that reinforces the patriarchal society”.  Adding to the conversation, then drummer Robbie Maddix added, “Do you know what The Bible calls the church?  ‘She’.  It’s like what The Bible calls the Earth, ‘Mother Earth’.

After taking the position of the Christ figure on their debut album, Love Spreads offsets the idea of the band being Christ-like by placing the song’s subject matter, a black woman, as the Messiah instead.  As well as sparking a little controversy by presenting Christ as both black and female, this is telling of how after influencing a whole new generation of rock bands, directly leading to what would become known as Britpop, the band were now somewhat adrift in the music scene, having spent five years away.  Most notably, The Stone Roses were particularly in adoration of Oasis, whom, in their absence, had stolen their crown.  Oasis’s Rock and Roll Star, from their all conquering debut alum Definitely Maybe (1994), echoed the sentiments of Stone Roses’ songs such as One Love, with lines such as “Look at you now, You’re all in my hands tonight” and Liam, Noel and company were soon to become the new messiahs of British rock.  Whereas once, The Stone Roses lay stringent and rightful claim to their position as Messianic figures in music, this was now a band at odds with what they had created, a band who had been all but crucified by the record industry but were now content to take their position as the founding fathers of the church of Britpop.