THE JAZZ BUTCHER – JUST LIKE BETTY PAGE
This is kind of a trick answer, really. And it’s the last day, so I’m going to take my time….
The Jazz Butcher song that changed my life was actually a homemade cassette lent to me and filled with various inspired album cuts, singles, and b-sides from this British songwriter and his gang of conspirators. Every song revealed an insightful, clever personality chronicling areas of life not often examined in song, from panthers and cowgirls to little pieces of chocolate and Grace Jones tapes. Some of the songs were recorded with a band in proper studios, and some sounded as if they were spat straight onto cassette in a late night fit of solitary mad genius. Hysterically funny, but also given to reflection and ennui, it was like peeking into someone’s journals and travelogues (true: one record was titled ‘Sex and Travel’), and I devoured it all like a big plate of pasta.
Musically it was all over the map, wearing its influences on its sleeve with a nice suit jacket on top to make them its own. It was music that needed no validation from you. In fact, it probably wasn’t concerned whether you were listening or not — it seemed to just enjoy being there — but if you gave it an ear you’d find it welcoming and happy to have you.
[I realize at this point I sound a little like Calvin when his mom asks him to describe his missing tiger, Hobbes, for the flyer they’ll hang in the neighborhood. He writes:
“On the quiet side, somewhat peculiar. A good companion in a weird sort of way.”
“I mean what does he look like?”
Additionally, if I hadn’t been so obsessed with the great catalog of Butcher tunes, I may never have met my sweet Kate, and that’s a road I’m thankful I didn’t have to walk!
So it was hard to choose just one song from this artist that changed my life more than any other artist. I waffled a lot and was nearly convinced that I’d choose the original version of ‘Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Present’ – a subtly maniacal, solo, acoustic-based rendering of his epic classic that reminded me a little of Frank Zappa’s more bizarre moments, without all the notes – because it taught me that it was okay to sit in your room, do whatever you wanted while the tape was rolling, and claim it proudly. Sadly, no YouTube video exists to share, and it isn’t particularly representative of the larger body of work, so perhaps that’s for the best.
Instead, I chose this free-wheelin’ memento amore as it’s such a highly enjoyable song. The takeaway here, for me, is how the lyrics are both incredibly sweet & simple yet winkingly subversive. Also, that guitar work from cohort Max Eider is beyond beautiful, and if you listen closely you can hear the musicians breathing. I think that’s important to notice in music moving forward so we can be assured our future pop stars aren’t part of the inevitable robot revolution. Keep it real, friends!