the song
title : Siren
written by : Eddi Reader, Teddy Borowiecki and Boo Hewerdine
song copyright : © 1993 Redemption Songs Ltd (80%); Dizzy Heights Music Publishing Ltd (20%) administered by Chrysalis Music Ltd

the performance
musicians
Eddi Reader vocal
Teddy Borowiecki keyboards
David Piltch bass
Curt Bisquera drums
music
key : E major
time-signature : 4/4
tempo : MM 69
form : V R V R ½v C V R M ½v V C
lyrics

provided for research and private study only (see above for copyright details):

Siren

another night in paradise
Valentino’s gone back to his day job
he looks so helpless in his stolen suit
another woman waits in Heartbreak Drive, ah

siren, come comfort me
come comfort me

poets weep at his precious words
I can’t count the hearts broken on his tragic hips, ah
who am I to deserve perfection
I nearly fainted when he licked his lips, oh-woh

sirens, come comfort me
come comfort me
ooh-oh-ah

Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia
Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia
Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia
Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia

we play kiss, cuddle or torture
clasp our hands to heaven love starts when
Jesus looked like David Essex in a nightdress, oh
I nearly died in his dollar green eyes

siren, come comfort me

you sing so soft and mother sweet
come comfort me
comfort this sailor’s heart
when life’s too wonderful to bear
come comfort me
come comfort me
ah-ee-ah

– with vocalise

ooh, so all is fair when life gets hairy {is it? is it? continues…}
ah, whatever works as you wend your way
{Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia}
but if your man in the moon’s not listening
{Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia}
just go dancing with the Lorelei

Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia {is it? is it? continues…}
Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia
Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia
Ligea, Parthenope, Leucosia

explanations

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were creatures, half woman and half bird, who lured sailors to their deaths by sweet singing. Two different deaths seem to have been envisioned, either the singing made the hearers oblivious to the dangerous rocks around their island home, or alternatively the oblivion induced in those on board ship made them forget even to eat and they died of starvation.

In Homer’s Odyssey there are two Sirens, but later Greek mythology names three – Parthenope (meaning ‘virgin’), Ligea (‘bright voiced’) and Leucosia (‘white goddess’).

Incidentally, ‘Sirenia’ is the biological order of dugongs, manatees and sea-cows, so named because sailors thought they were actual examples of the mythical creatures. It is not clear where the singing fitted in with this identification!

The Lorelei is, strictly speaking, the steep rock on the banks of the Rhine near St Goar, with a famous echo. Hence by association it is also the name of a Siren reputed to lure boatmen to their deaths nearby.

Rudolph Valentino was a silent-movie actor, noted for his extreme good-looks and effect on women – the original matinée-idol.

Heartbreak Drive brings to mind Heartbreak Hotel, but there may be a more direct reference of which I am ignorant.

David Essex is a British pop-star and actor who was a teen pin-up idol in the 1970s.


the recording
personnel
produced by : Greg Penny
recorded by : Jon Ingoldsby at El Mirador, Ojai, California
mixed by : Jon Ingoldsby assisted by Andy Strange at Air Studios, London
mastered by : Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Los Angeles
technical
track timing : 5:09
song timing : m:ss
released on
album : Eddi Reader track 12

commentary

Another song about an compulsive relationship. All the references have to be taken as allusions, although i can’t claim to know enough about the films and appearances of Valentino and David Essex to know how tightly the song ties in with other fictions. For example, I thought that the famous teenage pin-up of Jesus was Robert Powell. Still, I’m not going to let that get in the way of one of my favourite tracks. Reports of live performances of this on the 1994 tour make me very sorry I missed them.

The strange atmosphere conjured up by this song is due not only to the allusive words, with their hints of a sick obsession, but also to the semitonal relationship between the two alternating chords which form the harmonic basis of the music. Appropriately, in view of the classical origin of the Sirens myth, these are known to musicians as a Phrygian progression after the Phrygian mode (supposedly characteristic of Phrygia, the place). In this case the move is from E-major to F-major and back (see also the track ‘Dolphins’).

The backing vocal’s repeated “is it?” brings to mind the same use in the track ‘That’s fair’ on the Mirmama album.

Adrian Dover