Saturday, 27 March 2010

Hey lady, you, lady

Hey lady, you, lady, don’t just walk away, cause I have this need to tell you why I’m all alone today.

By that time you have already entered the castle with a mysterious woman dressed in white who walks in her sleep up the stairs and stares out of the window while telling you a story, her story. From the first listening it seems a line of memories, carrying her back to Georgia and California and anywhere she could run. But as soon as she speaks of the preacher man she made love with in the sun, you realize that there is something entirely different going on. The woman tries to calm you down with clich├ęs about Greek yachts and nights in Monte Carlo, and the music does its part to make her voice and the whole scenario even more kitschy, but still it happens again: the woman confesses to you that she has seen some things that a woman ain’t supposed to see (in a cover version sung by a Korean female duo one of the singers fakes disapprobation at that part). She has seen something you ain’t supposed to see. Something she wants to tell you about because she can see so much of you living in her eyes. You have entered her fantasy by listening to her too long. Be careful with what it will do to you.

Charlene D’Angelo married twice. As a consequence, her name changed to Duncan and then to Oliver. Charlene Duncan tried to land a hit in the US in 1976 called “I’ve never been to me”. One line about “unborn children” was misunderstood as a feminist pro-abortion statement, which did not really help to make the song popular at that time. Some other singers tried after her to turn it into a success, such as Nancy Wilson and Randy Crawford, but it was Charlene Oliver, by then living in the UK, who made the song become a “one-hit wonder” in 1982. “I’ve never been to me” made it into the charts and Charlene into TV-shows. After that she continued her work in a sweets shop in Ilford, where she is supposed to work still now, if she has not retired yet.

So far, so sweet.

Or, as Charlene would put it: I took the sweet life, I never knew I'd be bitter from the sweet.

Be careful, this is another trap she prepares for you, because now comes a line that is usually cut out - for obvious reasons as you will see - of the Japanese cover version “Love is All” sung at marriage ceremonies. Here it goes:
I've spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that costs too much to be free.

We’re not listening to Charlene anymore (in fact, the original version was written for a male voice, as the front singer of the group “The Temptation”, who performed their version of the song in 1982, proves on You Tube).
We’re now listening to Priscilla, future queen of the desert, moving her lips accordingly to Charlene’s words, trying to defend her show against the drunken dangerous men molesting her on stage.

We’re not in the big castle anymore, following a little private guided tour: we’re on stage, exposed to the audience’s clutches and touches, trying to make it through the night without losing the line. Trying to move between spaces along this line, which is really a line of D and not of C, always and already in the middle – but of what?

We lost the point here, the origin, though the story I am telling you already raised some doubts about a point of origin: was it a crazy idea of a crazy composer? A male voice supposed to address a female audience? A Korean pop star raising an eyebrow in fake disapproval about her partner’s confession? Was it Priscilla’s fantasy that took hold of Charlene, drawing her deeply into exploring the subtle whoring, or was it Charlene in her sweets shop, who tries assure you that the sweet will make you bitter (but why selling sweets then)?

Forget about the truth. Forget about memory. Start fantasizing with me. Don’t believe my lies that you are the true woman holding that little baby. Try to misunderstand me when I sing of the man you fought with this morning. Do it like Valentina Hassan and think of the man you fucked with this morning and the one you will make love with tonight.

Follow me into the desert of a becoming, it starts just behind the castle.

Please lady.
Please. Lady.

Don’t just walk away. Listen to me again.

Familiar Stories (and other strange discoveries)

Blank - 2

I don’t know where this photo was taken, but it is part of the story I will tell tonight. The main character is a young woman who is not interested in politics at all.


When her father asked her to pose in front of the monument together with her mother, she leaned against the fence in an elegant yet provocative manner and put on a questioning smile. Her mother, a non-smoked cigarette in her right hand, grasped the fence as if it could save her from falling or walking away. There is a kind of routine in the way both put their shoes and sandals on display. While we are still looking at their feet, a woman crosses the street in the back. She’s not part of the story, so we might forget about her quickly, when we move on to the next picture


which shows a typical day on the beach. She was about to dive into the water when being caught by the camera. A young boy is pointing at her from the distance. Her nephew. She’s missing to make the family arrangement complete.

(Extract from script for "Familiar Stories")