A Traveller’s Guide to Lost and Later Songs #12
For those who may appreciate some background detail, I offer below my workings.
#12 What Boys Do (10/7/16)
“And you know all our boys
Are really girls at heart”
– The Imposter, Elvis Costello
“What Boys Do” started life in 2016 with the working title of “The Replacements” (see link), as the initial idea reminded me a little of the brilliant band of that name (as an irrelevant aside here, I would like to boast that one of the treasures in my collection is a cigarette packet signed by Paul Westerberg). I don’t remember too much about writing this but there are many things in my life that I don’t remember too much about and perhaps this is for the best. If called upon to explain myself as regards the title, I would draw attention to the lyric
-“All the big talk and then we’re through
But that’s just what boys do”
As a boy of a certain vintage, I grew up in an era when society’s expectation for its menfolk was to be strong, capable, uncomplaining, tough, undemonstrative, to never show weakness. That’s a fair bit to live up to. Hence the big talk. And all that goes with it.
The song itself sounded, once again, so unlike anything else we were doing at the time that I didn’t know where to put it (we are an anomaly even to ourselves) and so off it slipped, into obscurity, last seen in 2016. A six-year sentence to the Lost and Later files is, of course, relatively lenient when compared with some of the other songs (see “Drunk is a Holiday”). Then came the days of the new pestilence and lockdown during which, with nothing better to do, and having exhausted all other far more pleasant possibilities, I thought, oh dear, I might as well work. In the early demos there were concerns that the heavy guitars could sound a bit ploddy and pub rock so we decided a healthy dollop of glam was required and during the recording of the song, I often asked myself – “What would the New York Dolls do?” *. So, I added some “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ohs” and bought myself a feather boa. I wore the feather boa whilst recording the vocal and that helped to get me in the mood. Still, I had my doubts and, come the mixing, I expressed concern over my vocal performance in an email to our producer Colin Elliot, signing off with – “My only worry is that it may not be camp enough”. Colin was happy to reassure me on that point and replied-
“Don’t worry, it’s always camp enough”
* “What would the New York Dolls do?”
I would strongly recommend we ask ourselves this question whenever facing difficult circumstances, in whatever walk of life and certainly never less than once a day… although probably not whilst driving or operating heavy machinery.
First posted 3rd October 2022
(Image of Paul Westerberg by Vanyaland)