Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You Blister My Paint

I thought that love was like a gentle rain
Like the sun up above shining down on the grain
But your kind of love must be a different strain
I can tell you how soft & gentle you ain’t
– You blister my paint

You drive me too hard then you blame the machine
You take me apart just because you feel mean
I could do with some armoured plate in between
I can tell you how kind & cool you ain’t
– You blister my paint

You know that I like you, you know that I care
I think you’re delightful, & quite debonair
But can you imagine the way that I feel
When my surface is cracking & starting to peel
& I’ve got some bad news that I think you should know
– You blister my paint, & it’s starting to show

You’ve got a blowtorch sun, you’ve got an acid rain
I can feel my skin melting, away down the drain
I want to go underground & not come up again
Let me tell you how loving & tender you ain’t
– You blister my paint
– You blister my paint

From David Bateman Curse Of The Killer Hedge
(1996, Iron Press)

Each promenade performance by The Burgess Project has concluded with a video of the song, You Blister My Paint, played on Exchange Square’s big screen system and complete with a bopping drunken Anthony Burgess played by Stewart D Laing.

The title of the song is taken from A Clockwork Orange (1962). It first appears in chapter 1 of the novel, where narrator Alex mentions that the song on the stereo in the Korova Milkbar is “Berti Laski rasping a real starry oldie called ‘You Blister My Paint’.”

The lyric dates from 1986, when I was writing a stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange for the Hit & Run Theatre Company, to be staged at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool in April 1987. It was one of two versions of the lyric I wrote then; and though we never actually set either of them to music for that production, we kept the general idea when we plumped instead for Robert Fripp’s fraught and frantic rock ’n’ roll song, You Burn Me Up, I’m A Cigarette.

Later in 1987, Anthony Burgess brought out his own lyric of the same title, in the first edition of A Clockwork Orange: a play with music. In this version, the song turns up slightly later in the story. When Alex and his droogs return to the Korova, “fagged and shagged” after an evening’s ultra-violence, we are told:

A song comes out of the loudspeaker. An emasculated voice, that of Johnny Zhivago, warbles:

You blister my paint,
Make me feel faint.
It’s slaughter.
You turn my knees to water.
Water you ain’t.

When I shove my saint
Into your quaint
I get all tetrahedral,
Got no restraint.

Here, Burgess uses the song simply as a sample of pop “cal”, intended to compare unfavourably with the snippet of “real music” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which is sung immediately afterwards.

My own lyric of You Blister My Paint was published by Iron Press in 1996, in my first full-length collection of poetry, Curse Of The Killer Hedge. Then, in (I think) late 1999, I received a package forwarded to me by Pete Mortimer of Iron Press. It contained a cassette of two recordings of You Blister My Paint set to music by Steve Cooke and performed by his group of that time: one live version, and one funkier, tighter studio version. It is this studio version that --seven years later-- has been used for the video finale of The Burgess Project’s city centre performances. Paul Draper was able to digitally sharpen up the sound of the recording at his Dead Frog Studio; and it’s a pleasant surprise that several people have commented on the song’s Manchester feel. After all, when Burgess recorded passages from A Clockwork Orange in 1973, he deliberately reverted to his original Manchester accent that he had dropped in the 1930s.

The video of our dancing Anthony Burgess was shot by Jamie Kennerley and edited by Ben Jones, who intercut the dance sequence with snippets of video used earlier in the show, recapitulating the show’s various themes and thus turning the song into an effective final movement of the show as a whole. I still can’t get over the sight of our Anthony Burgess waving his tie around his head as he drunkenly cavorts around his apartment. Get down in that groove, Funky Tony B!

Though I did meet Steve Cooke while I was visiting Newcastle in 2000, we’ve since lost touch, and my attempts to find him have so far failed miserably, so if anyone knows of his whereabouts, I’d be very grateful if they could ask him to get in touch with The Burgess Project through the team@the-phone-book.ltd.uk e-address. Cheers.


Blogger Steve Cooke said...

Well, here I am! Steve Cooke, I mean.

You can hear the song version of 'You Blister My Paint' on the SoundCloud website at http://soundcloud.com/stevecooke

There are a couple of remixes here too, one intended to be more dance-orientated and the other, just for fun, restyled with home keyboard-type Cuban mambo rhythms.

1:50 pm, March 22, 2010  

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