A warning: this week’s Tuesday Ten features adult and sexual themes.
Still here? Thought you might be.
Polyamory: the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all the people involved. [source]
Polyamory: from Greek poly, “many, several”, and Latin amor, “love” (which I’m sure makes a number of language specialists twitch everytime they hear it, but the name has stuck all the same). [source]
Yes, this week is about a specific subject, and in some respects it was rather surprising to find that there are many, many more than ten songs about it.
So, this is about polyamory: multiple girlfriends, multiple boyfriends, a mix of the two – that’s up to and depends upon the orientations of those involved – but always with the consent of all involved. When done in a way that works for everyone, it can be a whole lot of fun, but stress can quickly result in so, so many ways. Needless to say, it’s not for everyone, and nor would I ever suggest that it would ever be.
I’ve been considering this Ten for a long time, but until recently haven’t really had the impetus to finish it (or could think of enough songs). But in the past few weeks, the inspiration has finally struck. Partly thanks to seeing John Grant (and guest Cate Le Bon) cover Mary MacGregor’s schmaltzfest Torn Between Two Lovers (which in some respects fits the bill), and partly thanks to a few interesting articles in the press recently: this one on the BBC, and this rather sad one from the Guardian last week (and I can only give thanks that my family were rather more accepting of my choices).
Anyway, these ten songs feature a look at the good, the bad, the fun and the not-so-fun. Unsurprisingly, Goths are involved too.
Oh My Lover
If I think about it, this was probably the first song where I discovered what polyamory was, even if I didn’t know the name of it. It isn’t as if the sentiment isn’t really fucking obvious – neon letters would be less subtle than this opening verse: “Oh, my lover / Don’t you know it’s all right? / You can love her / And you can love me at the same time“. It is also the first song many people heard from PJ Harvey early on, being the stark opener to Dry, with Harvey’s vocals clear as a bell in front of sparse instrumentation.
All My Lovers
The Scavenger Bride
Perhaps not surprisingly, the gothic grandeur of Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s back catalogue contains a song about polyamory. In fact, perhaps the surprise is that I couldn’t find more than one. A colleague – who was curious about my lifestyle – recently pondered whether “goths” are perhaps more drawn to poly as “[we] are already outside the norm, so taking another step like this is not a difficult one”. Maybe he’s right. Anyway, this is a gorgeous, swooning four minutes of sexual desire and sexual honesty.
My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend
Another very Goth band to tackle this subject had, as so often was the case, their tongues deeply in their cheeks while doing so. In fact, Type O dealt with a number of Goth stereotypes in song so brilliantly that they almost became set texts, and this glorious song certainly did so. An almost summery goth-metal hit (that chorus hook! the synths!) that tackled the whole idea of polyamory with a light, humorous touch that rather brushed off any difficulty with the subject and just made it all sound like it was just life rather than anything to be self-conscious about. As it is, really.
You Could Have Both
Someone to Drive You Home
And yes, I know this was featured on 252: Inappropriate Wedding Songs. But it was meant to fit in here first. By miles and miles (and miles), the short-lived band’s best song, it has a charging rhythm like a racing heartbeat, and Kate Jackson standing up and saying exactly what she wants, in no uncertain terms. And she’s willing to share to get it. Incidentally, this song has one of the greatest indie breakdowns I’ve ever heard. too, even referencing “Saint Scott Walker” in that extended section.
Those that might have been paying attention may also have noted that a number of these songs made it into our wedding playlist (as “inappropriate” wedding songs). Well, they are inappropriate for many… Another goth/industrial band that were very much preaching to the choir – and indeed kinda playing up to all the cliches to get column inches, I might suggest – were Snake River Conspiracy. Hot female singer saying and doing “controversial” things? Check. Slamming industrial-rock songs with pole-dancing/sexy videos? Check. Slightly sleazy songs about polyamory? Check, actually. What I did not know, though, was that this was a cover – from the band T-Ride, whose drummer Eric Valentine happened to be the producer of Sonic Jihad… This is the original, think I’ll stick with the SRC take, if you don’t mind…
Not a band I was aware of previously until Karen suggested them, but it was an obvious pick for this list. A ribald, funny-as-fuck duo from Canada that sing about kink, sex, more sex, and relationships. So a song about “fucking someone else” would be an obvious choice, but I couldn’t imagine many other bands nailing the difficulty of raising the subject quite so well. Or being so fucking funny about it at the same time…
Paper Thin Hotel
Death of Ladies Man
Talking of fucking someone else, Leonard Cohen is one of the few artists in this list to definitively have more than one song touching on the subject of polyamory (the other being Sisters of Mercy. That goth connection again). The perhaps rather more overt one is Paper Thin Hotel, where Leonard doesn’t have a problem with his partner sleeping with another – even when he’s in the room next door – instead he’s turned on and liberated by it. Each to their own.
Tra Le La Le La Triangle
Leavin’ On Your Mind / Tra Le La Le La Triangle
Not a woman un-used to heartbreak in her short life – her father left the family while she was young, and married twice before she died aged thirty – this song to me sounds to be an extraordinarily racy one for the usually staid country and western sound of the sixties – but then, she was a very powerful force in Nashville by this point (1963, just before her death – this was the B-side to her last single released while she was alive). Very obviously, this is Patsy Cline singing about being caught between two men that she loves, and apparently unable – or unwilling – to make a choice, instead deciding, at least to herself, that she really wants both.
I U She
“I don’t the make the choice / I like girls and I like boys“. Never one to shy from being upfront about sex, Peaches comes clean here about a number of her preferences. One of which is that she’d like both. Together. Whether that is for a one-night stand, or for something more long-lasting, is not really made clear, not that it matters. This is Peaches reminding all of us that what we choose to do is our own choice, we’re consenting adults and know what we’re doing.
Seeing Other People
If You’re Feeling Sinister
I truly, truly dislike this band, however even I’ll admit that this song is one of the more honest about polyamory. So, for the first time since 011: Bands I Dislike, Belle and Sebastian feature here. Stuart Murdoch really nails a particular feeling, though – one I have had in the past, admittedly in more “normal”, monogamous relationships, where the spark goes and there is little more than friendship remaining. Here, though, they are “seeing other people” in the meantime, presumably hoping that a spark elsewhere will jump-start their relationship again, while avoiding the difficult confrontation of a break-up.
In my mind, I can’t see that ever working. As ever, polyamory comes down to honesty. You can be honest about what you want – or what you don’t want, you can find what you want, but more than anything, you must be honest with each other.