Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Close listening: Devil Woman by Cliff Richard

0.01 I don't care what anyone says, this is one of the coolest intros of all time. That apocalyptic keyboard, wow! A masterclass in how to turn one repeated note into a totally viable riff by changing the backing chords and chucking in a descending bass line. In the style of Blur's Beetlebum. I bet Albarn et Al(ex James) would be flattered to know they're being compared to the likes of Cliff Richard.

0.17 "I've had nothing but bad luck / Since the day I had the cat at my door" sings Cliff, setting up the recurring feline theme. Funny, as a Christian, you wouldn't expect him to be so superstitious. Well, not in such a pagan way.

0.25 "So I came into you, sweet lady…" Oo-er! A rather unchaste admission from one so religious.

0.35 "Crystal ball on the table / Showing the future, the past". Don't most crystal balls just show the future? Maybe he was confusing it with a television set.

0.41 "Same cat with them evil eyes…" I told you the cat would be back.

0.45 "And I knew it was a spell she cast." By this stage, I think Cliff may be taking the anthropomorphism a bit too far.

0.49 Cliff does a highly sexual "UHH" grunt as a lead in to the chorus. Mildly disturbing.

1.03 "Beware the devil woman / She's gonna get you - from behind". This line gave me major pause for rather jumbled thought. The emphasis in the song is that the being in question is a woman, with devilish elements. But the whole 'getting you from behind' thing makes me think more of the devil himself, because of the 'get behind me Satan' mantra. (If it was a woman getting you from behind, I imagine a screaming harpy jumping on my back and clawing at my eyelids. Which would be unpleasant, but not life-threatening, and surely not worth writing a three-and-a-half minute pop song about.) Is Cliff in fact saying that Satan is female? And what's the point of the 'get behind me Satan' thing if she's going to get you from behind anyway? Another alternative: is this whole thing just a big homophobic rant?

1.10 If Cliff's lyrical warning about cats wasn't enough, surely the post-chorus wailing guitar note and spooky 'woooooo' backing vocals will warn you off.

1.31 "I drank the potion she offered me / I found myself on the floor". Knowing Cliff and his clean-living ways, she probably offered him a shandy, or small glass of sherry.

1.42 A strange thought occurs to me. I bet Cliff sings this when he has the Blairs over to stay in his house in Barbados! And I bet he points to Cherie every time he sings the line "Then I looked in those big green eyes"!

1.47 Another possibility for the chorus: is there an unheard comma here? "Beware the devil, woman / She's gonna get you"; perhaps Cliff is warning all women about the dangers of Satan (who is also female). Many levels.

2.13 A series of one-note bleeps, reminiscent of mid-90s space-rock cowboys Scott 4.

2.22 "Be careful of the neighbourhood strays." More cats. Ha!

2.29 "Of a lady with long black hair" Cherie?

2.30 "Trying to win you with her feminine ways". Cliff brilliantly pronounces it 'fem-in-nein', which is unintentionally hilarious. If you take any message away from this song, it's surely to look out for the evil 'feminein' ways of green-eyed Goth temptresses, like Cherie Blair.

More close listening


jpt said...

"Is Cliff is in fact saying that Satan is female?"

The clue's in the title.

Will said...

No, that's the whole point. Is he talking about a woman who has devilish elements or 'is Cliff in fact saying that Satan is female'?

Close reading jpt, close reading.