Voices Carry

Deciding whether or not a band is “punk” is a debate in semantics, as punk music doesn’t have a clear definition.  It’s a moving target, rooted in principles rather than sound.  Punk rock has a variety of origins, but on the whole punk rock bands emerged as an active resistance to the perceived musical, economic, and social excesses of mainstream 1970s music.  Punk was essentially propagated by hippies with shorter hair and Garage rock was the first form of music called punk, and that style influenced much of punk rock.  It is hard to say when punk music actually started, as it seems to have been around before people even knew that what they were listening to was punk.  David Peel a subversive New York folk singer, street musician, counterculture icon arrived in the mid-60s as another manifestation of the punk attitude which had charged New York’s shape-shifting artistic movements and he was said to have directly influenced The Clash.  Since punk had to start someplace, a good case can be made for it starting with the notorious Fugs, who were labeled as being avant-rock (experimental rock which pushed the boundaries of the genre).  The Fugs appeared in the East Village in 1965 as New York’s founding fathers of agit-punk protest, playing music that was vulgar, repulsive and suggestive, noisily expounding about the joys of drugs and sex railing out against the Vietnam war.  They were also the first to use the word “punk” on record.

Punk Rock returned rock & roll to the basics, stripping the music down to its essentials, being three chords and a simple melody, but doing it louder and faster and more abrasively than any other rock & roll in the past.  New York had the Ramones and London had the Sex Pistols and these bands revolutionized music.  The British punk movement found a precedent in the ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude of the Skiffle craze that emerged amid the post-World War II austerity of 1950s Britain.  Soon punk evolved and split into subgenres with different ideologies splintering into post-punk (which was more experimental and artier than punk).

‘New Wave’ grew out of Punk rock and it became a new way to make punk music.  Initially new wave was similar to punk rock, before becoming its own distinct genre.  The music that followed punk could be divided, more or less, into two categories those being post-punk and new wave.  New wave was more pop-oriented, and hardcore, which simply made punk harder, faster, and more abrasive.  New Wave was usually used as a catch-all term for the music that directly followed punk rock, and often the term encompassed punk itself.  It retained the fresh vigor and irreverence of punk music, as well as a fascination with electronics, style, and art and by the early ’80s, and new wave described nearly every new pop/rock artist.  The basic principle behind new wave was the same as that of punk, where anyone can start a band, but new wave artists were more commercially viable than their abrasive counterparts.

In the midst of the new wave boom, Michael Jackson put out Thriller, which went on to become the second biggest selling album of all-time.  Thriller changed the game in pop music, and by the end of the year, hip-hop was growing by leaps and bounds and people stopped listening to new wave.  Grunge music hit the mainstream in the early 1990s and then in 1991, Rap changed pop music forever, killing everything that I enjoyed about music.  Today genre boundaries are evaporating and a cross-pollination of music exists, which makes it harder than ever to clarify one genre from another.

I am not sure that I actually explained anything about music and that is neither here nor there, as this post is a response to a word being ‘hush’, a picture shown above, and a song titled, ‘Voices Carry’.  My best guess is that this song is about a woman that is with a man and she wants more from him than he is willing to give, maybe because the guy is married and doesn’t want anyone to find out about her, or possibly he just wants to play around and not get deeply involved.  She is probably his mistress and he likes her and it seems like she may be acquainted with his wife or the other woman that he is involved with.  I read that this song was about the lead singer Aimee Mann and a relationship that she had with the drummer Al Jourgenson from Ministry.  This song came out on ‘Til Tuesday’s’ first album which is also called ‘Voices Carry’ and it became the greatest claim to fame for the group.  The lyrics were written by lead singer Aimee Mann, with music credited to the whole band.  The lyrics were originally written about a woman being in love with another woman and they were made to change the gender and remove the lesbian components. so this song could reach mainstream audiences.

Mann had a tumultuous music career, which began in Boston’s punk scene with her first band being ‘The Young Snakes’, which featured her college chum Al Jourgenson, with whom Mann briefly played in an early incarnation of Ministry.  Aimee dropped out of The Berklee College of Music, located in Boston, Massachusetts and formed the New Wave band ‘Til Tuesday’ in 1983 with her then boyfriend Michael Hausman.  The band struck gold two years later with ‘Voices Carry’, a wrenching account of an oppressive love affair.

‘Voices Carry’ got a massive boost in popularity from their video being on MTV.  The video shows Aimee Mann in her distinctive haircut and at the break, there’s a scene with her oaf of a boyfriend berating her for having a music career instead of being his hausfrau.  On the video, Mann is seen lashing out at her boyfriend during a concert at Carnegie Hall.  She stands up from her seat and removes her cap to reveal her spiky hair, stunning the audience.  Aimee Mann’s creepy boyfriend (played by Cully Holland), derides her music career and gets rough with her.  When they go to Carnegie Hall to watch the symphony, Mann can’t take it anymore and has an outburst in the middle of the theater, finally expressing her pent-up frustration.  This scene was inspired by the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much, where Doris Day screams during a symphony to thwart a murder.

The haunting, captivating tone of this song made it a hit in 1985, featuring intense bass playing under the husky vocal declaring each line like an entry in a diary.  Sometimes you never really know the person that you are with.  There are very dark undertones in the song, hinting at an abusive relationship, “I try so hard not to get upset, because I know all the trouble I’ll get.”  At first the guy is simply telling her to hush, but later in the song this becomes shut up!

I’m in the dark, I’d like to read his mind
but I’m frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he’s thinking of
to tear him away
when I tell him that I’m falling in love
why does he say
hush hush
keep it down now
voices carry
I try so hard not to get upset
because I know all the trouble I’ll get
oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
and something to fear
and I try so hard to keep it inside
so no one can hear
hush hush
keep it down now
voices carry
He wants me
but only part of the time
He wants me
if he can keep me in line
hush hush
keep it down now
voices carry
hush hush, darling, she might overhear
oh, no-voices carry
he said shut up he said shut up
oh God can’t you keep it down
voices carry
I wish he would let me talk.

Written for Laura M. Bailey All The Shoes I Wear Manic Mondays 3 way Prompt: a picture, the word hush and the song Voices Carry.

9 thoughts on “Voices Carry

  1. OK so Jim, I’ve favor to ask you compose a list of 5 songs that you love to hear and on every Sunday drop their titles and band name to my email. In that way I can find these gems. By the way you can decline the request, I’ll find them when you post them on the Music challenge, but you have a great taste my friend, in everything I guess.

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    1. Thanks Laura. This post brought back a lot of old memories for me as when I was in High School, a friend named Tim asked me if I wanted to be the manager of his band. He was the lead singer and they were called the Fugs. They did some Cream songs like ‘I’m So Glad’ and ‘Sitting On Top of the World’ and this was my first exposure to music. The drummer Andy went on to cut an album with a group called ‘The Electrics’ which was New Wave music. I also worked with this wild and crazy guy named Roger McGuin who was friends with David Peel, as he used to hang out in Washington Square Park in the Village. This guy actually sat on the amplifiers when the Grateful Dead played at Middlesex County College in 1970.

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