Five Star Songs: Five Star Songs: The Beginning and the End – Sugar Pie Honey Bunch & Dress Sexy For My Funeral

Well I am taking a break for a little while because after two albums, I certainly need it. I will be doing my last gig before a break on August 20 at The New Motor Room at the Boundary Hotel. It will give me a chance to do some more writing and here is the kind of thing I might do.

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In my work as a school teacher I occasionally overhear students talking about their crushes when they think I am just a statue in a room. A statue in the room that is walking past them, trying not to listen. I try to immersively think about something else because there are parts of their lives that I don’t want to intrude on. But in those brief moments I see the flush of excitable youth and the embarrassment of losing control, followed by the relief of telling someone about it. I sometimes smile and think “I remember” about that quickening of the heartbeat, the rise in temperature that comes with someone dancing in your head. That still happens.

“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by The Four Tops is the embarrassment and the thrill of first love encased in the exuberant gospel shout of Levi Stubbs and the rest of the Tops. “Sugar Pie” is almost the exact same chords of the Supremes “Where Did Our Love Go” also written/produced by Motown team Holland/Dozier/Holland. But hey, if you are going to plagiarise, it might as well be yourself you are plagiarising.

As beautifully melancholic as the Supremes’ song was, Levi Stubbs’ brings something else to the sad belle vocals of Supreme supremo Diana Ross’ version. Billy Bragg once sang about Levi Stubbs’ tears, they always hung around at the back of his throat. However, Stubbs’ singing is equal part exultation. He feels strung around by the lusty “you” of the song:  “When you snap your finger, or wink your eye/I come a-running to you… there’s nothing that I can do.” But that doesn’t stop him from getting swept up in the flush of love. A chemical reaction perhaps, but something he doesn’t feel he can control.

Along with the Four Tops harmonies “Sugar Pie” is also driven by a repetitive piano line doubled by bass guitar that begins the song. Motown knew you had to get the kids dancing, so the 4/4 pulse is insistent. The strings then echo that piano/bass riff before the signature Motown snare roll kicks in, followed by the familiar guitar chank and some lovely glockenspiel. I am often critical of strings in soul music, as I feel makes the songs overly saccharine. In Sugar Pie they are subtle, entering and leaving unobtrusively like a mother witnessing the furious poetry of the love-struck teenager but leaving the room for the piano/bass riff to be front and centre in her child’s joy/pain. The every-beat snare known to the Motown listener is there but that riff is what does it – it embraces Levi in his symphony of immature love. Just as that heartbeat raises when he or she walks past you, it is continual, pulsing and the vocals at once joyous and plaintive.

* * *

In contrast is Smog’s “Dress Sexy At My Funeral” which has less immediate impact but like Smogman Bill Callahan’s best songs, it is a complex, layered lyric that gradually unravels something quite beautiful.

Framed by simple band accompaniment, an indie-rock shuffle in the first part of the verses that springs to life part way through each, the tambourine adding joy in much the same way it works for Motown, and a repeated chiming acoustic lick before the return to the refrain. The only change to this basic formula are two B sections where he outlines the various places they made love and gave to charity and a beautiful outro with hushed falsetto harmonies and a droning keyboard over the tambourine, bass and guitar.

Simplicity in melody, production and repeated phrases is a Callahan trademark but this is pop for him. Major key, almost joyous and ecstatic harmonies and an unambiguous outpouring of love for a woman in which he doesn’t reflect on his mistakes. It just happens to dive more deeply into the intimacy of the relationship, and somehow walks a fine line between revealing the sexual nature of their lives in a playful way that neglects boastful or lewd description.

“Wink at the minister

Blow kisses to my grieving brothers”

And later:

“Tell them about the time we did it

On the beach with fireworks above us

It recognises other things not normally recognised in songs. His wife is still a sexual being, even when her husband is not there. How many songs would even consider this a possibility? He is saying to her “it is okay to let people know that we knew each other in ways they never did, never could and never will”. It suggests an intimacy and shared knowledge of each other that is normally impossible in the limited space of songs.

The love that comes at the beginning and that is there in the end are both important. One would not happen without the other. And if the fire of lust can begin something intimate and lasting that you can take to your death, well then you have truly loved and lived in a way that we all wish for. At least while listening to these two songs, I can imagine it happening.

Praise Him!

Written by J. Beavis/C. Bancroft

Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals, banjo, BV; Chris Bancroft – guitar, handclaps, BV; Costas Constantinou – bass guitar, BV, handclaps; Scott Nosworthy – drums and percussion; Andrew Garton – horn arrangements, baritone saxophone, handclaps; Lachlan McKenzie – trumpet and handclaps; Peta Wilson – piano.  Steve Robin – engineered/produced/mixed/handclaps.

Sir don’t weep for me for I am not worthy

To be on my knees washing your feet

Lord please make him stay, so I can worship everyday

Give him thanks and praise, for he showed me the way

Offerings on the table by half past five

Offerings in the bedroom at half past nine

 

 

(PRAISE HIM) Praise his purdy mouth!

(PRAISE HIM) Praise his baby blues eyes!

(PRAISE HIM) Praise him when he comes to me!

(PRAISE HIM)  I am his prize!

 

I want to spread the word, the way he spreads my legs

Go forth, multiply, I will do my best

Please make me understand, mold me how you want

I am your clay to use day by day

And yours to command, show me your plan

Can’t wait to see, how you’re going to use me!

 

(PRAISE HIM) Praise his purdy mouth!

(PRAISE HIM) Praise his baby blues eyes!

(PRAISE HIM) Praise him when he comes to me!

(PRAISE HIM)  I am his prize!

 

I will bring you children to bounce on your knee

I will put you up on a cross, when you crucify me

Wake up early every morning make you toast and tea

I know you don’t mean it and I don’t mean make you angry

My love can set him free from the bonds that drive him crazy

I cannot run away now, I need him for the family

 

 

I Want You To Eat Me

Written by J. Beavis

Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals, banjo, BV; Chris Bancroft – guitar; Costas Constantinou – double bass; Scott Nosworthy – drums; Andrew Garton – horn arrangements, baritone saxophone; Lachlan McKenzie – trumpet; Peta Wilson – piano.  Steve Robin – engineered/produced/mixed

Well I’m so glad you’re all gathered here today: the solicitor called, she’s on her way

My children I love you and the joys you have brought, my family for the legacy that we’ve wrought

Yes old Aunt Mary who doesn’t know how to die; Cousin Barry,  by marriage, though I don’t know why;

My grandson and his friend, don’t worry I know they’re gay – I am going to die so I have one thing to say

I want you to eat me , please eat me, please do; you’ll  have to cook me up in a stew

Cos I’m probably too old and tough to chew: I want you to eat me, please eat me, please do

It’s cost effective,  no funeral needed, for the next three months don’t worry bout feeding

I should fill a freezer or two for a while – a  beautiful ritual to say goodbye

Oh they will tell you it’s wrong, that it is illegal but only in law, doesn’t mean it’s evil

Every part of me will be a part of you and everything I’ve done you’ll have done too

I want you to eat me , please eat me, please do; you’ll  have to cook me up in a stew

Cos I’m probably too old and tough to chew: I want you to eat me, please eat me, please do

When I pass into your mouth, I pass into your soul and you’ll pass me out into the hole,

Down in the ground we all go that’s all right, its like going home

The circle of life, what a wonderful world. eat food from the earth, returns to the soil

You’ll take my vessel, be one with my soul and down in the ground we all go

I want you to eat me , please eat me, please do; you’ll  have to cook me up in a stew

Cos I’m probably too old and tough to chew: I want you to eat me, please eat me, please do

You Must Not Try To Know

Written by J. Beavis
Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs ” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals, percussion; Chris Bancroft – guitar; Costas Constantinou – bass guitar; Scott Nosworthy – drums and percussion; Andrew Garton – horn arrangements, baritone saxophone; Lachlan McKenzie – trumpet; Steve Robin – engineered/produced/mixed.
John left early in the morning at a quarter past three
He had a shovel and a shotgun in the backseat
Going off to Windsor to seek vengeance with the man
Who took his job and his love from his clutching hands
He’d pushed pens round a ledger but then he’d never asked for much
He’d never counted cranes and he’d never worked the Dutch
No-one ever told him he had to kiss the arse that fed him
Backslap Ned the Screamer and drink the shine at his wedding
But he’d asked questions of the incident, not satisfied with the reply
So when it came to the purge he was first on the line
For you must not try to know how the devil wears his clothes
And you must not try to understand what words the Devil chose or why he chooses them
They offered him the lot if he didn’t ask why
But he didn’t need the salt and his mouth was already dry
They said you must leave and not look back now
He blessed himself while they bled a cow
As he took his office papers from his old desk
He said “I’ve seen his face and I know who he is”
So they sent after him the youngest interns
Hips of gold and lips of myrrh
And they beckoned with wine and their sweet kisses and they lay with him red succubus
In the morning they rose with seed inside and he could not talk and he could not cry
For you must not try to know how the devil wears his clothes
And you must not try to understand what words the Devil chose or why he chooses them
So now he’s ‘cross the river, he’s driving through Herston
With a crucifix and a shovel for the gnomish grin
Arriving before 4, John drove him from his bed
He demanded explanation, light shined from the devilled egg
The man said “you don’t understand, we’ve spent beyond our means
… We need to sack some workers to pay for unemployment schemes.”
Then his hair was white as snow as he stabbed John in the eyes
He poured oil on the wound then covered it up with lies
pre-chorus
His eyes were seven stars, his tongue was a spade
He said “I am going to eat your heart…with a bowl of Nutri Grain.”
For you must not try to know how the devil wears his clothes
And you must not try to understand what words the Devil chose or why he chooses them

Acerbate

Written by J. Beavis

Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs ” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals, slide guitar, BV; Chris Bancroft – guitar; Costas Constantinou – bass guitar; Scott Nosworthy – drums and percussion; Andrew Garton – horn arrangements, baritone saxophone; Lachlan McKenzie – trumpet; Alex Price – baritone saxophone; Peta Wilson – piano. Steve Robin – engineered/produced/mixed.

In the early 40s, between the wars, she won our hearts, more than just a horse

Little hope for soldiers to return alive, Acerbate made grown men and women cry

44 was the last cup they would have for a while – the battle came and went, carving the country like a knife

We had nothing to live and fight for, Tommy gave us Acerbate… Soon we shot the invaders to the rhythm of her gait

 

 

She would have beaten Diva two times out of every three

Never saw the vet out of routine

18 hands for height, her heart 14 pounds

Tommy lived for every morning to see her pound dust from the ground

 

The war came and when it left, half a million less – Crops nearly gone, the harvest wasn’t long

Even Abbott’s grand-niece had to watch the stores, no help except for grain came from other shores

Sometimes Tommy hunted emu, sometimes kangaroo, eventually they ate rice that tasted like glue

Acerbate never starved, Tommy made sure of that but soon she lost her shiny coat and the little of her fat

He said ‘she’s part of the family – she said you won’t have one if you don’t slit her throat

You’ve kept that horse in good condition but she’s eaten all our dough

She’ll be high in protein and would make 10 good roasts

 

She would have beaten Diva two times out of every three

Never saw the vet out of routine

18 hands for height, her heart 14 pounds

Tommy lived for every morning to see her pound dust from the ground

 

It’s hard to sharpen a knife, when you’re crying enough to boil a bucket of tears, gleaming metal leers

But when there’s a drought and your water is out you still need to sanitise, food and family, prioritise

Lean and high in iron, smells real good when you’re frying… roll em, add Pecorino and a bottle of wine

Make a stew, onion, garlic, flank, collar, topside; if we can trade for flour, maybe a horsemeat pie

She would have beaten Diva two times out of every three

Never saw the vet out of routine

18 hands for height, her heart 14 pounds

It sits next to Phar Lap’s and if you want to see em head on down to the national museum

 

Just Because It’s Over

Written by J. Beavis/S. Robin

Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs ” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals; Chris Bancroft – guitar; Costas Constantinou – bass guitar; Scott Nosworthy – drums and percussion; Andrew Garton – horn arrangements, baritone saxophone; Lachlan McKenzie – trumpet; Alex Price – tenor saxophone; Peta Wilson – piano, organ. Chris Palmer and Kate Mackie – BV. Steve Robin – engineered/produced/mixed.

This hand that held yours tiny as rain – I hold it to the sun as she sleeps on

In the wake of the brandy song – Her skin a shimmering white

She breathes in where you used to – She breathes out trust and innocence

Her hair a sea of curls that wrap around my thumb – Almond eyes, scent of cinnamon

 

Just because you’re gone, doesn’t mean that you’re forgotten

Just because it is over, doesn’t mean that it was wrong

 

I won’t tell anyone what you told me, when you drank more wine than your weight

I won’t let anyone hold me, how you did that night by the gate

That was the day of Tom’s passing down and we’d all had a little too much to think

And after you’d made your announcement they called for a tune but I couldn’t sing

 

Just because you’re gone – Doesn’t mean that you’re forgotten

Just because it is over  – Doesn’t mean that it was wrong

 

I’ve had too mornings since then, cradling the head of the night before

Spent too many hours with a pen, writing your name but no more

I’ve loved more times than I remember, but none hold a candle to your letter

I’ve found a car that doesn’t need petrol… I’m leaving but I’m keeping that lock of your hair

 

 

Just because you’re gone – Doesn’t mean that you’re forgotten

Just because it is over  – Doesn’t mean that it was wrong

They Can’t Take Our Pride

Written by J. Beavis

Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs ” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals, slide guitar; Chris Bancroft – guitar; Costas Constantinou – bass guitar; Scott Nosworthy – drums and percussion; Andrew Garton – horn arrangements, baritone saxophone; Lachlan McKenzie – trumpet; Alex Price – tenor saxophone; Peta Wilson – piano, organ. Chris Palmer and Kate Mackie – BV. Steve Robin – engineered/produced/mixed.

I met a woman, back in 0-5, she loved me true, first time in my life

She had the blackest hair, bluest eyes, we were crazy lovers, we laughed and we cried

I’ll never forget that night she smiled, said I’m gonna love you til the day I die

 

I was singing the blues, but the blues didn’t pay, we were just living in any old way

No money for night, no money for day – we had to fight to keep the taxman at bay

That’s when she told me – that she had a child on the way

 

I worked a factory, she a supermarket, wolves howled at our door while we choked on our bile

Sometimes I’d get home from gigs at a quarter to one, we’d hold each other til the daylight come

Hey, they can take our money, but they can’t take our pride

 

One month go and we’d have a little baby, she had to stop work for a while

We just tightened our belts, ate noodles, we lived life on the edge of a knife

They can take our food, but they can’t take our pride

 

I had to sell my house just to keep my car, our clothes fell apart so I sold my guitar

Now the landlord’s complaining bout our crying child, he pushed me once, well man that’s too far

You may take our house, but you can’t take our pride

 

We’ve got each other that’s all we need, we’ve got love, that’s all we need

We’ve got each other, that’s all we need, we’ve got love, that’s all we need

They can take our life, but they can’t take our pride!

 

Mary’s Daughter

Written by J. Beavis

Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals; Chris Bancroft – tenor banjo; Cam Milne – sousaphone; Lachlan McKenzie – trumpet, trombone; Andrew Garton – horn arrangements, clarinet; Steve Robin – drums and engineered/produced/mixed.

He’d had a local woman who’d nursed her pa to death

She sewed for petty cash and prayed every day for sweet rest

She had a daughter with a drifter who never the held child at all

There  were calluses on her knees and a loaded rifle in the hall

 

They never proved he did it,  but I don’t need a smoking gun

You could tell just by looking at him that there was something quite wrong

Some say he ate meat from the horses that died on his farm

That he had two kinds of grapes growing in his vineyard

 

We were mistrustful of his beard for he had no moustache

And greeted every person  with a smile and a laugh

Be it whores, winos, or darkies…  preachers or the boy with lemonade cart

Din’t make no discrimination, seemed he couldn’t tell them apart

 

The girl was the prettiest thing west of McDonnell’s Crossing

Whenever they came into town,  she’d  skip ahead, dancing ’round

Her mother’s dresses,  light as feathers

That shimmered amd floated when she ran

 

Her ma was  quiet and kind. . .  I used to drink with her pa

With a kid like that she must have had the goodness in her

He was just past 40 when he wed Mary, the girl was around 13

But he’d never been married before,  if you know what I mean.

 

Jane the Thread found that poor girl up by Dinkler’s Field

Skirt up round the head amd her panties round her knees

He claimed innocence, they never could find anything,  but we knew what it was

You can’t trust a man like that,  accusing the preacher’s boys

 

A bastard like that changes a town, when the devil takes away his mask

Well Mary, she hanged herself in her daughter’s room

Nobody would buy his growing, Then he couldn’t farm for all the drinking

Sold it to an outer towner,  been living on the streets ever since.

 

He lurks the streets at night begging money for wine

Keeping good folks awake with his wailing and his crying

Don’t pity him,  I  tell ya,  won’t do any good  round here

All you need to know is on his face right there in front of ya

 

He’s guilty where he stands.

I’m sure of that.  I’m sure  of that. As i am sure of anything.

Kissed Her Lips For The Last Time

Written by J. Beavis

Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals; Chris Bancroft – guitar; Costas Constantinou – bass guitar; Paul Renton – slide guitar. Steve Robin – drums and engineered/produced/mixed.

Brought her some water, the least I could do

And I held it to her lips, And kissed her for the last time

Love is sanctified it says - I must be patient and kind it says –

…but tell me how do you say good bye like this

 

And she held my hand. She held my hand and I kissed it

I kissed her lips for the last time. Oh for the last time

 

We met walking through the green – Her hair blowing in the wind

My rosary vows, The crucifix on my brow. I believed in the lord again

Later that night with a wine glass under the porch light

We talked til the sun came through the trees

 

And for the first time I did know that she was the holy sister And she took me in her arms and I kissed her

I kissed her lips for the first time. Oh, for the first time

 

When it came, took one in every hundred –  it had no mercy

Three of us, one guard, one slept,  one with a wet cloth and her misery

But no sister, no brother, no parents came to her and I know all because of me

The clock stopped ticking when the dam burst… they say it was the revolutionaries

 

Only once as she lay dying did she speak their names in anger

I told her,  everything I knew to take away the fever

But in the end all I could do was take her hand in mine

Held a glass of water to her lips and I kissed her for the last time

 

Got No Hands, Got No Feet

Written by J. Beavis

Appears on “Post-Apocalyptic Love Songs” LP, 2016. Personnel: Jimi Beavis – vocals, harmonica; Chris Bancroft – guitar; Costas Constantinou – bass guitar; Steve Robin – drums and engineered/produced/mixed.

Ain’t got no hands, ain’t got no feet

Doing the nation shuffle down the street

Wake up at night with Remembrance Day screams

And I can’t wear poppies cos they make me sneeze

 

Everywhere I went carried a photo of my kids

I can’t look them in the eye and tell em what I did

I dreamed of being back in the footy stands

When I get there, can’t clap, cos I don’t have hands

 

I only wanted to make money as part of a team

But I can’t really tell you what that means

I only wanted to serve, do the righteous thing

But…  shame ways my eyes… I can’t look at the flag…

… And never again will I sing…