Saturday, 30 July 2011

Chic - I Want Your Love (1979/ No. 4/ 11 weeks/ Atlantic)


Hearing this song in its original March 1979 top ten context on Pick of the Pops is an instructive experience. Surrounding it are many records that I really like, and could easily write about instead (The Players Association, Squeeze, The Real Thing, Elvis Costello, Gloria Gaynor) but even so, this immediately stands apart, as a more serious and higher order of being than anything alongside it. Why should this be?

I'm not sure that there have ever been another group of musicians who I react to quite as deeply as I do with Chic. Is it the bass or the guitar that's leading the tune? The thing really is dependent on the interplay between them... Bernard Edwards' bassline seems to slow down time, make the experience more sonorous and make the song a really autonomous world that the listener is inhabiting - and then Nile Rogers' guitar keeps things moving, frisky. Both instruments are always playing to each other as much as combining to create a tune. You're following two different lines of feeling that are entwining around each other. And then the drumming gives the whole thing a pulse.

What is unique about this is that there is so much going on in this music, so much fascinating and joyous detail, and yet it seems so spacious and uncluttered. The arrangement is clever, too, strings, brass and bells are all thrillingly deployed but very sparingly used.

And what a song this is! You could perform it a capella and it would still be pretty devastating;


Do you feel ?
Like you ever want ?
To try my love ?
And see how well it fits?
Baby can't you see?
When you look at me
I can't kick this feelin'
When it hits
All alone
In my bed at night
I grab my pillow
And squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze it tight
I think of you
And I dream of you
All the time
What am I gonna do?

The song that supports all of this magnificence is so simple, so unembellished, that it is always an uneasy, personal thing to hear, no matter where or when you hear it, as if its being sung directly to you, or you're being made to imagine yourself singing it.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Sandie Shaw - Girl Don't Come (1964/ No. 3/ 12 weeks/ Pye)

This single demonstrates the largely-forgotten value of supa-concision in the construction of pop songs. In only just over two minutes the situation is set up;


"You have a date for half past eight tonight
Some distant bell starts chiming nine
You wanna see her...
You wanna see her, oh yeah!...
So you wait
You wait and wait...
Girl don't come..."

Verse swings into chorus in an instant! Just to rub it in, Shaw then expounds upon what you must be feeling;

"You've been stood up!
Tears fill your eyes! (oh oh oh)
You're hurt inside!
You wanna die! (oh oh oh)"

Yes, thank you, Sandie, that's highly accurate appraisal of the situation.

Something rather marvellous then happens in this song. Years of pop listening have attuned our minds to expect some kind of final act reversal - she turns up, apologising for being late, you see her with another man, that type of thing. Rather more interestingly 'Girl Don't Come' just stops dead. You know that she's not going to come. How much longer shall I stay here waiting? This absence of songwriterly embellishment is actually a lot more true to life, and makes this the definitive song about being stood up.

A word as well about the masterstroke of getting Sandie to sing this in the second person, addressed to a man. How much less engaging this song would be if she had to put personal empathy into singing it about herself. Instead, the rather blank and fierce delivery of a blank-faced striking Dagenham teenage beauty, certainly not overflowing with emotive empathy, accentuates the female inconsideration and harshness of the world as shown in the song.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Suzi Quatro - She's In Love With You (1979/ No. 11/ 9 weeks/ RAK)


1979? She was still having hits that late? Wholly deserved though. An interesting single for two reasons;

The sheer joyousness of the music -

"She's in love with you!
(bass goes dumdadalumdumdadalum! - drums go fump! clik!
That's all she wants to do!
(dumdadalumdumdadalum! fump! clik!)
She'll never let you down!
She'll never fool around!
Cos she's in love with you!
(dumdadalumdumdadalum! fump! clik!)"

- not to mention the masterstroke of the continuous Hammond organ drone, like Focus or the like.

It also has a deeper, lexical, fascination. Songs declaring somebody else's love are surprisingly rare - 'She Loves You' being is the obvious example - especially when you consider how integral "My mate fancies you" is to schooldays courtship. Suzi offers a lot of special pleading on behalf of the 'she' who she's lobbying for;

"So if you happen to be out one night
and someone asks you where you're gonna go
Just remember she's not like the other girls
she may not want them all to know
Though she may need a little time
she never wants to stand in line
the way they would
So treat her nice!
Treat her good!
Treat her like you know you should!
You may never find another girl like her"

The note of caution is always apparent. There is a real sense of lived experience, and misfortune, to the message. Suzi brilliantly manages to convey both the joy of the lovestruck girl, and the worldy wisdom of the woman who's been around.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Donna Summer - Down Deep Inside (1977/ No. 5/ 10 weeks/ Casablanca)

"Down deep inside
there's a place in me
I'm yearning to explore"

Written by John Barry, not Giorgio Moroder this time, but the great soundtrack man has learnt a trick or two from the disco king. All of the great Summer singles have an extraordinary effect on perception in replicating an altered state through tempo and instrumentation; 'Love To Love' ever more unfurling and internal and orgasmic, 'I Feel Love' with its combination of refraction and motorik movement replicating the dislocating moment when body, thoughts and feelings start to go out of synch with each other.

"something warm is turning inside of me"

'Deep' creates the sensation of feeling oceanic, swimming or sexual. The cricket chirps make it fussy and tropical, but then that central section where it all dissolves into aqueous dub before the strings re-emerge like the Titanic's bow port. And then the waves start to roar..

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

London Boys - Requiem (1988/ No. 4/ 21 weeks/ Warners)


Oh, poor dear departed London Boys, two huge hits in 1989, both dead in a car crash in 1996, forgotten in 2011.

This is gloriously crass mid-tempo Hi-NRG with a very effective contrast between the guttural Euro "rapping" and the speeded-up 1969 ballad choruses.

It sounds like an accelerated Yello, if such a thing were divinely possible.

It is crammed with diverse hooks which should jar horribly, but don't; the cathedral organ, the echoing and plangent desert guitar, the 'Johnny Remember Me' spectral chorus, the constant -

"Never gonna get enough
Never gonna get enough"

- and, underneath everything, the stammering "I - I - I - I love you”s, giving the song a vulnerability and heart that makes you feel that something is at stake.

I'm not entirely sure that they'd looked up the word requiem in the dictionary when they wrote it, but it doesn't matter because this is a great affirming YES! to life and love - performed by two sadly dead men.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Laura Branigan - Gloria (1982/ No. 6/ 13 weeks/ Atlantic)

Jarvis Cocker has clearly heard this song...

From the Guardian obituary of Laura Branigan (31st August 2004);

"Her first and biggest hit, in 1982, was the Grammy-nominated Gloria. It was an English language version of a then recent Italian hit sung by Umberto Tozzi composed by Tozzi and Giancarlo Bigazzi. It was given an arrangement in the power ballad style pioneered in America by Pat Benatar and the music video of the song showed Branigan, in the spirit of the Eighties, in black spandex trousers and knee-high boots with a single discoball spinning above her head. Gloria remained in the United States top 40 for 22 weeks in 1982 and peaked at number two. It was also a British top 10 hit."


Only God and Italian speakers know what this song was about in the original version, but in translation, this might be the most berserk thing in pop history in translation;

Gloria (Gloria!)
I think they got your NUM-BER! (Gloria!)
I think they got the A-LI-AS! (Gloria!)
That you've been living UN-DER! (Gloria!)

Tremendous! And what happens to Gloria (is she on the run? Is she about to throw her youth away on an unworthy man?) is clearly of the utmost importance and significance Laura Branigan.

I know very few records as likely to cheer me up and take me out of myself as 'Gloria'.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Primitives - Crash (1988/ No. 5/ 10 weeks/ Lazy)

Was there ever a more made-up music scene than Blondism? The fevered invention of one romantic Melody Maker journalist, Chris Roberts, the blondist scene only ever consisted of three bands, none of whom recognised themselves as belonging to it. They were; The Primitives, from Coventry, who even went so far as to have a proper hit, the ludicrous all-male Birdland, also from Coventry, and the much-derided Darling Buds, a kind of slightly superior Welsh Primitives with a less convincingly glamorous singer.

As a philosophy, blondism had an essential truth behind it, though: that some of the best pop is created through reinvention of the self. The act of dying your hair works as a public significant gesture of re-imagining yourself as a figure of mystique. Crucially though, this means dying your hair a proper no-turning-back peroxide blonde and doing something with it - not some bland off-yellow shoulder length thing. Its a strategy that almost always works for young women, too. (Not so well for men, though! When I was a teenager, I always daydreamed about doing it, but I knew that it wouldn't transform me into David Sylvian)

This act of blonde reinvention works as a signifier of the wider imaginative process of an interesting adolescence. The process of wishing yourself to become someone, trying on different attitudes, and discovering that eventually people recognise yourself as that person who you've been pretending to be. So Crash works because it takes an pop scenario as old as the hills - telling an unsatisfactory boyfriend to fuck off - but has a redoubled force to it, in being sung by a recognisably ordinary girl who's been around the block, but also one who happens to be a glamorous pop star - the wonderfully named Tracy Tracy!

Crash is also a rare example of bombastic eighties production assisting a song, rather than battering it. Jangling guitars can often sound a bit weedy and indie, but here every tickle and curlicue is loud and clear, able to delight even the least attentive listener. It doesn't outstay its welcome, either - two and a half minutes is the proper length for most pop ideas, a lesson that was becoming increasingly forgotten by 1988. Handclaps are almost invariably a good idea, too.

Tracy delivers each line with a bored sigh of exasperation;

Here you go! Way too fast!
Don't slow down - Ya gonna cra-a-sh!
You should watch! Watch your step!
Don't look out - Gonna break your neck!
So shut! Shut ya mouth!
Coz I'm not listening anyhow
I've had enuff! Nuff of you!
Enough to last a lifetime through...
So what? Do? You want of me?
Got no words of sympathy!

The boyfriend has, inevitably, "been runnin' all over town", Tracy having rightly decided that staying with him offers "no cure for misery". The chorus is, once heard, never forgotten;

Na na na na na!
Na na na na naaa!
Slow down ya gonna cra-a-ash!
Na na na na na!
Na na na na naaa!
Slow down ya gonna cra-a-ash!

"Na na na na na!" should ideally be delivered sticking out your tongue and thumbing your nose, Tracy deriving obvious pleasure from the idea of the boyfriend in a horrific crash.

The brash brilliance of this chorus has given the song an extended afterlife forevermore for unimaginative British television researchers, for whom it shall always accompany amusing footage of bad driving for the rest of eternity.

Crash was sadly not the start of a long and illustrious career for The Primitives. Three minor hits followed, two of which - 'I'm Gonna Leave You Way Behind Me' and 'I'm Sick Of It' - bear certain formal similarities with Crash. 'Way Behind Me' also suffered the ignominious fate of having some sales rescinded for chart-rigging, because those copies came with a free sachet of shampoo, hair forming an essential component of the Primitives package. Perhaps their fate was sealed in the 1989 promotion for Sick Of It when Tracy returned as a redhead. It just wasn't what we expected of her.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Wayne Gibson - Under My Thumb (1974/ No. 17/ 11 weeks/ Pye)

Recorded in 1965, but not a hit until 1974, when this beat boom cover version became a Northern Soul floor filler... Though as it was released on 'Pye Disco Demand', a label derided by Northern Soul purists, perhaps it never had much of a cognoscenti Wigan Casino audience.

There's a fascination to functional recordings of songs. In 1965 Wayne Gibson's management must have thought that his best chance of making a name for himself would have been through rushing out a single version of a current Rolling Stones album track. Hence the frenetic, panicked, rushed quality of this. While in the Stones version you're enticed by the chiming quality of the xylophones, here you can't escape from a churning, queasy, supa-compressed-sounding Farfisa organ. The guitars scrape the riffs like a wire brush. Gibson sounds like he's at a pitch of high emotion, unlike the more saturnine menace of Mick Jagger.

The result of this is that all of the shadows and desperation of what may be Jagger & Richards' most misogynist song are accelerated in this version, stripped of any mask of cool, but become an intense dervish dance of wounded feeling, hard to tear yourself away from.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Ten.


This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE TEN.

(Evening.)

SIMON. So is that human's can't hear giraffes, or that they haven't got anything to say?

ANNA. Neither. They haven't got any vocal chords.

KIRSTY. Well, they don't need to speak, do they? Everybody can see them.

SIMON. I like giraffes.

ANNA. You are a giraffe. I like seals.

SIMON. You're not a seal.

ANNA. No. What do you like?

KIRSTY. People, some people anyway. Ur, deer perhaps. Deer and horses.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. So what do we do now?

SIMON. Drink this tonight, sleep, and go home tomorrow.

KIRSTY. Once we get home.

ANNA. Carry on.

KIRSTY. As before?

ANNA. Yes.

KIRSTY. But it won't be the same though, will it?

SIMON. We understand each other now.

KIRSTY. But that doesn't mean that things will be any better.

(Silence.)

ANNA. You could live with us.

KIRSTY. In the same house?

ANNA. Yes.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. What do you think about this?

SIMON. If it's what Anna wants.

KIRSTY. Yes, but what do you want?

SIMON. Whatever Anna wants.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Why do you want this?

ANNA. The thing about relationships -

KIRSTY. I don't like that dreary word.

(Pause.)

SIMON. What word do you prefer?

KIRSTY. Something purer. Bond. Association. Either that or something daring and flirtatious. Affair. Liason.

(Pause.)

ANNA. The thing about associations is that they automatically give your life so much more depth. And once you've gained that depth you can't loose it, you can't leave it. At least I can't.

KIRSTY. But is it useful, this... space?

ANNA. Yes.

KIRSTY. But I want to get stuff done.

ANNA. So do I.

KIRSTY. By myself.

ANNA. So do I.

(Pause.)

ANNA. But there's a great wide ocean of people and I want to experience it.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Put like that, that does sound rather... promiscuous.

KIRSTY. Promiscuous?

SIMON. Sorry.

(Pause.)

ANNA. No. What do you mean?

SIMON. Only that the sea can be a filthy, polluted place, treacherous and dangerous.

ANNA. Alright then , maybe not the ocean. But I want to have my own lagoon. And it's a clean and warm and understanding place, and it's fathoms deep. And you are both a part of it, and I love the deep, soft, pure lagoon, and I love, love, both of you, my two friends.

(Silence.)

SIMON. In a semi-detached house, five minutes away from the high street?

ANNA. Well, why not? It's living, isn't it?

SIMON. It is that.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. So you're saying that we should become a trio?

ANNA. Yes!

SIMON. A threesome?

ANNA. A trinity!

SIMON. } Right.
}
KIRSTY.} Right!

(Silence)

ENDS

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Nine.


This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE NINE.


(Morning. Simon and Anna entwined asleep together on sofa. Enter Kirsty.)

SIMON. Oh hello.

(Silence.)

KIRSTY. Morning.

SIMON. Wake up Anna. C'mon.

(He softly shakes her awake. Anna has a beautific expression on her face as she rouses, which then becomes confused.)

ANNA. Hello.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Morning.

(Simon extricates himself and rises to his feet.)

SIMON. Did you get the things?

KIRSTY. Yes.

SIMON. Great. I'll start cooking.

(Exit Simon.)

KIRSTY. What was all that about?

ANNA. We fell asleep.

KIRSTY. I could see that.

ANNA. It wasn't anything more.

KIRSTY. So how did you get to be on top of each other?

ANNA. We were embracing.

(Pause.)

ANNA. It was the first time that we'd talked together properly.

KIRSTY. Was it?

ANNA. Things are better because of it.

KIRSTY. Are they?

ANNA. Yes. They are.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. I don't feel any better.

ANNA. How do you feel?

KIRSTY. Worse. I don't know where I stand anymore.

ANNA. None of us do.

KIRSTY. I was unhappy, and now I'm bewildered. I'm going back to bed.

ANNA. No. Don't.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Talk.

KIRSTY. Talking doesn't do anything, does it?

(Kirsty starts to depart and cathces her foot on something.)

KIRSTY. Owwwwh!

ANNA. What is it?

KIRSTY. Who left this glass on the floor?

ANNA. Let's have a look.

(Kirsty sits on the floor and proffers her foot to Anna.)

ANNA. That's nasty. Simon!

SIMON. (Off) Yes?

ANNA. Could you fetch the bandages, please?

KIRSTY. No it's alright.

ANNA. Don't be silly.

KIRSTY. Ooooh.

(Kirsty sits on the sofa. Anna kneels at foot.)

KIRSTY. How on earth did broken glass get on the floor anyway?

ANNA. You dropped a bottle last night.

KIRSTY. I did?

ANNA. You did.

KIRSTY. Oh. Thank god for that.

ANNA. Eh?

KIRSTY. No I just thought that I'd been sick.

ANNA. What made you think that?

KIRSTY. You said that Simon had to mop the floor.

ANNA. No don't worry about last night. You were fine.

KIRSTY. Oh good.

(Enter Simon.)

SIMON. Found the bandages. Sorry about that. I couldn't find a dustpan and brush last night. Excuse me.

(Exit Anna.)

SIMON. Now brace yourself because this is going to sting.

KIRSTY. Of course it is, I do know, you know. You're such a teacher!

SIMON. Sorry. How are you feeling?

KIRSTY. Confused.

SIMON. I think we all are.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. I want to go home.

SIMON. Me too.

KIRSTY. I don't know what things are going to be like once we get there, though.

SIMON. Nor do I.

KIRSTY. Can't you say anything more useful?

SIMON. No. Sorry.

KIRSTY. It's alright.

SIMON. Things will be different, I'm sure of that. I suppose that, probably, they might even not be much worse.

KIRSTY. I'm scared.

SIMON. So am I.

(Pause.)

SIMON. This what things are like with Anna. I knew that I was never going to settle down to a life of mediocrity with her. You always feel... on your guard, I suppose.

KIRSTY. Mm.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Where is she, anyway?

SIMON. I think that she went out for a swim. She was very tired earlier.

KIRSTY. What was she doing in your arms?

SIMON. Sleeping. There was nothing more to it than that.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Are you happy with her?

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Not about all this, but generally?

(Pause.)

SIMON. I always feel very involved with Anna. When I think that things are going well, then I'm extremely happy.

KIRSTY. But you never can tell.

SIMON. Not with Anna, no.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Still, we wouldn't want her any other way, would we?

SIMON. No.

KIRSTY. No!

SIMON. I wonder what she'll say tonight.

KIRSTY. Hm.

SIMON. Come on. Let's make some gazpacho.

KIRSTY. Okay.

(They exit, Kirsty hobbling.)

Next -
Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Ten.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Eight.


This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE EIGHT.

(The next morning. Simon and Anna at table. Enter Kirsty, the worse for wear.)

KIRSTY. Owwwwwh Godd! Sorry, you're not going to get much out of me this morning.

ANNA. Oh we prepared for that.

KIRSTY. Eh?

(Anna points to a large glass of something lurid and cloudy, held by Simon.)

KIRSTY. What is that?

ANNA. I wouldn't ask if I was you.

SIMON. Take it. Close your eyes if you don't like the look of it. Now I want you to be brave and drink it all without coming up for air.

KIRSTY. I can't drink that!

SIMON. Do you want to carry on feeling like you do now?

KIRSTY. Uh uh.

(Kirsty looks at the glass with disgust, then downs it anyway. For at least the first fifteen seconds after finishing it she looks worse than she did before, on the verge of throwing up. Simon is unpeturbed by this. Anna is amused. Kirsty starts to shake vigorously, then stteps up in the glow of health.)

KIRSTY. Wha...

SIMON. I do have my uses.

KIRSTY. That was fantastic! What is it made out of?

SIMON. Trade secret.

KIRSTY. Where did you get it from?

SIMON. My grandfather used to own a bar.

KIRSTY. Wow!

(Pause.)

ANNA. Can you remember last night?

KIRSTY. Yes. We were talking about what we wanted to do when we grow up.

ANNA. And after that?

KIRSTY. We drank a toast to life.

ANNA. And after that?

KIRSTY. We decided to open another bottle. Then... oh.

ANNA. You keeled over.

KIRSTY. Did I?

SIMON. We had to carry you into bed.

(Exit Simon.)

KIRSTY. I don't remember that.

ANNA. I'm not surprised.

KIRSTY. Was I asleep?

ANNA. No. You were very talkative, in fact.

KIRSTY. What was I talking about?

ANNA. Don't worry. You were quite sweet really. I had to undress you.

KIRSTY. Oh.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. What did you do once I was in bed?

ANNA. Me? I went to sleep. Simon did the washing up and mopped the floor.

KIRSTY. Mopped the floor?

ANNA. Yes, he had to.

KIRSTY. (Cautiously) Why?

ANNA. You -

(Re-enter Simon.)

SIMON. What do you fancy eating today?

KIRSTY. Oh. Anything.

ANNA. What would you like to cook?

SIMON. I think that the time has come for me to make my famous gazpacho.

ANNA. Yeah!

KIRSTY. Yeah?

SIMON. Yes. Is there anything else that you want?

ANNA. No.

SIMON. I'll go shopping then.

KIRSTY. I'll do it for you.

SIMON. It's no trouble.

KIRSTY. No I'd like to. The sea air will do me good.

ANNA. Okay. You're sure that you know the way?

KIRSTY. Ur yes.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Well I think so.

SIMON. Shall I draw you a map?

KIRSTY. No. It'll be an adventure.

SIMON. If you're sure.

KIRSTY. Yes. Yes I am.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Think that I might be on my way now, actually.

(She makes to exit, swiftly but clumsily.)

ANNA. Hold on.

KIRSTY. No I'd like to get it done now.

ANNA. No.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Money!

KIRSTY. Oh yes. Silly me.

(Anna gives her some money and looks expectantly at Kirsty. Kirsty looks nonplussed at Anna. Anna pecks Kirsty's cheek. Kirsty is embarrassed to have forgotten. She exits.)

SIMON. It's nice to know that I was of some use to her.

ANNA. You've already said that.

SIMON. Sorry.

ANNA. It's alright.

(Pause.)

ANNA. I'm sorry Simon.

SIMON. What for?

ANNA. I kept on saying that we were going away to talk. Its our last day here now and I find that I still haven't said a word to you.

SIMON. That's okay. You were right to do this. I have learned something.

ANNA. What's that?

SIMON. That there's nothing terribly mysterious about Kirsty. That I do know you well. I feel much better for us doing this.

ANNA. That's good.

SIMON. Don't you?

ANNA. I feel very much the same as before we came here. I suspect that Kirsty might be feeling worse, though.

SIMON. Yes. I think that -

ANNA. Is that why you feel better? Her feeling worse?

SIMON. Now would I -

ANNA. No of course you wouldn't. Sorry.

SIMON. That's okay.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Anyway, she might be like this all the time for all I know. I'd never met her before this week, remember?

ANNA. Yes, I know. Sorry

SIMON. It's alright. It's more difficult for her though, isn't it?

ANNA. Why?

SIMON. We know each other better.

ANNA. I know Kirsty very well.

SIMON. I'm not saying that you don't. Just that... Well, you haven't been here with her before.

ANNA. Is that the only difference?

SIMON. No. We've spent great slices of our lives together when... I hope... we've known each other well.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Haven't we?

ANNA. I know you very well, Simon.

SIMON. I hope that I know you well too.

ANNA. Hope?

(Pause.)

SIMON. When I first met you I was instantly aware that you had...

ANNA. Hidden depths?

SIMON. Not quite. A big secret sapce that you wouldn't share with anyone else. Not out of contrariness, but because no-one could understand you when you were there.

ANNA. Planet Anna, you used to call it.

SIMON. Used to? When did I stop?

ANNA. You haven't used the expression for a couple of years.

SIMON. I've got complacent. I must have forgotten how unknowable you can be.

ANNA. You know me better than anyone else, Simon.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Impertinent and unfair question, I know, but: Better than her?

(Pause.)

SIMON. Sorry. You don't have to answer that.

ANNA. You and Kirsty both know me well. Just in very different ways.

(Pause.)

SIMON. And have you always wanted someone like Kirsty, in all the time that we've been together?

ANNA. Don't pussyfoot around like that, Simon. You don't mean "Someone like Kirsty", you mean a woman.

SIMON. However I phrased that question, it was always going to come out wrong. It's the answer that's important.

(Pause.)

ANNA. I'd forgotten, really. Just the occasional flutter. No action.

(Pause.)

ANNA. I never planned on there being anyone other than you. That's all that matters.

SIMON. What about before we met?

ANNA. I had no intention of living the life that I eventually did.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Then again, I had no specific intentions at all at the time. Or at any time of my life, come to that. But I never expected to end up with a man.

SIMON. So why did you?

ANNA. Because he was you, Simon.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Should I thank you?

ANNA. If you feel that I deserve your thanks.

SIMON. Then thank you. Why me?

ANNA. Because I'd never met anyone like you before. Because you were very sincere. Because I was touched that anyone could be filled with so much love for me.

SIMON. But you didn't fancy me?

ANNA. No.

SIMON. But you learned to with time?

ANNA. No.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Sorry.

(Pause.)

ANNA. I love you. I trust you. I've never resented you.

SIMON. But I thought that you enjoyed it when we're together.

ANNA. You mean fucking.

SIMON. If you like.

ANNA. It's reassuring. It fills me with pleasure. But it's not sexual.

SIMON. Of course it is!

(Pause.)

SIMON. It is for me, anyway.

ANNA. Is it?

SIMON. Yes. What do you mean by that?

ANNA. I'm not sure that I can put it into words.

SIMON. Try.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Not vigorous. Never aggressive.

SIMON. A bantamweight fuck.

ANNA. No! Don't put yourself down. A hug with a penis.

(Pause.)

SIMON. I'm not a penis.

ANNA. An embrace that features a penis, sorry.

(Pause.)

ANNA. I do like it.

SIMON. Because I'm not vigorous or aggressive?

(Silence.)

SIMON. Is she?

ANNA. Secret.

SIMON. Is that why....

ANNA. Not telling.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Is that why what, anyway?

SIMON. Not telling. Why would anyone want to be aggressive if they loved someone?

ANNA. Sweet Simon. You really don't know, do you?

SIMON. No, I don't!

ANNA. You're getting aggressive now!

(Pause.)

ANNA. Show me aggression.

(Pause.)

SIMON. How?

ANNA. Would you like...

(Pause.)

SIMON. No.

ANNA. Go on. Be a tiger!

SIMON. But I'm not a tiger!

ANNA. What are you then?

SIMON. I don't know. A camel? A giraffe?

ANNA. Did you know that giraffes can't speak?

SIMON. No I didn't. Well I never.

ANNA. What am I?

SIMON. Anna.

ANNA. No. What animal?

SIMON. Human.

(Pause.)

ANNA. You're not very passionate, are you?

SIMON. I thought that was why you liked me.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Try.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Now.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Go on.

(Pause.)

ANNA. I want to see what you're like.

(Pause.)

ANNA. We could go to the beach.

SIMON. No.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Why?

SIMON. Because it's not fair.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Why?

SIMON. It's not fair to Kirsty. She needs to sleep with you more than I do.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Don't be so reasonable.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Okay. It's not fair on me, either.

ANNA. Why?

SIMON. You can't expect me to change after so many years. Especially when I haven't done anything wrong.

ANNA. Don't be so.... certain.

SIMON. Okay. Most importantly, it's not fair on you.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Why?

SIMON. Because you don't really want to.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Yes, I do.

SIMON. This moment, perhaps. But you don't need to, and it wouldn't do any of us any good.

ANNA. If you say so.

SIMON. I do.

(Silence.)

ANNA. But don't you need to?

SIMON. I need to love you.

(Pause.)

SIMON. I need to be loved by you. I don't need to have sex with you for that.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Don't ever leave. That's all. Don't leave.

ANNA. I won't.

SIMON. Promise?

ANNA. Promise.

(Silent embrace.)

ANNA. We're a curious couple, aren't we?

SIMON. We are. But we are a couple.

ANNA. A pair.

SIMON. A duo.

ANNA. A twosome.

(Simon ruffles Anna's hair.)

SIMON. Silly mare.

ANNA. Is that my animal?

Next -
Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Nine.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Seven.


This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE SEVEN.

(Evening. At table. The mood is drunk for Simon and Kirsty, tipsy for Anna.)

KIRSTY. No no, I've always loved the idea of communal living. Just to think, to base your whole life 'round sharing, helping, trusting, especially if you were all living together towards a common aim. You'd feel so productive, so fulfilled. I've always thought that would be great.

SIMON. So have you ever tried to put this plan into action, then?

KIRSTY. God no. There aren't enough people who I like enough to live with.

SIMON. So do you think that it could ever work for you?

KIRSTY. Yes it could. 'Course it could!

ANNA. When?

KIRSTY. If I could select everyone else myself, then it would work.

SIMON. So have you ever tried to... audition for a commune?

KIRSTY. No. Sad, isn't it?

(They all laugh.)

KIRSTY. It's just that when I was fourteen that's what I wanted my life to be like. And you can't forget things like that.

SIMON. Oh well. At least you can look upon your dream as being the mark of a quality adolescence. 'Cause at least you wanted to do something interesting with your life, even you didn't succeed. Sometimes, when I'm teaching -

KIRSTY. No! No! But I did manage it!

SIMON. But you're not living in a commune, are you?

KIRSTY. But I am doing something interesting with my life.

SIMON. Yes?

KIRSTY. Yeah! I am actually. Wouldn't you say that this was interesting?

SIMON. It is that.

KIRSTY. Well, then.

SIMON. Sorry. I wasn't saying that you weren't interesting, Kirsty. I just like asking questions.

KIRSTY. A lot of people might find that rude.

SIMON. Teacher's habit.

KIRSTY. I think that if myself when I was fourteen could see me now, then she'd be proud.

ANNA. That's good!

SIMON. Why's that then?

KIRSTY. Because she'd see someone who works for herself, doesn't have to answer to anyone, doing something creative, honest to herself, honest to the world, with an astonishing lover -

SIMON. Yes, put like that I can see how you might feel pleased with yourself.

KIRSTY. What about you?

SIMON. What about me?

KIRSTY. How would fourteen year-old Simon consider you know?

SIMON. What a frightening prospect. What I wanted at the time was always overshadowed by what I expected, or rather what I feared.

KIRSTY. What were you afraid of?

SIMON. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of being overlooked.

ANNA. I wasn't.

SIMON. Yes, I know that you weren't. Right from the first moment that I met you I knew: There's a woman who won't be alone. Always carrying a crowd with her.

ANNA. Well, not always.

SIMON. You've never had a time when you've not been wanted.

KIRSTY. What did you want to happen to you when you were fourteen, Anna?

ANNA. I didn't.

KIRSTY. You must have!

ANNA. No. It's pointless to think about the future -

SIMON. - Oh, that reminds me, you still haven't paid those National Insurance contributions.

ANNA. (Ignoring Simon's comment) - The only thing that you can be sure of is that its not going to turn out how you expect.

SIMON. But weren't you ever afraid of the future?

ANNA. Why would I be afraid?

SIMON. Of being alone?

ANNA. No. If you're truly happy in a crowd then you'll be happy on your own, too. You have to make the best of things.

KIRSTY. Is that your philosophy?

ANNA. No, I'm not clever enough to have a philosophy. I just think that we're lucky. We have food, we have clothes, we have houses, we have health. Isn't that enough? Here! Toast!

SIMON. Where?

KIRSTY. To what?

SIMON. Oh...

ANNA. To life!

KIRSTY. To our life.

SIMON. To life, old life itself.

ANNA.
}
KIRSTY. Cheers!
}
SIMON.


Next -
Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Eight.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Six.


This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE SIX

(Beach. Simon and Kirsty look out to the sea, where Anna is swimming. They are tipsy.)

SIMON. She's beautiful, isn't she?

KIRSTY. Mmm. There's something about a swimming woman.

SIMON. There is when it's Anna.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. I love her hair.

SIMON. God yes. Have you seen her just after a haircut yet?

KIRSTY. No?

SIMON. There's a real ritual to it. When its just been cut it's not exactly severe... but it is... gamine. Tufty. I call her the fawn. And then it takes four months to grow into the floppy, curtainy thing that she's got now.

KIRSTY. So there's a cycle to it.

SIMON. Whenever I remember something that we did together I can always recall what stage her hair was at at that time. Whereas mine is always short and I'd imagine that yours is consistently long.

(Pause.)

SIMON. I touched her hair once.

KIRSTY. Once?

SIMON. Well, many times since then. But for the first six months or so that I knew Anna I never really touched her. She did put her head on my shoulder on the first night that I properly talked to her though. She was drunk. I can remember thinking: "Please. This is so good. This beautiful, delicate, heavy weight entrusted to me. This is all that I want from life."

(They are each lost in their own dreams.)

KIRSTY. So when did you touch her hair?

SIMON. We were talking about hair at the time, so I felt that I was permitted to. It was such a... I can remember feeling two simultaneous impulses that I'd never felt together before.

KIRSTY. What were they?

SIMON. I wanted to burst into tears and have a raging erection.

KIRSTY. And did you?

SIMON. I was composed enough to prevent either reaction. But I wanted to.

KIRSTY. Anna can have a powerful effect on people.

SIMON. She can.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Was it love at first sight?

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. I think so. It was certainly something that I'd never felt before.

SIMON. Where did you meet?

KIRSTY. The gallery cafe. A Friday. It was crowded, hectic, but I was feeling quite calm, almost like I was expecting something momentous to happen. Not though it usually does, except that this time it did, because this woman walked in, and when she opened the door, she did in such an elegant, considered, happy way -

SIMON. Anna has got a way with furniture, hasn't she? I sometimes think that she can turn any object into a part of herself.

KIRSTY. Yes! That's it! Precisely. And, if that wasn't enough, she sat opposite me, even asked if she could. And I thought -

SIMON. - "This is all that" -

KIRSTY. - "I want from life."

(They laugh.)

ANNA. (Off) Shall I come back now?

SIMON. Whenever you want!

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Oh! Those arms!

SIMON. Mm. The legs too.

KIRSTY. Oh I think that I'm going to melt.

SIMON. I can't think of anything more erotic than watching Anna swim.

KIRSTY. Apart from fucking her, of course.

(Simon looks hurt. Then he laughs. Then Kirsty laughs.)

KIRSTY. God I feel happy.

SIMON. Me too.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Well, why shouldn't we? Sitting in the sun on this warm and sweet beach.

KIRSTY. We have wine, we have bread, you're going to cook us a paella when we go home.

SIMON. And we are on our own, save for the company of a friend and a lover.

SIMON.
} Cheers!
KIRSTY.


Next -
Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Seven.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Five.

This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE FIVE.

(Beach. Anna points.)

ANNA. See that?

KIRSTY. White thing?

ANNA. Mm.

KIRSTY. What is it?

ANNA. Hotel. Built but never used.

KIRSTY. When?

ANNA. Fifteen, twenty years ago.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Why?

ANNA. Don’t know. No roads lead there.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. You ever been there?

ANNA. Yes. First time that we came here. Takes ages to reach.

KIRSTY. What’s it like?

ANNA. Huge. Peeling. Unsafe-looking.

KIRSTY. Did you go inside?

ANNA. I wanted to. But Simon saw a rat and insisted that we go home.

(Pause.)

ANNA. I'm glad that it never did come into use. I like us being the only people here.

KIRSTY. Mm.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. How long can we stay out for?

ANNA. As long as we like. We can do anything here.

KIRSTY. Mm.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Would you like...

ANNA. No.

KIRSTY. Oh.

ANNA. Well... Yes, but not here.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Why not?

ANNA. Somebody might see us.

KIRSTY. But you just said that nobody lives here.

ANNA. True.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. So why not?

ANNA. I just don't want to.

KIRSTY. Tell me why.

ANNA. You don't want to know.

KIRSTY. I do.

(Pause.)

ANNA. This isn't our territory.

KIRSTY. Whose is it?

(Pause.)

ANNA. Mine and Simon's.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Sorry. I just can't... here.

(Pause.)

ANNA. The first time that we came here I slept with Simon on this beach.

KIRSTY. Yes. I really don't need to know this.

ANNA. Sorry.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. No, I'm sorry.

ANNA. We could always move on to somewhere else.

KIRSTY. I'm not in the mood now.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. What was it like.

ANNA. It was nice. It was a beautiful night. I felt very happy.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. What about the second time that you came here?

ANNA. We were going to go out onto the beach again but Simon ended up bottling out. He felt overawed by the last time that we went here, he said. He didn't think that he could perform. I wasn't really very interested in the idea of performance.

(Pause.)

ANNA. You do understand, don't you?

Next -
Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Six.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Four.



This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE FOUR.

(Morning. Simon still asleep on sofa. Anna and Kirsty are having breakfast.)

KIRSTY. He’s waking up.

SIMON. Hhhhh.

(Simon rises.)

SIMON. He’s woken up.

ANNA. Sleep well?

SIMON. Not very. A dream.

ANNA. The usual?

SIMON. Not quite.

ANNA. Simon dreams of school corridors and deserted playgrounds.

SIMON. I discovered a new station. The train that I was on sailed past home into a new station, one that I never knew existed before, not on the line, The station was very old, tiny, never knew it existed before. When I walked out I noticed that it was next to a red brick building with a brick gate that I seemed to remember from my childhood. Or did I? It’s funny the way that dreams do that. I can walk down streets that I haven’t been to since my childhood and I can’t fathom…

KIRSTY. You can’t fathom what?

SIMON. Whether they really existed or not.

ANNA. What does that tell you?

KIRSTY. That you want to be able to control your past?

SIMON. Doesn’t everyone?

KIRSTY. We made you breakfast.

SIMON. Thank you.

(He joins them.)

SIMON. What do you dream about, then?

KIRSTY. Me?

SIMON. Mm.

KIRSTY. I’m very lucky. I can control my dreams.

SIMON. That must be useful.

KIRSTY. Everything’s very charming when I dream.

ANNA. What shall we do today?

KIRSTY. What would you like to do?

ANNA. What would you like to do?

SIMON. I’d like to do whatever it is that you want to do.

KIRSTY. We can do whatever we want.

SIMON. I’d like to get some shopping.

KIRSTY. We already did that.

SIMON. What about a swim?

ANNA. We went before breakfast. Sorry.

KIRSTY. You do know that it’s eleven o’clock?

SIMON. Is it? I’ll go myself then, before it gets too hot.

* * *

(Anna and Kirsty.)

KIRSTY. Will he be alright?

ANNA. Of course he will.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Still scared?

KIRSTY. Yes. A bit less.

ANNA. That’s good.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. We’ve had our sleep, we’ve had a swim, we’ve had our breakfast, we’re on our own. We can do anything.

(Pause.)

ANNA. There’s no need to be scared. I’m big enough. I have enough faith. Trust me.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Just trust me.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Do you trust me?

KIRSTY. I do.

ANNA. That’s good.

(Pause.)

ANNA. (Softly) C’mon.

KIRSTY. Yes. Let’s.

* * *

ANNA. Happy now?

KIRSTY. Happy? Yes!

(Anna smiles.)

ANNA. And calm?

KIRSTY. I’m overflowing.

ANNA. So am I.

KIRSTY. Good.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. You don’t look like you are.

ANNA. Don’t I?

KIRSTY. No.

(Pause.)

ANNA. What do I look like?

KIRSTY. You look as though you might be overflowing. But you might not be.

ANNA. Oh?

KIRSTY. I always hope that you’re feeling the same as me, but I’m never sure.

ANNA. I feel fantastic, Kirsty. It’s never been so good before.

KIRSTY. No?

ANNA. Yes.

KIRSTY. It’s the best that it’s ever been for me as well. The thing is…

ANNA. Yes?

KIRSTY. What do you do afterwards?

ANNA. More?

KIRSTY. But he’ll be coming back any moment.

ANNA. I can be very fast.

KIRSTY. But I don’t want it to be very fast.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Not now, anyway.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Well, no, very fast does sound like fun, actually.

ANNA. So why not?

(Enter Simon.)

KIRSTY. You couldn’t be that fast.

ANNA. No.

SIMON. Alright?

KIRSTY. Yes!

ANNA. Yes.

SIMON. Got any plans for this afternoon?

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. What would you like to do?

SIMON. Nothing too demanding.

KIRSTY. Anna?

ANNA. Let’s go for a walk.

SIMON. I’ve just had one.

(Pause.)

SIMON. It’s alright. I don’t mind if you go.

ANNA. Okay. Shall we?

KIRSTY. Yes. Sounds fine.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. What will you do?

SIMON. I don’t know. I didn’t take anything to read with me.

KIRSTY. Did you see the paper they gave me on the plane?

SIMON. No. Was there anything in it?

KIRSTY. Don’t know. I didn’t read it.

SIMON. I’ll have a look at it.

ANNA. I threw it away, actually.

(Pause.)

ANNA. You could cook supper.

SIMON. Yes. That’s true.

(Pause.)

ANNA. So you will then?

SIMON. Will I what?

ANNA. Cook supper?

SIMON. Of course I will.

ANNA. Great.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Thank you.

Next -
Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Five.

(Silence.)


Friday, 15 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Three.



This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE THREE.

(The first night. Simon sleeps. Kirsty walks across the room with extreme caution. She knocks ever so quietly on Anna’s door.)

KIRSTY. Anna?

(No reply.)

KIRSTY. Anna?

SIMON. Don’t.

(KIRSTY is startled.)

SIMON. Don’t worry. Just don’t.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. You can’t tell me, you know.

SIMON. I wouldn’t want to, I’m just advising.

KIRSTY. Why not, then?

SIMON. She needs her sleep.

KIRSTY. But we’ve always said that if either of us needs to talk –

SIMON. I’m sure.

KIRSTY. What’s that supposed to mean?

SIMON. Nothing.

(Pause.)

SIMON. It’s just that you haven’t been there before when –

KIRSTY. – her husband’s been there, too.

SIMON. Well, that’s true, but it wasn’t what I was going to say.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. What were you going to say, then?

SIMON. That you’ve never been with her when she’s travelling before. Anna sleeps very heavily
then.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Honestly.

KIRSTY. I don’t doubt it.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Do you mind though?

(Pause.)

SIMON. I don’t want to mind. Sincerely. I’ll go outside whenever you want me to. I won’t get in the way or make comments. But I will mind if I’m…

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. But I need to see her now.

SIMON. No. It’s not a good idea.

KIRSTY. How can you know?

SIMON. Well, we both know, don’t we? We both sleep alone half of the time.

KIRSTY. Not when she’s under the same roof.

SIMON. It’s alright. It’s better than that. We’re both sure that she’s with us. If only for this week.

(Pause.)

SIMON. What we need most, is good, quality, sleep.

KIRSTY. I’m too worried for that. I need comforting.

SIMON. She’ll give it to you. I’m sure of it. Believe me. But what you need right now is sleep.
We’ve got some camomile tea. Here, sit down.

KIRSTY. What good can that do?

SIMON. It can’t do you any harm. Anna swears by it. Sit back, now. Rotate your shoulders around if you feel like it, you carry most tension there –

Next -
Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Four.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Two.


This isn't going to make much sense unless you start at the beginning - Giraffes - Act One, Scene One.

SCENE TWO.

(Night.)

SIMON. (Off) Let me take that.

KIRSTY. (Off) You don’t have to.

SIMON. (Off) That’s okay. I like carrying cases.

(Enter Kirsty and Anna.)

ANNA. Here it is.

KIRSTY. How many times have you been here before?

ANNA. Twice.

(Enter Simon with cases.)

SIMON. Looking forward?

KIRSTY. Yes.

SIMON. Good.

(Kirsty looks about the room.)

KIRSTY. Where are we going to sleep?

ANNA. Where would you like?

SIMON. I’ll have the sofa.

(Silence.)

KIRSTY. Are you sure? It can’t be very confortable.

SIMON. I like sofas.

ANNA. Okay.

(Pause.)

ANNA. So, Kirsty, the room with three beds or the double bedroom?

KIRSTY. Oh. Ur. That room’s lovely, isn’t it?

ANNA. So you’d like it?

KIRSTY. Um…

SIMON. It’s your choice.

KIRSTY. No I think that you should have it.

ANNA. Sure?

KIRSTY. Yes.

(Pause.)

ANNA. No you have it.

KIRSTY. Ur…

SIMON. You have it Anna. This holiday is in honour of you. You’re the reason why we’re here. You should have the master bedroom.

KIRSTY. The mistress bedroom.

SIMON. Mistress?

ANNA. Thank you.

KIRSTY. That’s okay.

(Silence.)

SIMON. Ought we to have a drink or something?

ANNA. No. I think that today’s outstayed its welcome. Bed’s all that I’m good for.

SIMON. Now?

ANNA. I think so.

SIMON. Okay.

(Pause.)

ANNA. Well, goodnight then.

(She pecks Simon on the cheek, then embraces Kirsty.)

ANNA. ‘night.

SIMON. ‘night.

ANNA. See you tomorrow.

KIRSTY. Yes.

ANNA. Sleep well.

(Exit Anna.)

KIRSTY.
} Sleep well.
SIMON.

(Silence.)

SIMON. So…

KIRSTY. So?

SIMON. Holiday.

KIRSTY. Yes.

(Pause.)

SIMON. Would you like a drink or anything?

KIRSTY. No.

(Pause.)

KIRSTY. Well.

SIMON. Well?

KIRSTY. See you then.

SIMON. Yes.

(Exit Kirsty.)

SIMON. Sleep well.

(Simon prepares his bed.)

Next - Giraffes - Act Two, Scene Two.