JSR – The Other Women (Q&A)

The Other Women came about from a confidential social experiment John Dunbar of The John Sally Ride has been conducting over the years. Upon meeting a woman whose name is associated with an iconic song, he inquires about their opinion of that particular tune. John decided to give himself a musical challenge. Write new songs using those names in the title but with a contrasting theme.

Recently I have had a new colleague; her name is Nikita. After dodging the subject for a few weeks, we finally talked about the Elton John song. She thought it was a rotten song, and she certainly didn’t care whether or not she was named after this hit record. That’s probably consistent with some of the responses you got?

I love that story, poor Nikita. Indeed it is a familiar tale, and that’s what inspired the album. I’m anxious to hear from some women I know with the names I’ve repurposed. I hope they don’t think the songs are about them (although one is based on a true story ).

Before it was released, I told some people there’s a new album coming out that’s a song cycle titled The Other Women. I asked them to guess the theme. No one got it, which is good, I think.

Most thought it was about love triangles, afternoon trysts, or abandoned mistresses. I’m sure they’ll be so disappointed when they learn the actual theme.

What was the nicest reaction?

Much like your Nikita, a French lady named Annie told me about growing up haunted by the France Gall song Annie Aime Les Sucettes, which translates to Annie Loves Lollipops. Written by Serge Gainsbourg, so the double entendre was the whole point. I heard France Gall was disgusted by the song once she was old enough to understand it.

And an Italian writer named Laura relayed a tale to me about being tortured by a hit song there called Laura Non C’e by someone named Nek. Which translates to Laura is gone. It turns out to be a universal dilemma.

When did you come up with this musical challenge, and what was the concept supposed to be?

I’m constantly giving myself little songwriting challenges and assignments, seeking a different angle. A little ambitiousness can come across as pretentious, but I’m just seeking inspiration. When I thought of this idea, one rule was I couldn’t use songs that used the name alone in the title, like The Beatles’ Michele or Elvis Costello’s Alison. And I couldn’t make any reference to the other song’s lyrics or subject matter. The only similarity would be the women’s name. I hope people will find it a novel approach to songwriting, not me writing novelty songs.

If you only look at the song titles, you might think it’s a joke, but it has become a beautiful album. The songs are excellent; that must have been satisfying. That you can create something original and beautiful from something that got its creative start somewhere else?

I’m so glad you said that. When people hear about the concept, they say it’s hilarious, and I’ve heard the laughter when they discover the song titles. But the tales within the songs aren’t comical. Sure there are humorous lines here and there, that I can’t help. But my goal was to make the songs very positive to women.

Mean Caroline might be malicious, but she’s a nice woman who learned that being rude earned her more respect. Mary in Alone Comes Mary is extremely proud of her spinster status. It was her lifelong goal. Christine Sixty is a song about a man desiring a woman in her sixties. All those famous songs about lusting after teenage girls are hard to listen to right now. I hope this one stands out. That song seems to be getting the most positive reaction so far.

Has it become a solo album?

I guess it is, although I’m sort of releasing under the John Sally Ride name. It was planned to be the new John Sally Ride album. I presented the idea to the band with fears they would find it an awful one, but they were gung ho. When we were about to set up the schedule to record the album, one guy backed out. I thought it was just a phase and decided to wait a little while. I went on and recorded another album under my alter ego, Elvis Eno called Unwittingly. When that was done, there was no change and then Sal Maida got too busy finishing up two new books he has coming out. Joe Pampel got tied-up gigging with some other bands he’s in.

We would have to wait until the new year to get the project going. I like to keep moving, so I went into the studio and finished it all alone. I already have plans for Sal, Joe, and me to work on the next thing. They’re into it and ready to go. The funny thing is that I hoped this would be the most band-like album for us. I was going to ask a couple of the guys to take the lead vocal in a few songs. Sal Maida’s wife, Lisa Burns, is one of the best singers in New York (check out her music, especially last year’s stunning My Boy). I was going to beg her to sing Alone Comes Mary. I thought it would be a nice touch to have a women’s voice on the album. Oh well, you know the saying about best-laid plans.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s