Song Of The Day 5/14/2014: John Grant - "Sweet Painted Lady"


Quarterly Covers Report: Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is his most popular and most critically acclaimed long-player (oh, excuse me -- kids, back in the old days they used to call albums "long-players") (oh, geez, forgot -- kids, back in the old days they used to call playlists "albums," and they were usually made up of songs generally recorded around the same time by one artist) (ahhhh crap -- kids, "artists" were... oh, never mind). It's also one of the most spectacularly packaged albums of all time. (Aforementioned kids: Albums used to come in packages other than your phone.)

Swaddled in pre-adolescent fantasy as conferred upon post-war British kids via American movies, mostly Westerns, GYBR is a just-incisive-enough referendum on the shallowness of pop culture, with characters either afraid or dispensing of emotional ties, in hopes such opportunities will eventually present themselves in the form of robust entertainment, thrilling escapades and iconic fame. Of course that's not what happens, and over the course of the album the splintered cast comes to lugubrious resolutions about the failed connections and tarped dreams they once hoped to enact beneath the glittery facade of the colonies. Which is basically a very long way of saying GYBR has a lot of hookers.

Some of the hookers aren't necessarily peddling sex (the title cut), at least not in terms of making housecalls ("Candle in the Wind"), and they're not necessarily doing it for money ("All the Girls Love Alice"), though I'm not sure what other motives might be (uh..."Jamaica Jerk-Off"?). But "Sweet Painted Lady" is unambiguously about prostitution, specifically an establishment that caters to the naval market that will "leave the smell of the sea in your beds." You could whip the pathos with a cat-o-nine-tails. It's just one muted trumpet part short of Sweet Charity.

The 40th anniversary reissue of GYBR came out a couple of months ago, and features covers of selected tracks by some of today's Most Valuable Pop Units, like Hunter Hayes and Fall Out Boy. John Grant -- who really is extremely valuable -- had a turn with "Sweet Painted Lady." You can hear the beds creaking, or is that the collective American psyche?

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