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Archive for March 25th, 2013

Now some pays a dollar, some pays a dime
Just to see me strut this stuff o’mine.
  –  Lucille Bogan

One of the presents my husband gave me for my last birthday was Street Walker Blues, a collection of old hooker songs; it’s provided a number of good examples with which to round out my next few columns on the subject, but I prefer to split them up and mix them with songs from other genres for the sake of variety.  The rest of today’s selections were suggested by readers in the comments of “Money Changes Everything” and “Savage Breast”; if you have a suggestion for a future column, check the Musicography page to make sure I haven’t featured it already, and if I haven’t please share it in a comment below!  Our first song today is from Street Walker Blues, and though it’s performed by Ethel Waters I’m not sure who wrote it:

Bring Your Greenbacks (sung by Ethel Waters)

Come all you sheiks, and lovers, too,
Listen to what I’m tellin’ you;
I took a resolution New Years Day,
Never to give nothin’ away!
So run along and let me be,
‘Cause what I’ve got I’m holdin’ for me!

So if you want to be my man,
Bring the greenbacks when you call,
‘Cause I’ve just got enough for myself,
And I can’t spare nothing at all!

Don’t depend upon your looks and try to get my dough,
I can look at pretty papas in a movie show!
So if you want to be my man,
Bring the greenbacks when you call!

So if you want to be my man,
Bring the greenbacks when you call,
‘Cause I’ve just got enough for myself,
And I can’t spare nothing at all!

Don’t come askin’ me for my money, ’cause it ain’t no use,
For all you’ll get from me is going to be abuse!
So if you want to be my man,
Bring the greenbacks when you call!

Now, I’ll give you a piece of cake, also a piece of pie,
But not nary a piece of flesh, ’cause meat’s too high!
So if you want to be my man,
Just bring the greenbacks when you call!

Though there are exceptions, most of the ladies in these vintage songs are quite self-assured; they know the value of their favors, and have absolutely no shame about using them to make a living.  And though our next selection (suggested by Annie Sprinkle) treats the subject more subtly, it’s clear that the lady it describes has exactly that same attitude.

Jezebel (Sade Adu)

Jezebel wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth
She probably had less than every one of us
But when she knew how to walk she knew
How to bring the house down
Can’t blame her for her beauty
She wins with her hands down

Jezebel, what a belle
Looks like a princess in her new dress
How did you get that?
“Do you really want to know”, she said
It would seem she’s on her way
It’s more, more than just a dream
She put on her stockings and shoes
Had nothing to lose, she said it was worth it

Reach for the top
And the sun is gonna shine
“Every winter was a war”, she said
“I want to get what’s mine”

Jezebel, Jezebel
Won’t try to deny where she came from
You can see it in her pride
And the raven in her eyes
Try show her a better way
She’ll say, “You don’t know what you’ve been missing”
By the time she blinks you know she won’t be listening

“Reach for the top”, she said
“And the sun is gonna shine”
“Every winter was a war”, she said
“I want to get what’s mine”

Of course, not all working girls are as successful and well-adjusted as Jezebel; all too many songs on the subject are about her exact opposite, the low-priced street girl who just gets by and usually comes to a bad end.  I try to avoid most such songs because these columns are meant to be light, but I’ll make an exception for this one (which was later covered by Bonnie Raitt) because the singer expresses sympathy for the girl and judgment for those who looked down on her.

Louise (Paul Siebel)

Well they all said Louise was not half bad
It was written on the walls and window shades
And how she’d act the little girl
A deceiver, don’t believe her that’s her trade
Sometimes a bottle of perfume,
Flowers and maybe some lace
Men brought Louise ten cent trinkets
Their intentions were easily traced
Yes and everybody knew at times she cried
But women like Louise they get by

Well everybody thought it kind of sad
When they found Louise in her room
They’d always put her down below their kind
Still some cried when she died this afternoon
Louise rode home on the mail train
Somewhere to the south I heard it said
Too bad it ended so ugly,
Too bad she had to go this way
Ah but the wind is blowing cold tonight
So good night Louise, good night

From a small town we go to a big city; this next song (suggested by Ornithorhynchus) demonstrates a different kind of sympathy for its whores, who won’t take any crap from a bunch of stupid young guys who think they’re going to get something without paying.

Big City Girls (Myles Francis Goodwyn)

Late night hustle goin’ down in the city
A one way street on the wrong side of town
Young and foolish, man don’t you know
All we could see were

Ladies in the night, walkin’ a straight line
Ladies in the night, workin’ overtime
Ladies in the night, doin’ the hustle
Ladies in the night, flexin’ their muscles
Ladies in the night, big city, big city girls

We worked out a deal with some chicks on the corner
Back at the room it was never to be
No one had money and the girls got so uptight

Ladies in the night, walkin’ a straight line
Ladies in the night, workin’ overtime
Ladies in the night, doin’ the hustle
Ladies in the night, flexin’ their muscles
Ladies in the night, big city, big city girls, so tough

Baby I know, it’s just what I see
Baby I know, it’s not what I need
Big city, big city girls

The next thing you know, things got rough, babe
They carved out a warnin’ with a switch blade knife
The message was clear, if you wanna play, you gotta pay

Ladies in the night, walkin’ a straight line
Ladies in the night, workin’ overtime
Ladies in the night, doin’ the hustle
Ladies in the night, flexin’ their muscles
Ladies in the night, big city, big city girls

Our last song for today, suggested by Arum, is more ambiguous than any of the others; in fact, given lines like “picturesque decay” and “finds your heaven, finds your hell”, I think that ambiguity is strictly intentional.  I had never heard this one before I listened to it while making my choices for this post, but I like it; it makes me think of the elaborate and often very expensive brothels of the late Victorian Era.

Baroque Bordello (The Stranglers)

See a picturesque decay there
Something for all time to tell
See the woman of your dreams there
In a baroque bordello

Swing doors and a blind venetian
Keep her in a walnut shell
Has to rub your eyes to bathe you
In a baroque bordello

All the words are written for you
Finds your heaven, finds your hell
Finds your love but keeps it hidden
In a baroque bordello

Seven days and seven nights spent
Sleeping in her wishing well
Climb her rope and find her trailer
In a baroque bordello
In a baroque bordello
In a baroque bordello
Baroque bordello
Baroque bordello
Baroque bordello
Baroque bordello
Baroque bordello

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