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EXCLUSIVE 264; MARCH, 1948

 
 

 

Considering the sheer number of rock songs over the years that have used as its theme the problems between men and women, from the inability to get a suitable one for those desperately looking, to the battles over control in a relationship when two people finally do get together, and finally the duplicitous actions of one – or both – of these inherently unfaithful characters, it is frankly amazing the species has survived as long as it has.

While traditional pop music generally preferred to sail calmer waters when tackling this subject and as such mostly focused its lyrical perspective on either intense romantic longing from the harmlessly lovelorn or on the blissfully happy unions once these types settle for whatever guy or gal cast a glance in their direction, rock music navigated a far rougher ocean over the years resulting in plenty of grim voyages and deadly shipwrecks.

It’s likely neither course was very realistic. You tend not to see quite as many grinning lovebirds holding hands while staring doe eyed at one another on street corners in everyday life as pop music would have you believe exists. On the other hand while domestic disputes certainly garner sensationalistic headlines the battle of the sexes rarely escalates into the kind of all out War Of The Roses fireworks, nor do we see many spurned lovers stepping in front of busses to put themselves out of their misery.

Maybe marriage counselors would beg to differ but most couples experiencing relationship turmoil in the real world tend to grit their teeth and go to the gym or the coffee shop and just complain to their friends… unless of course they can sing in which case they make records decrying the state of their affairs and hope to become famous rock stars so they can ditch the ball and chain and have groupies knocking down their door.
 

 
Trustworthiness
It’s hard to imagine Joe Swift getting up the gall to leave any woman he was fortunate enough to seduce at one time or another because he doesn’t come across as the type of cat who can afford to be choosy.

For starters we have no pictures of him to ascertain whether he was good-looking enough to be deemed a catch, but chances are if he WERE a handsome rogue as he surely wants us to believe there’d be at least some photographic evidence as to his dashing appearance.

Without any proof of it we can only come to the rather cynical conclusion that his face was the kind to stop clocks and consequently most cameras must’ve broken when they were forced to try and capture his ugly puss for posterity.

Then there’s the trait which we DO have plenty of hard evidence of, namely his nasal voice which at times defies description. Suffice it to say if it were possible for a human being to be assembled like a Mr. Potato Head then the kids putting Joe Swift together were the type who gave the mouth to the pet dog to chew on until it was unrecognizable and so to compensate they simply stuck the nose where the mouth should be and called it a day.

Swift never will get the necessary surgery to correct this obvious flaw and yet he’ll do his best over the next year to compensate by singing through his nasal passages and hoping either nobody notices or are too polite to point it out. We’re obviously not polite because we’re going to point it out every time we come across him because… well, because how can you avoid mentioning it? That is by far his most dominant characteristic as a singer and the success of his records hinges on his ability to overcome that deficiency by means of some combination of instrumental distraction and lyrical cleverness.

So for Joe Swift of all people to be complaining about how deceitful women are a thorn in his side which renders his existence a quagmire of non-stop trouble is kind of like politicians bitching about the press focusing too much on their myriad of lies, treachery and cover-ups and how that scrutiny is preventing them from having high polling numbers.

But never let it be said that we don’t give everybody a fair shake here on Spontaneous Lunacy, so putting aside the legitimacy of Swift’s complaints we’ll focus instead on his methods of delivery on Don’t Trust A Woman Blues to see whether or not we’ll take him for his word when it comes to his views on the opposite sex.
 

Find Out Just Where You’re At
Once again Joe finds himself paired with bassist Red Callender’s outfit, one of the premier acts from the jazz world who were slumming in rock for kicks (or maybe for money come to think of it). They show their wares early on here with an intro featuring some good interplay between a hammering piano and a fleet-fingered guitar (with Callender’s bass adding a discreet coda) which is more than spry enough to have you thinking they’re going to be valuable witnesses in Swift’s court case against womanhood.

But then as they settle into a more complimentary role your ear is drawn to what sounds like a banjo providing a subtle accompaniment. It’s not definite, there’s some other more likely possibilities such as a slack tuned guitar, but whatever the source of this sound it lends an uneasy feel to the record that even the presence of a warm tenor sax blowing responsorial lines to each of Joe’s points can’t fully shake free of.

It isn’t outdated exactly and there’s no immediate or full disconnect, but the promise of the early stabbing intensity has already dissipated which means more of the load is left for Swift himself to carry and considering he’ll probably spend much of the record trying to avoid tripping over his own nose that might not be the best route to take.

The basic premise of Don’t Trust A Woman Blues has Swift trying to come across as the seasoned hand in matters of the heart, kindly dispensing advice to a younger, or at least less worldly, guy who thinks he’s found the right one. But it quickly becomes obvious that if Joe has anything to say about it the happy couple will be broken up by lunchtime as he fills the poor kid’s head with all sorts of ominous warnings about how all girls are out for themselves and are bound to cheat on you, take your money and leave you on the corner passing along their own tale of woe to the next inexperienced wide-eyed young man unfortunate enough to stop at the same corner to catch a bus.

That’s surely how this kid, or rather us as his listening surrogates, got roped into listening to Joe badmouth the fairer sex while minding our own business.

As we frantically look around for an escape we listen reluctantly as Swift comes across as bitter over his experiences. He’s not angry exactly, it’s more as if he expected to have his heart broken all along and can’t understand how all men haven’t given up on the idea of a perfect match by now. His complaints are broad, occasionally told with a decent turn of phrase – (“when the cat’s away you know the mice will play”) – but lacking in personal anecdotal evidence to really sell this to skeptical buyers.

Essentially his message boils down to a simple – “be careful, kid” – which is sound advice in any aspect of life, whether it’s crossing the street or trying to launch yourself to the moon in a homemade rocket. But the problem is there’s no earthly reason why Swift is picking on this poor soul to offer these words of caution.

It’d be one thing if one of his buddies came to Joe all excited about his new girlfriend, someone he met only last week, maybe when both of them were two drinks past coherence on a Saturday night and wound up sharing a cab and then a bed after a nightcap. The giddy feeling that fella got from the experience perhaps didn’t wear off as expected when the booze did and so the two of them got together a few more times after that and now he’s happily telling his pal Joe that she’s moving in.

In that scenario Swift would have every right to be skeptical. Is she going to be paying rent? Does she have a husband or boyfriend who might not approve of her sideline activities? Is she on the run from creditors? Do you even know her last name, where she’s from and if she has a history of psychiatric problems?

You know, basic information that might save you the surprise of waking up one morning and finding her gone along with all of your valuables while your house burns down around you.

But since there IS no backstory regarding the one on the receiving end of this lecture to determine whether he even needs to hear such a detailed breakdown of all of the ways in which a woman can let a man down, then it simply comes off as an unprovoked harangue by Swift so he can work through his own feelings of rejection or betrayal.

That’s usually the point where someone checks their watch and tells him they have an appointment across town, or failing that it might be time to fake an injury here, maybe pretend to choke on a chicken salad sandwich or feign a dizzy spell just to get him to shut up about his bad luck with the ladies.
 

This Is All She’ll Have To Say
If you’re looking for help from Callender’s crew you’re out of luck because their eyes have glossed over by this point too and from here on in they’re merely going through the motions, playing just to stay awake. The sax lines have become listless, forsaking grit for mellowness and even when they try and inject a little more get-up-and-go into their lines it doesn’t spur Swift on to ramp up his delivery and so they all settle back into second gear.

The guitar that seemed mildly promising to start with does get an extended solo but while well-played it’s just as drowsy as the rest of the track and you can almost see them eying the club door from the bandstand so they can make a mad rush for the street when their break finally comes.

Swift goes on oblivious to all of this, lost in his own ruminations. The lesson he may think he’s imparting is not to trust a woman, but the better takeaway is not to trust a man who can’t hold onto a woman telling you about a woman’s faults.

What he – and by we extension we – desperately need during this ordeal is for an absolute knockout of a girl to slowly cross his line of vision, someone tall, shapely and elegant but not so out of reach socially as to discourage approaching her. Let her hips sway in a tight skirt and it’s a sure bet that all red-blooded males in the vicinity, no matter their negative views on love, will be mesmerized by her long coffee colored legs as they strut across the floor, and then… just when Joe’s words trail off as he’s overcome by this vision of loveliness… she offers him a sly glance, a quick smile delivered with both the lips and the eyes before she slips into the crowd, silently beckoning him to make his play for her.

THAT’D shake Joe Swift out of his derisory view on women in a flash and he’d quickly race to a mirror to check his hair, straighten his tie and take a deep breath while forgetting all about his diatribe about how no woman is worth the trouble and prepares to throw himself back into the fray in hopes that this one, as improbable as it seems, might be the one.

Now if those of us who’d been forced to listen to Don’t Trust A Woman Blues for the last few minutes just happened to get together and pool our money – and yes, I’m including you in this, so get out your wallet and chip in – so that we could pay this beautiful girl to flirt with him and agree to a drink so we can make our escape, that would certainly be understandable, wouldn’t it? I mean, we have ourselves to think about in this situation and if we let Swift prattle on endlessly we’re diminishing the chances of one of US finding the right girl to spend time with.

It might only save us for the time being because tomorrow if we run into poor Joe I’m sure he’ll try and corner us to tell us about how he never should’ve trusted this planted shill of ours either because it didn’t work out once our money ran out and she ran out with it after spending fifteen minutes with his miserable demeanor.

But hey, we’re not going to buy him a wife and a house to go with it just to avoid listening to a song.

Who knows though, maybe somewhere out there is a girl who’ll like Joe Swift for who he is, clogged nasal passages and all, and he’ll soon be singing a new song about the joys of marriage and a life of domestic bliss.

Stranger things have happened.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Joe Swift for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)