Most rock is made by a “he”, so “she” comes up a lot as a foil, some more blunt than others. Here’s five of my favorite examples:
1. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, The Police
I know that funerals aren’t supposed to be entertaining, but I really love this song, and it is the soundtrack to a death of The Police, the best song on their first totally pop-sounding offering. Even though the entire album marks a total departure from the power-trio sound all the previous albums benefited from, I always thought the piano part in “Everything…” really added to its overall vibe. Little did I know that it added nothing but poison for the band; Sting asked Jean Roussel to play the piano part against the others’ wishes, and the demo, with Sting and the piano only, became the actual album track, making Copeland and Summers dub their parts in like studio musicians. Oops.
The words “she” and “her” do their job without too much fretting, making sure the listener doesn’t accidentally think that every little thing all females do is magic, but just one in particular. Phew! By the time we get to the line, “I resolved to call her up”, you really get the sense that the speaker is a little untrustworthy in his narration. Maybe “she” got wind of all that Tantric sex nonsense Sting practices(really, I love a ham sandwich, but I don’t want to eat one for five hours).
2. “She”, The Monkees
Yes, the soundtrack to another death, but this one was a mercy killing. “She” is the first song on the dismissive album, More Of The Monkees. Dismissed by the creative force of the band, Mike Nesmith, because More Of The Monkees was cobbled together without the band’s knowledge. Dismissed by Don Kirshner, who was big-upping the team of writers he had collected for the album more than the actual band. Dismissed by the powers of style by using a left-over photo for a JC Penny catalog shoot as the album cover.
The album isn’t half bad… it’s 7/12th bad. But the five good tracks are Monkee standards, “She” being among them. The Monkees wouldn’t do another album with Kirshner, which ended up being just fine.
You should know better than examine lyrics too closely when your fave rave is a pop star, but I can only imagine the angry mob of girls simultaneously listening to this opening track on the day of its release, mad at the imaginary “she” treating Mickey like dirt. The speaker seems bewildered enough; “she” is a snob that treats him like garbage, but he wants and needs her, made evident by saying it over and over in the poorly-constructed bridge. Oh well; at least Mickey Dolenz is saying it, and not Davy Jones. And at least this post isn’t about “girl” instead of “she”; the held-out “girl” in the chorus of the More Of The Monkees stinker “Hold On Girl” is excruciating.
3. “Queen Bitch”, David Bowie
Oh God, I can remember the day that all of the gays in Fayetteville finally got around to referring to other guys as “her” and “she”. The guys tending at “my” bar started it, saying things like, “she paid $200 for a God-damned t-shirt”, and “I told her, ‘look, queen’…”. I was mortified. I signed up for being gay, not being a girl. I was into “he’s”, not “she’s”. I had a beard, for Christ’s sake.
Of course, calling guys feminine pronouns had been going on for a long time before that in the gay community. In “Queen Bitch”? I honestly don’t know. I’ve read the lyrics. I know that the song is a kinda-sorta nod to Lou Reed, whose proclivities certainly delve into the genderfucked. Am I being nieve? Moot point, really; this song rules, and the “she” works as a pejorative as well as for an honest-to-goodness lady. This song gives me the added bonuses of always thinking of my grandpa when Bowie pulls out the 12-string(even though he would be aghast at the comparison) and thinking of this as Joey’s “go-to” song on Rock Band. Get her.
4. “She”, Marianne Faithful
This song beat out another couple of tracks(an opportunity to expound on my budding KISS fascination, an opportunity to talk about how well Hall and Oates withstand the test of time, and an opportunity to go full-fucking blast on The Misfits) because I wanted to make a statement about influence.
I’ve recently read a post on another website that talked about being honest about influence. Even though I believe it is important to be honest about your influences, the author seemed to get the idea of influence crossed with the idea of inspiration. He claimed Mad Magazine and Motley Crue as influences, but went on to describe the effect they had on him as more inspirational than influential. I had a subscription to Mad Magazine from the third grade to the seventh, and it was terribly inspiring, but I can’t claim it to be influential. If I had to pick writing influences for this blog it would point, mainly because of the hyperbolic nature of the act of fandom, toward sports humorists. The same goes for my other creative writing ventures; e.e. cummings and William S. Burroughs may be the most inspiring literary figures in my life, but Gerard Manly Hopkins and Tom Robbins were more influential.
So, to the point: Angelo Badalamenti is a huge influence for me, probably to the point of nausea to my former bandmates.
5. “Cortez The Killer”, Neil Young
The most brilliant use of “she” since Eve is “Cortez The Killer”– a six-minute buildup to the word itself.
First you have the sinister beginning of the song, full of sustained and overdriven notes from Young’s guitar measuring out the space between the sparse backing band, meandering past that golden mean point, giving a feeling of abandonment, that the lyrics will never come in. And when they do come in, there is ample use of the pronouns “he” and “they”, building the story of Cortez and his invasion of the Aztec people. The lyrical content stays a focused, historical narrative about Cortez and the Aztecs right up to the point that Neil Young says the word “she”: about six minutes into a seven minute song.
Young is a master of the subtle play of anachronism in his lyrics, from the spaceships of “Ride My Llama” and the Vonnegut-esque mashup of “After The Gold Rush” to Jesus with the troops in “Soldier”, and to be suddenly be brought into what feels to be present day during the shift in “Cortez The Killer”‘s lyrics would be surprising enough. It is more striking, though, that the entire narrative of the Cortez/Aztec story becomes mere place setting for a lost love. Suddenly the long, spacious chords in the beginning become a bit less sinister, a bit more forlorn. Suddenly the horrible nature of Cortez and the greatness of the Aztec culture are diminished in the wake of a revelation of love. And just to drive the emotion home, the song ends with the speaker using the pronoun “I”; ultimately the song becomes a testimony to how “he” made a mistake and lost “she”.
It’s powerful enough to me that in some forlorn moments I find myself singing along and replacing the “she” with “he”, just to feel connected to the emotional weight of love losses I’ve endured. I couldn’t ask for a better job at making a person, identified by only a pronoun, matter thematically, regardless of gender.