My first intro to ska or reggae sound was from No Doubt. Of course the genre had been around much longer than that, but I was surprised to discover it influencing the sound a of a late 70’s British rock star. Ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time, Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives,” most certainly pulls it sound from this innately island genre.
Costello attributes his writing of the song to a late night binge listening session of the Clash’s first album. Perhaps he had some late night re-runs of old detective shows on while doing this? Or maybe he was up late unable to sleep due to a fight with the girl in the song? Whatever the circumstances, it is widely accepted that the song is about a boyfriend that is frustrated with his girlfriend for paying him no attention while she watches detective dramas on TV.
Even with its quirky storyline, “Watching The Dectives” was certainly a new avenue for the British Punk scene it was inspired by. It is no wonder why it grabbed the critics’ attentions and has remained a hit to this day.
This week I am going back to The Beatles and one of my favorite albums, The White Album. “Bouncy, cheerful, tinkly,” says Hunter Davies¹, “Martha My Dear” it is short and sweet, and apparently cuddly! Martha is turns out was Paul’s Old English sheep dog. The dog and Paul’s piano were the only inspiration needed to created this tune, with none of the other Beatles taking part in the recording. Recorded in October 1968, it is thought that, although Martha was indeed a real dog, that perhaps she may have not been the soul subject of the tune, as it was only a year prior that Paul’s engagement to Jane Asher was called off. Critics reviewing the lyrics believe that the song reflects Paul’s wish that Asher never forget him, even though it was his infidelity that lead to their split. “Martha My Dear” has not be considered one of The Beatles stand outs by any means, but it certainly has the upbeat, bubbliness that makes you want to hum along. While the true inspiration may have come from a break up, the sound definitely evokes the spirit of a jolly Old English sheep dog.
Davies, Hunter, ed. The Beatles Lyrics. New York: Little,Brown, 2014. Print. ¹