For those that don’t participate on the Mothership and for those that do and want to see the “full” article that I submitted plus another chance to listen to some great tunes.
The colour red is associated with the sex-industry, red dresses, red underwear, scarlet women and the universal symbol of prostitution being the ‘red-light, it crops up in many songs but where did it originate: its use appears undeniable as a signal that a prostitute is ‘open for business’ and as with all professions they tend to congregate in the same locality and hence we got ‘red-light districts’.
Several sources suggest the Chinese used red paper lanterns to denote the availability of a girl, whereas others propose it was from the red lanterns carried by railway workers that were left outside so that they could be easily retrieved.
There are even biblical references: Rahab a prostitute in Jericho aided the spies of Joshua and placed a ‘scarlet rope’ outside her house to signify her presence and so avoid the massacre that ensued.
Throughout the weekend this topic threw out several consistent themes that song writers drew their inspiration from: it’s a lonely profession, it’s scary and cold ‘walking the streets’, many don’t want to be there, many are forced or driven to it by circumstance; many a ‘punter’ falls in love only to be thwarted by death or simple rejection.
It is often an emotionless transaction and that’s what it boils down to a ‘service’ for payment, whether that’s cash or ‘in-kind’ but one of the greatest fears for the ‘women of the night’ is age and losing their looks, they try to their best to remain young or offer ‘extras’ for higher payment.
The lyrics have therefore played an important part in my selection for inclusion in the A-list, some were well known and one a long-time favourite of mine but as ever RR contributors have introduced me to some fabulous new material.
So how do you tell if a prostitute is open for business? Well according to Gov’t Mule you ask them to leave a light on.
Lola leave your light on
I said Lola leave your red light on
Marillion’s Lady Nina caters to your every fantasy:
One night you’ll play Elizabeth Taylor
The next night you’re Marilyn Monroe
Forever kissing frogs that think they’re princes
Oh, Lady Nina, where did all the romance go?
Bruce Springsteen has got to pay: “two hundred dollars straight in two-fifty up the ass” …. Even if The Boss didn’t enjoy it:
…. She brought me another whisky
Said “here’s to the best you ever had
We laughed and made a toast
It wasn’t the best I ever had
Not even close.
It’s a transaction that’s all, sordid but it’s all about payment for The Zuton’s Freak:
It’s a hundred pounds an hour
Or two hundred for the day
I’ll take cash or credit card
I don’t mind how you pay
Or that “nom” that cropped up time and time again; Roxanne from Alex Turner’s Arctic Monkey’s
don’t do major credit cards
I doubt she does receipts
It’s all not quite legitimate
No matter how much you charge, there’s always someone wanting a cut as the Beautiful South reflect:
And before you do just what you do
Here’s one thought for you to chew
The men who run the business that you sell
They screw you too
The Jam acknowledge that you can’t stay young forever:
And you started looking much older
And your fashion sense is second rate like your perfume
But to you in your little dream world
You’re still the queen of the butterfly collectors
Jonathan Byrd’s Diana Jones ran her ‘business’ from the Do Drop Inn:
Diana ran the Do Drop inn wily as a mountain cat
Kept a room behind the bar for any man who needed that
Tina Turner’s Private Dancer typifies the lack of emotion and anonymity:
Well the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don’t look at their faces
And you don’t ask their names
You don’t think of them as human
You don’t think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall
Or as in this wonderful acoustic from The Twilight Sad:
You are the bearer of a womb without love
You could of [sic] had it all
Jobriath knows from personal experience that it’s tough ‘walking the streets’:
Walk, walk, walk the streets all day,
I walk, walk, walk the streets all night,
I walk, walk, walk with my feet on fire
My love for hire.
The Crusaders (feat. Randy Crawford) know all about the toll of street life:
Street life, you can run away from time
Street life, for a nickel, for a dime
Street life, but you better not get old
Street life, or you’re gonna feel the cold
Finally Karine Polwart seeks to escape this trap so …
Show me a road that’s not this hard