Sunday, October 6, 2013

She Never Took No For an Answer

When you think of the Sex Pistols' unlucky and incapable replacement bassist Sid Vicious and his unluckier girlfriend Nancy Spungen, you think of John Cale, right? Well, I don't, but the filmmakers of 1986 biopic Sid & Nancy (aka Love Kills) did, and I'm glad.

I'm honestly not sure what I think of the movie, but the soundtrack is one of my favorites, featuring really good songs by Joe Strummer, The Pogues, Steve Jones, and Circle Jerks; striking instrumentals by the Pogues and Pray for Rain; two tremendous in-character performances by Gary Oldman as Sid ("My Way" is better than Sid's); and, of course, this little ditty by our man John.


The song sounds like it was recorded around Artificial Intelligence: very 80s digital recording and synths. I'm not sure if any acoustic instruments are involved, actually. The vocal melody sounds improvised and the delivery matches, like Cale is singing to himself while walking in the dark woods. The tentative whistling gives the same impression. It's actually one of his more vulnerable moments. But maybe he was just distracted.

Like many others from the Caribbean Sunset/Artificial Intelligence years, "She Never Took No for An Answer" was a collaboration with roving lyricist Larry "Ratso" Sloman. The lyrics are a collection of memorable phrases ("carnivorous lovers", "parking lot vipers", "we'll sleep on the train that's leaving today"), but who knows what the song means. I think it's a meditation on failed escapism.

I'm not sure if the song was a donated outtake or written specifically for the movie, but it does use a phrase from the movie (spoken by Malcolm McLaren) about Sid: a "fabulous disaster". And final verse lyric "we all die like heroes when we're living like fools" seems appropriate to Sid & Nancy, at least for certain bathos-soaked values of "hero."

1 comment:

Inverarity said...

This was supposed to be included as a bonus track on the cancelled reissue of Caribbean Sunset, but that would have been a very bad fit. It fits pretty well with Artificial Intelligence, though, and that deserves a new pressing one of these days.