Monday, 25 February 2013
Girl's Names In AAA Song Titles, From 'Angie' to 'Yoko'! (Top Twenty For News, Views and Music Issue 183)
You may be anonymous when you pass through my site but I know you’re not faceless – and you’re certainly not nameless. Unless you’re the Band With No Name who played at Woodstock anyway. This week we’re looking at nothing else but names – girl’s names to be exact because, well, that’s what an overwhelming majority of AAA songs using names are about. This week we’re looking at 20 of the names that have been mentioned the most in song titles by AAA artists (not lyrics or I’ll be here another month researching...) and their definitions. Now, most people who give names to their children have no idea what those definitions are – and I’m willing to bet a lot of these writers didn’t either so it will be fun seeing how close they got with their characters (note: Lennon seems to know his stuff though – ‘Prudence’ meaning caution and ‘Julia’ meaning ‘youthful’ are spot on for his two songs on the same subject).
But then, who decided these characteristics in the mists of time? Why do we place so much weight on labels at all? And isn’t it deeply unfair that you go through life having never had a chance to choose your own name? (we at the AAA reckon a ‘naming’ session should take place at a ceremony at the age of five). Anyway, we’ve limited this list to include names used in the context of being a ‘name’ (so no inclusion for ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ or ‘Penny Lane’) and album titles have been left out because we could only think of one girl’s name (The Kinks’ ‘Lola versus Powerman’, with a nomination for album predecessor ‘Arthur’). Interestingly some groups (like The Beatles, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Monkees and Simon and Garfunkel especially) often used girl’s names as titles of songs in their career, while other examples are comparatively few. Note, too, the amount of times John Lennon crops up on this list (both his Beatle songs and his solo ones): so much for his disdain for partner McCartney’s ability to ‘write about other people’ rather than himself! Who knows though, we might have included your name, dear reader – do drop us a line if we have (and you want to hear the relevant song). Chances are with something of this scope and size we’ve missed out one or two AAA songs too so drop us a line about them if you think of any. Oh and to finish, for those who say the definition of names are a load of hogwash, the name ‘Alan’ is meant to mean ‘harmony’, a lovely musical term very apt for this site, so there you go; then again ‘David’ as in ‘David Cameron’ means beloved so they can’t always be right!
First, however, is this long long list of names that only appear once in the AAA canon, together with the albums they appear on and the ‘meanings’ of each name; ‘Amber Jean’ (Neil Young ‘A Treasure’ 2010): ‘a jewel/God’s gift of grace’; ‘Bernadette’ (The Kinks ‘State Of Confusion’ 1983: ‘brave as a bear’); ‘The Ballad Of Ole Betsy’ (The Beach Boys, ‘Shut Down Volume 2’ 1964: consecrated to God); ‘Candy’ (‘Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde’ 1968: pure); ‘Carol’ (A Chuck Berry song covered by both The Beatles and The Stones 1964: ‘champion’; ‘Cecilia’ (Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ 1969: ‘blind’; ‘China’ (Grace Slick’s song for her baby of the same name from ‘Sunfighter’ 1971: named after the crockery/country); ‘Claudine’ (The Rolling Stones – deluxe edition of ‘Exile On Main Street’ 2010): ‘lame’; ‘Deidre’ (The Beach Boys ‘Sunflower’ 1970): ‘sorrow’; ‘Donna’ (‘10cc’ 1972): ‘lady’; ‘Dear Eloise’ (The Hollies ‘Butterfly’ 1967): unknown; ‘Grace’ (‘Crosby*Nash’ 2005): ‘graceful’; ‘Guinnevere’ (‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’ 1969): Medieval Queen; ‘Heather’ (Paul McCartney 2001 ‘Driving Rain’): ‘flower of the moors’; ‘Helen Wheels’ (a 1974 single by Paul McCartney and Wings): ‘light’; ‘Poison Ivy’ (‘Poison Ivy’ on ‘The Hollies’ compilation 1985): ‘the vine’; ‘Julia’ (‘The Beatles’ aka ‘The White Album’ 1968): ‘youthful’; ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (‘Romeo and Juliet’ Dire Straits ‘Making Movies’ 1981): ‘youthful’; ‘Precious Kate’ (The Byrds ‘Father Along’ 1972): ‘pure maiden’; ‘Kathleen’s Song’ (‘Byrdmaniax’ 1971): ‘pure maiden’; ‘Kathy’s Song’ (Simon and Garfunkel ‘Sounds Of Silence’ 1966): ‘pure maiden’; ‘Kitty’ (Cat Stevens ‘New Masters’ 1968): ‘pure maiden’; ‘Darling Lorraine’ (Paul Simon ‘You’re The One’ 2001): ‘the Queen’; ‘Pictures Of Lily’ (a single by The Who 1966): ‘lily’; ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzie’ (a Larry Williams song covered by ‘The Beatles’ on ‘Help!’ 1965): ‘consecrated by God’; ‘Lola’ (a single by The Kinks 1970): ‘lady of sorrow’; ‘Louise’ (The Hollies, ‘Russian Roulette’ 1977): ‘battlemaid’; ‘Lyla’ (a single by Oasis 2005): goodness only knows!; ‘Magnolia Simms’ (The Monkees ‘The Birds The Bees and The Monkees’ 1968): named after the colour; ‘I’m Mandy, Fly Me’ (10cc ‘How Dare You!’ 1976): ‘worthy of love’; ‘Marcella’ (The Beach Boys ‘So Tough’ 1972): ‘belonging to Mars’!; ‘Dear Margaret’ (The Kinks ‘UK Jive’ 1988): ‘pearl’; ‘Matilda Mother’ (Pink Floyd ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ 1967): ‘strength in battle’; ‘Michelle’ (The Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ 1965): ‘like unto the lord’; ‘Crazy Miranda’ (Jefferson Airplane ‘Bark!’ 1971): ‘greatly admired’; ‘Naomi’ (a B-side by The Hollies 1993): ‘pleasure’; ‘Natalie’ (David Crosby ‘A Thousand Roads’ 1993): ‘born at Christmas’; ‘Polythene Pam’ (The Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ 1969): ‘honey-like sweetness’; ‘Dear Prudence’ (‘The Beatles’ aka ‘The White Album’ 1968): ‘caution’ (making this the single most spot-on song of the whole list!); ‘Help Me Rhonda’ (a single by The Beach Boys 1965): ‘grand’; ‘Lovely Rita’ (The Beatles ‘Sgt Peppers’ 1967): ‘pearl’; ‘Sexy Sadie’ (‘The Beatles’ aka ‘The White Album’ 1968): ‘princess’; ‘Sally G’( a single by Paul McCartney and Wings 1973): ‘princess’; ‘Thelma’ (Paul Simon, bonus track on ‘The Rhythm Of The Saints’ 1991): unknown, ‘Valerie’ (a track from ‘The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees’ 1968): ‘strong’; ‘Vera’ (Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’ 1979): ‘truth’; ‘Victoria’ (The Kinks ‘Arthur’ 1969): ‘victorious’; ‘Wendy’ (The Beach Boys ‘All Summer Long’ 1964): ‘white’ and ‘Yvonne’s The One’ (10cc/Paul McCartney ‘Mirror Mirror’ 1995): ‘yew wood’. Right, I’m off for a long lie down now – in the meantime have a read of this lot!
(a track from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s album ‘Sometime In New York City’ 1972 and a track from The Rolling Stones’ album ‘Goat Head Soup’ 1973)
We start off with two songs that couldn’t be more different, despite coming from every so nearly the same period. Lennon’s song ‘Angela’ is a bitter protest song against the imprisonment from a ‘black panther’ rebel sent to prison for simply providing a false alibi for her husband, her non-political plight summed up by John and Yoko in the lines ‘you’re one of the many political prisoners in the world’. ‘Angie’ is a slow-burning Stones ballad that might or might not have been based on David Bowie’s wife of the time (who often spent time with Mick and Bianca Jagger) which is simply a tear-jerking emotional ballad about a couple who split. Both characters are, in their own ways, ‘messengers’ – pawns in games bigger than themselves made to do other’s bidding.
‘Anna (Got To Him)’ is an Arthur Alexander song covered by The Beatles on their album ‘Please Please Me’ in 1963 and ‘Carrie Anne’ a single by The Hollies in 1967)
‘Anna’ was one of Lennon’s favourite songs, a new recording back in 1963 by under-rated soul singer Arthur Alexander (better known for the songs ‘Soldier Of Love’ and ‘You Better Move On’). A tearful goodbye to a girl, that the narrator ‘sets free’ because he knows she doesn’t love him as much as he loves her, the original is sung detached and despondent, while Lennon’s cover is a heart-wrenching outpouring of grief. As far as we can tell, neither composer nor interpreter ever knew an ‘Anna’ in real life, although some Beatles writers have claimed that ‘Anna’ represented either Astrid Kirchherr or fiancé Stuart Sutcliffe (John and Stuart competed for her attentions before Lennon realised how serious the latter was – and he effectively ‘lost’ best friend Stuart to her). ‘Carrie Anne’ meanwhile is name plucked at random by The Hollies (or at least their writing team of Clarke Hicks and Nash) to ‘fill in’ a riff they’d just nicked from The Byrds ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ (note the rhyme of ‘man’ and ‘Anne’). Neither character is particularly ‘graceful’ – but then both ‘Annas’ are passive characters in these songs which are really more about the narrator and his love for them.
(‘Barbara Ann’ is a track from the ‘Beach Boys Party!’ album of 1966 and ‘Barbara’ is a song by Dennis Wilson, included on the Beach Boys rarities compilation ‘Endless Harmony’ 1998)
Meaning: ‘beautiful foreigner’
Two Beach Boys songs for you now – one well known, the other obscure. ‘Barbara Ann’ isn’t based on a real person and isn’t even by the Beach Boys (the forgotten original was made by The Regents in 1961). It was revived at the last minute during the making of the ‘Party!’ record, rushed through in hurried speed in one fun-filled evening to give Brian Wilson more time to work on ‘Pet Sounds’; looking for easy-to-play songs that wouldn’t take much rehearsing this fun song simply seemed an obvious choice. The name ‘Barbara’ had much bigger connotations for brother Dennis however – Barbara Lamm was the love of his life and the two were married (twice!) for the longest period of any of his five wives. Sadly Dennis never did record a full orchestral version of his beautiful song ‘Barbara’ (which would have been a natural fit for either of his solo records) but this piano demo is one of the most beautiful things he ever made, a gorgeous love song with a troubled, confused middle eight that gives way to a fabulous confident melody line. I don’t think either ‘Barbara’ qualified for the title of a ‘beautiful foreigner’ though!
(‘Clair’ is a single by Gilbert O’Sullivan from 1974 and ‘Marie Claire’ a track by 10cc (released under the name ‘Wax’) on the album ‘Magnetic Heaven’ 1986)
Gilbert’s ‘Clair’ was a song inspired by a night babysitting his manager Gordon Mills’ toddler daughter – the twist in the song being that we don’t until the last verse that she’s that young (every other line is ambiguous enough for it to be a girl the same age on a date). That is the real ‘Clair’ on the famous music video for the song by the way! The single ended up making Gilbert’s name and is still his biggest selling – unfortunately a spectacular falling out with Mills (who ended up suing Gilbert in a court case that lasted years) means that Gilbert has only recently started performing the song again. ‘Marie Claire’ is by contrast one of the most obscure songs of Graham Gouldmann’s career, one started with 10cc (hence the inclusion on this list) but released under the ‘Wax’ name Gouldmann used with friend Andrew Gold. Chances are the ‘Claire’ in this name is simply a strong rhyme for ‘somewhere’ and she doesn’t really exist, but there’s no doubting that someone who inspired this song is real as its one of Graham’s career-best songs, a turbulent tale of a spurned lover, sung with a long flowing vocal line that sounds like the musical equivalent of tears. In this context Gilbert’s ‘Clair’ sounds pretty close to the dictionary definition of a ‘light’ or joy in someone’s life, although Wax’s version seems more like the opposite.
(‘Diana’ parts 1 and 2 are songs from the album ‘Sunfighter’ by Paul Kantner and Grace Slick in 1971 and ‘My Dianne’ a song by The Beach Boys from the album ‘MIU’ in 1978)
Meaning: ‘Goddess of the moon’
Both Dianna/e’s here are based on real people, although both are very different. ‘Diana’ is another political activist, this time a member of the san Franciscan hippie rebels ‘The Weathermen’ with author Paul Kantner (of the Jefferson Airplane) comparing their actions with the fated actions of the pre-biblical Diana, ‘Goddess of the moon’. However unlike the Greek original, this Diana has the humanity to worry about the hurt caused to those she leaves behind and by part two is worrying over her actions. The Beach Boys ‘My Diane’ is Brian writing his heart out about his split with wife Marilyn – and no, you didn’t read that name wrong; to hide his true feelings Brian used the name of Marilyn’s younger sister Dianne, actually the sister he started dating first before meeting and falling in love with her bigger sister! A howling torment of grief where ‘everything is wrong and nothing is right’ it was plainly still too difficult for Brian to sing so he gave it to his brother Dennis, who turns in a harrowing, gripping performance that’s the highlight of a pretty awful record. As we’ve heard the first character is loosely based on the ‘Goddess of the Moon’, but the second probably isn’t, being all too earthly, fallible and real.
(‘Eleanor Rigby’ is a track on the Beatles album ‘Revolver’ 1966, ‘Lady Eleanor’ is a track on the Lindisfarne album ‘Nicely Out Of Tune’ 1970 and ‘Eleanor’s Castle’ is a song on the Hollies outtakes compilation ‘Rarities’ from 1988)
Meaning: an Elizabethan alternative for the name ‘Helen’
‘Eleanor’ isn’t the most obvious name in the world but I’ve always liked it, probably because of its inclusion in three of the most-loved songs in my collection. To take them in turn ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is one of Paul McCartney’s finest creations, one where his knack of seeing life through the eyes of ‘other people’ is put to good use in a haunting tale of a widower, ‘picking up rice in a church where a wedding has been’ in distant memory of her own. Macca has since said that he struggled to thing of a name that would scan and miss Rigby was almost ‘Olna Na Toyngy’ before he remembered the name of Eleanor Bron, an actress who’d worked with the fab four on ‘Help!’ (‘Rigby’ came from an outfitters in London Paul passed one day). Lindisfarne’s ‘Eleanor’ isn’t based on a real person either – composer Alan Hull thought the name was suitably Medieval to match the haunting olde-style melody he’d just written. A more active presence than The Beatles’ character, she slowly seduces the narrator at an Elizabethan banquet, leaving him gradually helpless to her charms. Finally ‘Eleanor’s Castle’ is a sweet but rather dated Hollies song that aims to rhyme ‘castle’ with ‘hassle’ which features a similarly pro-active female – who this time hates the narrator (who fails to reach her ‘turrets tall’). The band, probably wisely, chose to keep it in the vaults after deciding that it sounded a little dated by their new-look post-Nash 1969 standards, but it sounded pretty darn wonderful in 1988, a delicious slab of vintage pop. Apparently the name is ‘an Elizabethan derivative of ‘Helen’ which apparently means ‘light’ – none of the three songs here really apply, although the ‘Elizabethan’ bit is right!
(‘See Emily Play’ is a single by Pink Floyd and ‘For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her’ a song from the Simon and Garfunkel album ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’, both released in 1967 while ‘Emily’s Song’ is a track from the Moody Blues album ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ from 1971)
‘Emily’ seems like a Victorian name to me rather than one from the psychedelic sixties, but that’s when these two rather different songs date from. ‘See Emily Play’ is the Floyd’s second single and the high point of their early years with Syd Barrett the main focus of the band. The ‘Emily’ in this song is more like an ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and could be interpreted as having an ‘acid trip’ – at first joyous, then misunderstood before being told she’ll ‘float on a river forever and ever’. An impossibly ethereal, dream-like spirit, Emily seems the perfect match for the ‘swinging London’ event ‘Games For May’ in 1967. Equally ethereal, although less adventurous, is Simon and Garfunkel’s beauty – one that Art Garfunkel has a fine time trying to conjure up into reality from a dream he has (‘pressed in augundy’). After dreaming of such beauty he’s mortified to wake up in reality and think that no one that special could ever be alive on Earth, only to roll over and find his special girl lying next to him. ‘Eager’ seems like a good fit for both these Emilys, even though one is an adventurous advocate of the darker, scarier side of psychedelic life and the other is a fragile porcelain beauty. As for ‘Emily’s Song’, it was written by Moody Blue John Lodge as a lullaby for his baby girl, still a toddler in 1971. The song tries to work out what she might become and what she in turn might teach her father as he looks at life anew via her eyes. In this context, then, it’s the narrator whose ‘eager’ not Emily herself, impatient for her to grow up and go on adventures with him as instead he gazes on sadly with parental responsibilities which mean ‘into your world I cannot go’.
(‘Lady Jane’ is a track from the Rolling Stones album ‘Aftermath’ 1966, ‘Jane’ is a track from the Jefferson Starship album ‘Freedom At Point Zero’ 1979 and ‘What’s The New Mary Jane?’ is an outtake included on the Beatles compilation ‘Anthology Three’ in 1997)
Meaning: ‘God’s gift of grace’
I don’t know if the Rolling Stones’ graceful, proper maiden of Elizabethan times can even comprehend the antics of the 1970s Jefferson Starship lass: the narrator of the former (Mick Jagger in his most plummy and aristocratic voice) spends an age courting and wooing her and ends the song with the line ‘life is secure’ when he finally tracks her down; by contrast the Starship’s Jane is firmly in control of her relationship, ‘playing a game’ of ‘cat and mouse’ with the narrator’s heart (Mickey Thomas at his screechy best) and leaving him scratching his head over whether she ever truly loved him at all given that she runs off with anyone else at a moment’s notice. Despite being a mere 12 years apart in date, these songs are centuries apart in setting. As for the Beatles’ Mary Jane, well, she’s as crazy as they come, having a pain at a party and having the musical equivalent of a nervous breakdown along the way (it might not surprise you to learn that ‘Mary Jane’ was a Beatles slang term for ‘marijuana’). Of these three only the Stones’ distant maiden is truly fitting of a name that apparently means ‘God’s gift of grace’; goodness what gift the other two possessed!
(‘Joanne’ is a single by Mike Nesmith from 1970 and ‘Say It Ain’t So, Jo’ a track from the Hollies album ‘5317704’ from 1978)
Meaning: also ‘God’s gift of grace’
‘Joanne’ was former Monkee Mike Nesmith’s biggest solo hit after ‘Rio’ and is a simple tale that could well have been an ancient folk song. Joanne ‘leaves near a meadow by a pond’ and like many of Nesmith’s songs is far more worldly wise than her lover from the big city who is completely out of his depth when he falls in love with her. Presumably she too would have been worthy of the ‘God’s gift of grace’ moniker (as this name is another variant of ‘Jane’). So too might the Hollies’ ‘Jo’ who puts an end to a relationship only after years of suffering, poverty and hardship. The tearful narrator is unwilling to let it end even now but there’s a certain gracefulness about the character who lets him down gently and after a long series of setbacks.
(‘Jennifer Eccles’ is a 1968 single by The Hollies and ‘Jenny Wren’ is a track from the 2003 Paul McCartney album ‘Chaos and Creation In The Backyard’ )
Meaning: ‘white phantom’
I love ‘Jennifer Eccles’. I don’t think she loves me back, though, because she’s a fictional character based on the Christian name of Allan Clarke’s wife and the maiden name of Graham Nash’s. A deliberately childlike single designed to see The Hollies safely back into the charts after the poor-selling experimental but oh-so-wonderful ‘King Midas In reverse’, Jennifer is a likeable lass who may or may not be clever enough to pass the eleven-plus (an exam in Britain at the time which dictated whether you went to an ‘academic’ or ‘vocational’ secondary school). McCartney’s Jenny Wren is far less easy to love. A poor man’s ‘Blackbird’, this was deliberately written as a sequel and features a hard-done-by character ‘taking wing’ and flying off to pastures new (if you take out the lame bird metaphor then this song is actually more of a sequel to ‘Lady Madonna’ in its woman-character-done-well stance). Neither really fit the definition of ‘Jenny’ as a ‘white phantom’, but then what does? And how the heck did such a sweet name get associated with ghosts and spectres in the first place? (perhaps they were thinking of ‘A Song For Jenny’, Steve Marriott’s tearful song of family life written on a Humble Pie tour where ‘I can’t believe that you’re still there, ‘cause I ain’t been home in years’; sadly being a ‘Humble Pie’ song its a fraction too late to be included as a bona fide AAA song, although I had to mention it as its one of its creator’s finest ever songs).
(‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ is a track from the eponymous debut album by Crosby, Stills and Nash and ‘Judy and the Dream Of Horses’ a track from the 1996 Belle and Sebastian album ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’)
Stephen Stills was indeed full of ‘praise’ for Judy Collins, the singer-songwriter he fell in love with in the late 60s and whose name or image (usually as a ‘sparrow’) fills up many of his songs to come. ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’, the first track on the first CSN album, is probably the best known example: an agonised poem set to music, it passes through tormented section after section mixing declarations of love with reality checks about the chaotic life the pair might have together. Many still rate it as Stills’ greatest ever song. Belle and Sebastian, meanwhile, are full of more empathy than praise for their character Judy, who is a character who appears on many songs on the band’s first two albums but is only mentioned in the title of this one, where Judy’s dream brings her freedom and relief in her own life. However, there’s more than a little of author Stuart Murdoch in Judy’s actions, writing ‘sad songs’ and ‘being a teenage rebel’ while the chorus line ‘Judy never felt so good except when she was sleeping’ makes perfect sense to me now after learning that, like me, Stuart Murdoch was a sufferer of chronic fatigue that left him bed-ridden for seven painful sleep-deprived years.
(‘Don’t Listen To Linda’ is a track from the Monkees album ‘Instant Replay’ from 1969 and ‘The Lovely Linda’ a track from the 1970 LP ‘McCartney’)
Naturally enough Paul McCartney wrote several love songs for his wife Linda, though perhaps oddly only one ever mentioned her by name (there is a second, ‘Lindiana’ from 1987, but I won’t count that here as it still hasn’t officially been released yet in 2013). You’d expect the song that did to be a deep epic symbolising the pair’s deep bond but, no, it’s a thirty second throwaway Macca wrote to test the tape recorders he’s just got from Apple are working (anyone else would go ‘one two one two’ but Macca has to make an eight track recording!) The song is sweet, though, nonetheless and being ‘lovely’ with ‘flowers in her hair’ is probably as good a match for the dictionary definition of ‘pretty’ as you can get. The Monkees’ Linda is less so, a moody teenage angst ballad from chief writers Boyce and Hart that finds Davy Jones warning a close friend ‘don’t listen to Linda, or you’ll end up like me’ (ie dumped and dead miserable. Boyce and Hart admitted later that they ‘borrowed’ the name from the wife of the boss of the Colgems record label because they liked the ‘alliteration’ – and had to placate her when she complained about the song! An earlier version of the song, with a much younger sounding Davy, can also be heard as a bonus track on ‘More Of the Monkees’ but this finished, slower version is the ‘keeper’. We never do get to find out what this second ‘Linda’ looked like, but ‘petty’ seems a better fit than ‘pretty’!
(‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ is a track on the Beatles LP ‘Sgt Peppers’ from 1967 whilst ‘Rubber Lucy’ and ‘Lucy’ are both tracks by The Hollies from their albums ‘The Hollies’ 1974 and ‘Another Night’ 1975 respectively)
‘Lucy’ is a name that’s forever associated with The Beatles now – you may remember that when the supposed ‘missing link’ nicknamed Lucy was discovered by archaeologists she too was nicknamed ‘Lucy’ because ‘Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds’ was playing on the radio at the time! For years scholars wondered what the symbolism meant, before John’s son Julian sheepishly admitted that the title was one he gave to a drawing he’d done at nursery for his friend Lucy O’Donnell and that he’d shown it to his dad. In this context, though, five-year-old Julian clearly got the idea spot on: where better to find ‘light’ than in the ‘sky’? Old rivals The Hollies, meanwhile, paid tribute to the name not once but twice during their 1970s career, for no apparent reason that I can find (‘Lucy’ is a hard name to rhyme and none of the band members were married to a ‘Lucy’ at the time). ‘Rubber Lucy’ (‘who ain’t choosy’ in a rather optimistic rhyme) is an odd song by their or indeed anyone’s standards: the title may imply sado-masochism tendencies but the narrator is actually annoyed by her rigid manner and inability to enjoy the ‘lighter’ side of life. The second ‘Lucy’ is a lot nicer; a sensitive tearjerker about a beloved wife on her deathbed with the narrator wondering ‘how’m I going to tell the children that Lucy’s gone away?’, it’s full of real pathos and concern and a beautiful tune. There’s not much reference to ‘light’, though, unless its the light of Heaven that Lucy is passing into.
(‘Martha’ is a track from the Jefferson Airplane album ‘After Bathing At Baxters’ from 1967 and ‘Martha My Dear’ is a track from the 1968 album ‘The Beatles’ also known as ‘The White Album’)
Well, who’d have thought an old-fashioned name like ‘Martha’ would make it onto our list? (and before the Dr Who assistant made it a popular choice again too!) The Jefferson Airplane version isn’t old-fashioned at all however: it’s a whizz-bang wallop psychedelic frenzy from a candidate for one of the most psychedelic LPs of all time. Their Martha has a sixth sense, in tune with nature and the universe, born with reservoirs of patience the narrator wants to learn from and who, when they’re together, finally feels ‘free’ without the usual pressures of maintaining a relationship. In reality, Martha was the 16 year old daughter of the San Franciscan Mayor who ran away from home to live with David Crosby! The Beatles version is actually based on a real figure: Paul McCartney’s sheepdog! ‘Martha’ was a lovely warm ball of fun that Macca used to talk for lots of walks while thinking up songs and, in his haste to remember a new riff that had come into his head, Paul came up with the line ‘Martha my dear’ and never got round to writing anything to replace it. The song sounds like two stuck together though: at first Martha is ‘an inspiration’ the narrator is trying to woo, the next she’s a ‘silly girl’ who won’t make the most of the opportunity he is offering her. Both ‘Martha’s are clearly ladies in their own way (even if one started out life as a dog!)
(‘Mary Mary’ is a track from the 1967 album ‘More Of The Monkees’ and ‘Mary’ is a track from the 1981 Jefferson Starship album ‘Modern Times’. A song called ‘Mary’ was also intended for the Who album ‘Lifehouse’ in 1971 but has so far only been available via a limited edition Pete Townshend download)
Meaning: ‘star of the sea’
The first band original most Monkee fans took notice of was this Mike Nesmith song - sung as ever in these early days by Micky Dolenz - and helped the band become taken semi-seriously when the Paul; Butterfield Blues Band recorded their own version of it for their seminal ‘East-West’ LP. Mary Mary (the melody of this song isn’t that far removed from ‘Contrary Mary, of How Does Your Garden Grow? fame) has abandoned the narrator without a second glance and he’s trying anything to woo her back. There’s no mention of the ‘sea’ though or of Mary being a ‘star’. Jefferson Starship’s song is one long pun on the words ‘I will never marry Mary’, although its set to a great riff and features one of the band’s most deliciously OTT performances. There’s still no mentions of ‘sea’ or ‘stars’ however. One final note: Pete Townshend’s song ‘Mary’ was originally a key part of Who concept album ‘Lifehouse’ – later abandoned and re-made as ‘Who’s Next’ – left unheard for 30 years. It’s not much of a song but is by far the best fit for the definition of the name: declaring that ‘his’ Mary is special, he announces that ‘the stars don’t shine on every man’ and that he’s overjoyed to have been this lucky.
(‘Mona’ is a track from the first eponymous album by The Rolling Stones in 1964 and a track from the 1977 album ‘The Beach Boys Love You’)
Our second unexpected name on the list, you just don’t hear the name Mona around nowadays do you? And no, it doesn’t mean ‘moaner’: it does in fact mean ‘noble’. Presumably the Mona of Rolling Stones fame (via writer Bo Diddley under his real name Ellis McDaniel) is noble too, because she won’t give in to the narrator’s advances, even with a fabulous hypnotic beat that’s the clear highlight of the first Stones LP and Mick Jagger at his sultry best. Brian Wilson’s Mona (sung on record by brother Dennis) is much more ordinary, an impressionable teenager that sounds more like someone from Brian’s deep and distant teenage youth (the song was written during his ‘bed bound’ years). Cajoling her into all the things he wants to do, Mona’s name is repeated several times during the course of the song until the pair fall exhausted onto a chair – Dennis’ narrator reaching to put a romantic record on and promising ‘I know you’re going to like Phil Spector...’
(‘Lightning Rose’ and ‘Rose Goes To Yale’, both songs by Jefferson Starship from the 1979 album ‘Freedom At Point Zero’ and the 1984 album ‘Nuclear Furniture’)
Meaning: named after the plant
Rose is a recurring character in Paul Kantner’s vision of the future, a world leader who can ‘grow’ out of the ashes of the corrupt, materialistic 20th century into a land based on freedom and equality. Sadly that vision of the future only ever came true on record, but at least Kantner correctly guessed the end of the cold war (reaching a peak when the second of these two albums was made). The former song, written some five years earlier, is more of a siren, a mythological creature who comes into the world to put things right but the second is a more earthly creature still with the same spirit burning in her eyes.
(‘Rosemary Rose’ is a track by The Kinks from 1968, released on the deluxe edition of ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’, ‘Rosemary’ is a song from the 1969 Grateful Dead album ‘Aoxomoxoa’ and ‘Rosemarie’ is a song by The Monkees first released on ‘Missing Links’ in 1987)
Meaning: ‘sea dew’
Is ‘Rosemary/ie’ a different name to ‘Rose’? Apparently so, and it’s not named after the herb either whatever Simon and Garfunkel seem to think on ‘Scarborough Fair’! It’s an unusually popular name in song too, with three very different songs – none of which have anything to do with the ‘real’ definition of ‘sea dew’. Perhaps The Kinks’ most famous outtake (available on a semi-legal compilation in 1972 and only widely available in the 1990s) is a typical Ray Davies character assignation of the period, a teenager trying to act beyond her years, ‘chewing on your liquorish gum and cigarettes’ whilst ‘looking nothing like a child – but you’re such a little baby!’ The Grateful Dead’s Rosemary is much more ethereal and possibly Elizabethan again, left waiting for suitors and friends in life and as an abandoned ghost still walking round her psychedelic sounding garden (‘all around the garden grew scarlet and purple and crimson and blue’). The varispeeded vocal on Jerry Garcia’s voice makes him sound even more prematurely old than normal and does indeed sound like a ghost intoning her last will and testament to us mere mortals. The Monkees’ ‘Rosemarie’ (originally unreleased but intended for the ‘Instant Replay’ album of 1969) was in author Micky Dolenz’s words ‘just a riff and not even a song’ but what a riff! Goodness only knows what the quick-stepping lyrics mean (‘information, registration, aviation, easy nation, occupation, connotation, revelation, education!’) but at least this song comers closest to the definition of ‘sea dew’ with the line ‘Rosemarie gone to sea...’
(‘Susannah’s Still Alive’ is a single by Dave Davies released in 1967, ‘Sorry Suzanne’ is a single by The Hollies released in 1979 and ‘Peggy Sue’ is a Buddy Holly cover sung by both The Beach Boys in 1978 on ‘MIU’, The Hollies on ‘Sing Holly’ in 1980 and John Lennon on ‘Rock and Roll’ in 1974)
Susans tend to be painted in books as the motherly, maternal, adult-before-their-time sorts don’t they? Well, not in music it seems: two out of three of these ‘Susans’ are real party animals. Dave Davies’ second (and best) solo single ‘Susannah’s Still Alive’ is to some extent a true story, the tale of the 15 year old girlfriend Dave fell for at school and got pregnant, with both pupils expelled for the deed and both families conspiring to cut the ties between them. In his autobiography ‘Kink’ the character of Sue haunts Dave like a ghost for the rest of his life and is clearly his ‘one true love’, although this is the only time she’s properly referred to by name. In this remarkable song Dave imagines his beloved pining for him as much as he does her, sleeping in bed with the covers down so ‘somebody can get in’ and drinking herself under the table as a substitute for the tears she’s too upset to cry. Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue (covered by no less than three AAA members over the years ) and the sequel ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ (also covered by The Hollies) is also something of a party animal for the times (the late 1950s), inspiring a fast-talking jovial party song (‘pretty pretty pretty pretty Peggy Sue!’) in all three versions (of which The Hollies’ is arguably the best). Perhaps The Hollies were making up for their earlier portrayal of a ‘Suzanne’ on probably their worst ever song, their first post-Nash single that made it all the way to #3 in the charts. Sickly, sweet and schmaltzy this Suzanne is a drag and seems to deserve everything she gets! None of these three songs ever make any allusion to the dictionary definition of ‘lily’, but then that is quite a hard subject to work into a song!
(‘Oh Yoko’ and ‘Dear Yoko’ were released by John Lennon in 1970 and 1980 respectively, on ‘Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ and ‘Double Fantasy’)
Well, there’s no surprise who wrote this pair of songs, with John Lennon serenading his greatest muse and soulmate with two very different songs from two very different periods in his life. In 1971 ‘Oh Yoko’ was a childish nursery-rhymey song of love for the only bright spot in Lennon’s life whose always there to put things right (no wonder Lennon’s nickname for his second wife was ‘mother’!), leaving the narrator to call out for her in the middle of all his daily activities. Reprising his line from ‘A Day In The Life’ this time its love, not drugs, that Lennon promises ‘will turn you on’. The 1980 song ‘Dear Yoko’ is one of Lennon’s last before his untimely death and by this point the pair of lovebirds have gone full circle, now five years past the difficult ‘lost weekend’ split and are now responsible parents. Another uptempo song with a definite 1950s spirit Lennon writes this song in the form of a postcard, having left for a holiday in Bermuda with son Sean while Yoko stays in New York to ‘cope with the business’. The name Yoko means ‘good’ in Japanese, something Lennon would no doubt agree with – as a bit of trivia for you the name ‘Ringo’ in Japanese means ‘Apple’, although that wasn’t why the Beatles named their business company after the fruit (it was inspired by a Magritte painting ‘A is for Apple’).
And that’s enough name-calling for one week. Join us again in a week’s time for more news, views and music!