01 February 2008

"jolene" || strawberry switchblade || 1985

Strawberry Switchblade were a duo from the UK that surfaced in 1985 with a self-titled LP, and then disappeared completely from the music scene shortly thereafter. That one album was enough to gain them an almost cult following, and not an undeserved one, either. Their gorgeous blend of goth glitz and synthpop is undeniably pretty awesome.

They had a decent hit in the UK with "Since Yesterday," which is fantastic song, but I chose instead to spotlight their cover of this Dolly Parton classic.

"Jolene" is a song that's surely stood the test of time, and I'm positive that it's due to the unusual attitude and tone of its lyrics. So prevalent in pop music are songs (usually sung by female singers) that threaten onlookers to stay away from their mate. ("You can't take my man, because I'm way hotter than you," blah, blah, blah) That's not the attitude of this songwriter, though. This time, the lady in question is pleading with another woman (Jolene), whom she obviously views as a threat to her relationship, "begging" Jolene not to steal her lover.

It's hard not to feel a little heartwrenched after hearing this song. We feel pity for the poor housewife, because clearly the man is all she feels like she has. She thinks that if the sultry Jolene swoops in to steal her husband that her life will end, and she'll never pick up the pieces and move on. The worst feeling for me is thinking that the wife already knows that her husband has slept with Jolene, and rather than feeling strong enough to confront both of them and deal with it, she's instead begging for Jolene's mercy. It's heartbreaking.

I think two things have kept this song alive for so long: 1.) It gives the listener extreme emotional catharsis. 2.) Countless women have probably felt the wife's helplessness and find the song relatable.

Strawberry Switchblade laid down the ultra-sad vocals over one of their signature drum machines, and an underground synthpop classic was born.

Listen to it here.