Sweet Jane - Velvet Underground
Not all girl-name songs are paeans to the beauty of or love for the woman in question. Exceptions include "Runaround Sue" (obviously) and songs by women such as Joni Mitchell's "Amelia" and First Aid Kit's "Emmylou". "Sweet Jane" is the exception par excellence, telling the tale of a couple, Jack and Jane, who start out as "Bohemians" but pretty soon settle down, for which lead singer Lou Reed is full of caustic scorn. Not so sweet.
It is extraordinary that for a band that is often cited as being one of the top five most influential bands of all time Velvet Underground had no top 40 hit albums or hit singles in either the UK or the US, the highest achiever being "The Velvet Underground & Nico" LP - their first - which got to number 43 in the UK in 1967. But this track goes some way to explaining why.
This is from their fourth and penultimate album "Loaded" and is famous for its intro where Reed plays a high pitched waterfall cascade of notes on a split second repeat on electric guitar over a strummed acoustic guitar, but the action really starts after this, with an opening line that could be from a Mary Gaitskill short story:
"Standin' on a corner, suitcase in my hand. Jack's in his car said Jane is in her vest, and me, I'm in a rock n' roll band - huh - ridin' in a Stutz Bearcat, Jim, you know those were different times, all the poets studied rules of verse and those ladies they rolled their eyes...." [if !supportLineBreakNewLine]
The second verse ups the irony of the careful, career, would-be coolies with his scathing finger portraits of Jack and Jane, with their "oohs" as they sit by the fire and listen to their classical albums
"I’ll tell you something, Jack, he is a banker, and Jane, she is a clerk. and both of them save their monies and when, when they come home from work ooh sittin' down by the fire... ooh the radio just played a classical music dance jam, the march of the wooden soldiers all you protest kids you can hear Jack say sweet Jane, sweet Jane, sweet Jane...." [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] and then half way through the third Lou uncannily anticipates late seventies Bob Dylan, vocal delivery, emphasis, sarcasm and all, sneering at the vacuous chit chat they indulge in
"Some people they like to go out dancing and other people, they have to work
just watch me now and there's even some evil mothers well the're gonna tell you that everything is just dirt. you know that women never really faint, and that villains always blink their eyes. and that you know children are the only ones who blush. and that life is just to die..."
and he goes for the jugular with real anger
"...but, anyone who ever had a heart oh they wouldn't half break it and anyone who ever played a part oh they wouldn't turn around and hate it."
Lou Reed never took any prisoners. [endif][endif]