Very occasionally at this time of year – and I’ve done this less than I thought I had – I turn to a subject that might have something to do with Valentine’s Day. This year is another of those, mainly as I’m still digging through the variety of as-yet-unused suggestion threads, and there was an appropriate one to pick up on.
That subject is the humble rose. A widespread perennial that has many, many different species, has been hybridised countless times and has gained a huge variety of symbolisms across cultures all over the world (and across time, too). But, in the circumstances this week, we’re mainly looking at the use of the rose as a symbol of love – these days it is the flower(s) given on Valentine’s Day, particularly a red rose, and those red roses now have prices to match the ever-present demand at this time of year.
As is often the case, not all of the songs are actually about the flowers themselves this week. There are metaphors, names, concepts and some interesting songs that I’d not thought about in a long, long time. As for Where The Wild Roses Grow? Well, it has been used more than once in this series already, and was our first dance at our wedding, so it has been omitted this time around…
As suggestions for this one were extracted from another thread, there were only 43 suggestions to work with (and five had been used before). Even so, there were 34 unique songs suggested, and 29 people suggested them. The parent thread will be used a bit later in the spring when I look at songs involving other flowers.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Coming Up Roses
The phrase “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” would usually be associated with Ethel Merman (thanks to her performance of the song in the musical Gypsy, and later parody in Airplane!, her last screen role), but I’ve gone instead for this unusually positive-sounding Curve song – a band whose work often veered toward the seething, revengeful nature of people, and by this point had leaned full-on into industrial textures – where Toni Halliday reminds us how strong and resilient she is, and what she has got through. What was interesting, when I started digging for the origin of the phrase, is that no-one seems really sure. The related “come up smelling like a rose” was in use in the US at the beginning of the twentieth century, but “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” seemed to only be popularised post-war.
/Every Rose Has Its Thorn
/Open Up and Say… Ahh!
One of the titans of glam metal in the late-80s in particular, Poison broadly followed the same trajectory of their peers – a slog to fame, huge success, internal conflict, drink, drugs, reformation later on. But like Curve – possibly the only time Poison and Curve might be directly related in song – the title of this song has roots in a proverb. The titular proverb here is one apparently of European origin, meaning that even the beautiful rose has a sharp, nasty side (the thorn), that can do a lot of damage. Not my favourite Poison song, mind, but then, power ballads like this were never generally my bag…
/Boys for Pele
Tori Amos’s third solo album proper divided opinion enormously upon release, and as a seventeen-year-old when it was released in early 1996, it took me a while to truly “get it” and appreciate it (the complexity and anger that drives this sprawling album was one that made it less…accessible than Under The Pink, that was for sure). But time has been kinder to this album, and it now has appreciation as the searing feminist statement that it always was. This song – like so many others of her work – has had ultra-detailed analysis elsewhere, but broadly, here the blood rose represents sex, history and life, as she tears apart herself post-breakup. The use of harpsichord here sounds like stabs to the finger, much like the thorns of a rose.
/Roses In The Hospital
/Gold Against The Soul
It will perhaps surprise no-one – especially those that know my wife and a number of my friends – that the Manics are now officially the most-used band in the /Tuesday Ten series (this is their 31st appearance), although perhaps less surprising is that this is only the second song from Gold Against The Soul to feature (by comparison, no less than nine songs from The Holy Bible have featured). Part of the reason for these songs featuring less is mostly that Gold Against The Soul was so much more of a personal album, with Edwards and Wire both looking inward for inspiration. This song – one of the singles from the album – in retrospect rather feels like a cry for help from Richey Edwards, prior to the more obvious darkness of what followed, comparing the bleak, unfeeling hospital treatment with the beauty of flowers brought to patients, perhaps. Either way, the repeated refrain is now going to be stuck in my head for days.
/Songs for Swinging Lovers
One of the most elegant, swooning songs I’ve heard from The Indelicates, but not all is what it seems. At first listen – provided you don’t listen too closely – it might be suggested this at worst that this is a murder ballad, as Julia Indelicate weaves a tale of someone moving wordlessly through a home, and there’s this dark edge of threat. But my wife – who knows this band so much better than I – tells me that there is something (to me, wholly unexpected) of Lovecraftian horror to the threat here, which does indeed lead to death. And bleeding the colour of roses. Not what I was expecting, I have to say.
/Damned Damned Damned
A song that will forever be in history – the first punk single by a British band, released late in 1976, and it is a surprisingly positive, energetic song, so different to Anarchy In The UK that followed it just months later. Maybe, too, the everlasting love for this song from just about everyone I know comes precisely because it has a positivity, a sense of living for the moment, and enjoying what happens (rather than trying to destroy everything in sight). The New Rose in question, though, is not apparently first love, as an initial listen might suggest. Brian James has instead said that it is about the blossoming of a new scene – i.e. the punk scene, that perhaps less grew like a flower than a weed or parasite, at least according to the mainstream!
/Mer de Noms
There was something about this album that struck a chord with many, with Billy Howerdel’s oh-so-modern, electronic-tinged hard rock meshing perfectly with Maynard James Keenan’s enigmatic vocals, while his lyrics have perhaps been pored over even more than his work in Tool. Across the album there are a great many religious references, sex references, and over half of the song titles reference people in Keenan’s life in one way or another (even if they aren’t necessarily about them). Rose is one of the latter, as far as I can tell, using flower and animal metaphors to seemingly describe the beautiful and harsh nature of relationships, particularly as they disintegrate. But like the rose, there was something unexpectedly fragile about much of this album, as if Keenan had suddenly chosen to reveal his feelings after years of cryptic Tool songs. It turned out, mind, that nothing of the sort was happening…
Let’s be clear – trying to decipher the messy nature of KatieJane Garside’s lyrics was never an easy job, and even reading the lyrics to this one again, I’m still not much the wiser. Amid the stomping, punk-metal fury of this track (it is just two-minutes long), there is a distinct feeling of the character that Garside is inhabiting spinning out of control, both wanting and not wanting human contact or support, her “bed of roses”, I suspect, being a comfortable, safe space (at least in her hed). The primal roar at the close of the track is something else, too.
/The Blood, The Wine, the Roses
/A Line of Deathless Kings
Not the only song where roses are mentioned by My Dying Bride – there’s something of a gothic grandeur to the flowers of a rose, particularly as nowadays hybrids have been created that are such dark red to be near black in colour, so it’s an image that fits neatly. And yes, true to My Dying Bride form, this is an ode to a gothic temptress, one of pale skin and raven hair, that will take Aaron Stainthorpe to a world of sin – and, amid the rolling, gothic doom that rises around him, there are the titular items that are all his sees as he gives in and expires in bliss.
/In A Bar, Under The Sea
Yes, this has appeared before (on /219/Outros), but I’m breaking my usual rule of trying to avoid featuring songs a second time these days, simply because this is one of my most beloved songs. Not to mention, too, a longstanding fan favourite (requested endlessly at gigs until the band, as usual, play it in their encores…). The Rose(s) in question here are both an ex-girlfriend and the flowers, the story goes that when vocalist Tom Barman met up with his ex, she pretended not to know him, so he did the same, and then presumably presented her with the roses mentioned and seduced her all over again… As I’ve noted before, this song is one of a constant, steady build, before a cacophonous, chaotic climax that stops…dead, with a simple “…thank you.”