Thin’s a child to the adult sex

Artist-Yehuda Bacon-mixed media

Following on from my previous post:  “Bell, or Pas Belle”…..

A while back, I read an article about a composer who found some old cassettes of his which had decayed over time, and he wrote a composition using these decayed tapes. 

This caused me not a little concern.  I have boxes and boxes of cassettes with irreplaceable data and recordings.  So I am in the process of having my most precious recordings digitalized, although apparently my cassettes are, on the whole, in quite good nick – having been safely stored.

One of the recordings I’ve just had digitalized is of a song which I called Positive at the time, because it was about trying to think positively.  Here, I’ve decided, instead, to use the beginning of the song as a title.  It starts:

See it thus

Thin’s a child to the adult sex

I want none of that….none of that

This was when Susie Orbach’s book:  Fat is a Feminist Issue, had made a big impression on me.  The idea that the idealised thin (and devoid of body hair) aesthetic imposed on, and adopted by, women in the West, belongs to the concept of women as the child-like sex.

I was also influenced by an album by This Mortal Coil.  In one of the songs on this album, you cannot make out any of the words which the singer is singing – intentionally.  It is part of the style and atmosphere of the song.

This seemed like a great idea!  In this song that I had written, I felt quite exposed by the words after the initial lines.  So I decided to sing it disguising the words in a way that they were almost impossible to make out:  the voice would be more like an instrument providing melody, atmosphere and emotion, without fully-decipherable words.  After the opening lines, the words are not positive at all, but give expression to the way in which, in certain life (and death) situations, your pain can spill over, and other people’s pain can spill over onto you, in a way which can sap your confidence completely, and make it impossible to act on feelings of love, or of being in love.  I had recently passed through such a time, writing songs which gave vent to some intense emotions.  (“It’s slash your wrists time!” would be uttered –  it was later revealed to me – when I got up to sing in my local folk club!)

I met up with a guy who I have to credit with producing this recording:  Sal Paradise.  He got me to work properly on the guitar part until it was perfect before he agreed to record it.  He then doubled the guitar part with a delay inbetween the doublings, and added chorus, and a tabla sample on a loop.  (On his travels, he had recorded musicians, but I omitted to ask who the tabla player was behind this sample.)  He said he would make the vocal part “sweet”, but I think it is pretty much how I sounded back then, in the late 1980s. 

He then made us both a curry.

Unfortunately, he never let me have a decent copy of the recording.

So here it is:  Thin’s a child to the adult sex….



Artichoke Heart

Marilyn Herman CD back cover

Many years ago, this guy said to me: “My heart is like an artichoke.” He elaborated: each leaf or petal, reaching out to a different woman! This was in Paris, so in fact he said: “Mon coeur est comme un artichaut!” He also said: “Oh Mareline! Tu es la nuit et tu es le jour!” (He had seen me in grief, and he had seen me in exhilaration from dance.) This inspired my song: “Artichoke Heart”.

In 1996/7, I set out to record an album. I started to arrange my songs for jazz musicians, and went into a studio and got as far as recording three songs with three fantastic jazz musicians. First we had a couple of rehearsals, and I had a very precise idea of what I wanted from the musicians. I think it was at the end of the first rehearsal that the pianist said to me: “You have some good musicians here. They can do a lot if you let them!” So I let them!

I chose a studio where the singer DesrĂ©e had recorded one of her albums. It was a 24-hour recording session – the studio had a special rate for 24-hours, and I had a lot of stamina! After the first six hours dealing with musicians, I took a break. 6 hours was a long time to be entombed in a windowless studio, so I came up for fresh air. It was night-time on the edges of the City, and there weren’t many places to go to – just a few pubs open. I walked into one of them to relax and have a drink. The only other woman in the pub was an erotic dancer, and she greeted me and asked if I was a dancer – she probably couldn’t think why else I would be in that pub alone at that time! I wasn’t dressed the part, but then neither was she just yet!

I returned to the studio through the deserted night-time City streets to re-record the vocal without having my focus diluted by thinking about what the musicians were doing. However, as the hours went by, and the night wore on, tired myself, and the engineer becoming increasingly unstable (his eyes – glazed and scarey) with tiredness (he obviously had less stamina!), I was not happy with the result, and decided to return to re-record the vocal again, another time, when I was fresher. This I did with a different engineer at the same studio, after spending some time in New York (see earlier blog), and with the benefit of some lessons with the late New York jazz musician, Jackie Paris. Then I went to San Francisco to teach for a while, and never got back to completing the album.

All these years, nothing was done with the tracks – until now. I decided to make the tracks available for sale on CD and as MP3s, individually or as a 3-track album. I dug up a couple of photos of me from that era that seemed to work well with artichoke comets shooting through space, and giant space-borne jars of Waitrose artichoke hearts, for the CD covers.

All proceeds of sales received by me until end May will go to Ride The Night cancer charities. Hopefully I’ll be able to cycle the 100 km since apparently the terrain will be flat! A couple of days ago, I started training by cycling almost 50 km and that was exhausting. But there was a lot of uphill, and I confess, towards the end, I got off my bike and pushed it up much of the uphill stretch in Hampstead.

Anyway, the tracks can be heard here:

Maybe one day I will still complete the full album – (so many unfinished projects!) Though these days I prefer to sing other people’s songs (folk/jazz), and to play my classical (Flamenco) rather than acoustic guitar, and to have other people sing my songs, which now tend to be classical (but not always), and based on someone else’s words.

For those of you who came across this blog while searching for artichoke hearts, I hope this blog doesn’t disappoint, and that you find some great artichoke hearts! I saw in Planet Organic that Biona do jars of organic ones.