I’d been a poorly-informed fan of Casper and the Cookies ever since I randomly downloaded “Sneaky Snake” sometime last year, but their release this year, The Optimist’s Club, sealed the deal.
After doing on on very short notice, Jason emailed me back and said that he spent “way too much time” on his theme. That much is apparent due to the crazy amount of thought he put into his gender-bending mix. Enjoy!
“Gender-intact Songs: An Aborted Thesis” by Casper Fandango of Casper and the Cookies
Ever since the dawn of poetry men and women have sung songs to attract a mate, but when a woman sings a song written from a man’s perspective (or vice versa) the temptation exists to rewrite the words for the sex of the singer. For example, “To Know Him Is To Love Him” performed with a female lead by The Teddy Bears was changed into “To Know Her is to Love Her” by the Beatles.
Often a songwriter will write with another voice in mind, as is the case with the Phil Spector penned “To Know Him/Her”. The gender switch doesn’t seem to compromise the integrity of that song, but some songs should not be messed with.
I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of recordings of songs written from the perspective of one sex and sung from the other. This doesn’t really happen much in pop music, which places such an emphesis on the sexual attraction of the singer, but it happens all the time in folk music. That’s going to make this list a little on the melancholy side, so shed your libido and keep some kleenex nearby.
This list shies away from songs or covers that purposefully play with gender, such as the Raincoat’s cover of the Kinks’ “Lola” or Patti Smith’s version of Van Morrison’s “Gloria.” Those are both great, so by all means seek them out. But we’re talking about performances that do not use sex to sensationalize. This also rules out the Magnetic Fields’ “Reno Dakota”, “Come Back from San Francisco” and about 67 others from 69 Love Songs. Besides, we’ve all heard those, right?
MP3: The Roches – Steady With The Maestro
This is the song that instigated the list. An overlooked gem even by Roches standards, this song is another instance where most people hear it and think it’s goofy, and I think it’s beautiful and sad. Songwriter George Gerdes writes from the perspective of a second violinist who had in the past an occasional fling with the wife of the conductor. As he reminisces he cracks jokes to hide his sorrow, a technique which invariably fails. Beautifully arranged and performed by Maggie (who I think sings lead), Terre and Suzzy Roche with assistance from their producer, Robert Fripp.
MP3: K. McCarty – I Had a Dream
In the liner notes to Dead Dog’s Eyeball: Songs of Daniel Johnston Kathy McCarty states she “did not change the pronouns in songs where [she] felt it would damage the integrity of the song.” “I Had a Dream” sports typically under-edited, childlike and heavily emotional Johnston lyrics, and McCarty and co. do a fantastic job of colorizing Johnston’s scribbly songs. The whole album is frighteningly good.
MP3: Kate Bush – Cloudbursting
A rare example of a female singer/songwriter writing from a male perspective. “Cloudbursting” seems to be a father-son drama with a science-fiction bent. Kate may play the son in the video, but I don’t think she means to imply that the son is actually a daughter.
MP3: John Prine – Angel from Montgomery
An even rarer example of male singer/songwriter writing from a female perspective. I’m sure there are others, but where? This song about a woman trapped in a passionless life will break your heart many times over.
MP3: Randy Newman – Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father
Okay, I did find another example, Randy Newman’s “Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father,” but it doesn’t rate a download. I really love Randy, but that song is so slight it just about disappears while you’re listening to it. Not one of his best by a long shot.
MP3: The Raincoats – Lola
Well, sh*t. I was trying to keep this all academic and sh*t. But the plain fact is that there aren’t enough songs that fit this criteria that I like! I mean, there’s that song by White Town called “Your Woman”, but that sucks! So… let’s go ahead and put the Raincoats version of “Lola” on here, anyway, what the hell!
Day 7: Sure Juror
Day 6: Ryan Allen of Thunderbirds Are Now!
Day 5: Michael Nau of Page France
Day 4: Greg from Oh No! Oh My!
Day 3: Tony Miller of Ideal Free Distribution
Day 2: Ivana XL
Day 1: Daniel of Oh No! Oh My!
Mixmas 05 (MP3 links don’t work)
Day 13: Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal
Day 12: Keith Murray of We Are Scientists
Day 11: Justin Rice of Bishop Allen
Day 10: Becca from The Light Footwork
Day 9: Jay from The Light Footwork
Day 8: Christian Owens from Bishop Allen
Day 7: The Rinse
Day 6: Chris of Gorilla vs Bear
Day 5: Dodge from My Old Kentucky Blog
Day 4: Ryan Allen of Thunderbirds Are Now!
Day 3: John Vanderslice
Day 2: Tapes ‘n Tapes
Day 1: Dean from Secret Unicorns Forum