S&M

 

An orgiastic smorgasbord of song. Stories of love, disillusionment, Ukrainians, Parisians, New Yorkers, Londoners, Scots, Cubans, Indians, Brazilians, children, parents, gypsies and other more interesting stuff. A rich and seamless journey through continents and past lives.

Produced by Riley McMahon at New Warsaw Studio. Songs by Spottiswoode.

Spott plays a classical guitar and sings, Riley plays the kitchen sink. Plus random guest appearances from Kenny White on piano, Kevin Cordt on trumpet, Paul Ossola on double bass, Bruce Martin on percussion, Todd Reynolds on violin, Trevor Exter on cello and others...

Named Best DIY Record of the Year in Performing Songwriter Magazine.
Nominated for an Independent Music Award as Best Folk Record of the year.

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READ SPOTTISWOODE'S DISCUSSION OF THE SONGS...

Ladies & Gentlemen, S&M!

About the song:     A sexy way to start the party.

About the production: Thanks Delphine, Janie, Alka, Miyoung & Lenka.  We won’t tell if you don’t.


I've Fallen In Love In Love With Someone Like You Before

About the song:     I wrote this song a long time ago when I started dating a younger woman.  The joke was on me.  We went out for another five years.  (Unlucky for her.)  I was listening to Leonard Cohen at the time.  There is definitely an influence: minor waltz etc.  But at least I sing it in a British accent.  So maybe it won’t seem like too much of a rip-off.

About the production: Todd Reynolds blew me and Riley away with all his violin playing on this record.  He’s great on this track.  Somehow the backing vocals turn this song into a number from Oliver Twist.  Oh well.

 

Mummy’s Got Strange Friends

About the song:     The truth is that I have turned into one of these sad eccentric characters myself. A lot of the “joke songs” that I write are often the most honest and moving for me.  I hate it when my better songs are dismissed as cute novelties.  Although maybe this one really is.  Anyway, it’s pretty much true.  I knew most of the characters described.  They aren’t made up.  And I can still remember coming home after school, lying on the white shag carpet in the living room and watching one of Mum’s strange visitors.  And my mother’s beautiful smile.  I love me mum I do.  

About the production:    I love it.  Well done, Riley.  Everything from Paul’s bass playing to Todd’s manic violin to Kenny’s crazy piano to Bruce’s out percussion.  There’s a bit of Carmen too if you listen closely.  (Mum’s a singing teacher.)


Don't Fall In Love With Laura Ingraham

About the song:    This is very loosely based on someone I was once obsessed with.  And it’s not the conservative radio lady.  I hadn’t even heard of her when I wrote it.  Still, it’s not impossible to imagine that this little girl would grow up to become a witch.  So, I don’t mind the association.  If it makes you chuckle, that’s fine. (My Dad’s a retired clergyman.  But not a vicar.)

About the production:    I had just about nothing to do with it.  Riley is fab.  He layered in Trevor’s cello parts nicely with the midi strings.  Very grand.  Kevin is Mr. Sassy.


Ukrainian Girl

About the song:    This is another true song.  I wrote it just after I arrived in New York City.  Quentin Crisp, a famous English queer, was still alive then and living in the East Village.  I met this girl at a now defunct punk club on St. Marks Place called Coney Island High.  She was there to see a band called Bananafish Zero.  I was interested in writing portrait songs – anything as long as they weren’t about me.  That night I met her and a character who became the subject of another song of mine, the “Enfant Terrible.” 

About the production:    My most fun on the whole record was singing these back-up vocals at the end.  Now I know what it feels like to be a transvestite.   Only wish I got to see Riley play the wine glasses. And that's Bronwen Exter (of Ukrainian ancestry) doing the high heels track running out of the 2nd Avenue subway station (honest!).
 

Cold Days Of December

About the song:    The truth.  I like the fact that it comes before “How I Miss My Baby So” - the other side of the coin.

About the production: We went for a Buena Vista feel.  Kevin stood a long way from the mike while playing his beautiful trumpet part.  And so did Bruce with the congas and claves.  Kenny and Paul are also outstanding.  And there’s Riley doing his Ry Cooder on steel.  Okay, I’m no Ibrahim Ferrer.  But I’m singing what I know.  That’s as much as I can hope for.
 

How I Miss My Baby So

About the song:    I sometimes wish I was Brazilian.  

About the production: That’s Trevor, the precocious beauty, singing in Portuguese.  I used to sing gibberish at shows for that part until Trevor came along.  Candace’s sax at the end is delicious.  It’s a crime that we fade it out so quickly.


Jessica, Sit Down

About the song:    I traveled for six months in Asia before university and met a lot of back-packers who were almost permanent travelers.  Some of them had lost their minds.  Not sure if this is about them, me or someone else…

About the production:    This song drove Riley and me crazy, despite the fine playing from our friends.  Sometimes the simplest songs take the most work.


Wooden Chair

About the song:    I wrote this in an ex-girlfriend’s old bohemian loft apartment near Chinatown in Washington, DC. It was a sexy apartment and it has a lot of memories for me.  When I hear this song I see the apartment.  It’s a happy song but I remember being a bit sad at that time in my life.

About the production:     Love Bruce’s tablas and Paul’s bass.  And Riley’s harmonium and lap steel.  And that’s not bad heavy breathing for an asthmatic. Delphine (telephone voice) is now back in Paris.  We miss her.


I'm So Sorry, Caroline

About the song:    It’s very rare that two people in a relationship are both happy at the same time… Just an observation.

About the production:    This one took some work too.


I Live In Constant Fear

About the Song:    This is one of the first songs I ever wrote on piano – even though I now play it on guitar.  I wrote it many years ago somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line while on tour with my old band, The Zimmermans.  We were crashing in someone’s basement and there was a piano there and I quickly came up with the chords and the idea. 

About the production:    Todd rules on the violin.  And Riley doubles Kevin’s trumpet part with banjo.  Show-off.
 

Ghosts

About the song:    I went to university in Scotland.  In Edinburgh.  A beautiful and moody city.  During my second year, I stuck a lot of postcards of Edvard Much paintings onto my wall.  Perhaps it’s because I’m half Norwegian, but Munch has always been my favorite painter. 
When people ask me what kind of songwriter I am, I want to reply that I’m an expressionist.  But it sounds pretentious so I mumble something about rock and roll instead.    
There are two football (soccer) teams in Edinburgh: Hearts and Hibernian.  I lived pretty near the Hearts grounds during my second year.  I never saw the kind of riot described in this song.  But there was a shadow of drunkenness and violence over the city.  Edinburgh is supposed to be sedate compared to a town like Glasgow.  Still, there’s a Nordic darkness to it.  Much like the brooding darkness that existed in Oslo at the turn of the last century (and probably still does).  It haunts me.
I was a failed poet and songwriter as a student.  What’s new?  But there was one line I wrote in my second year that stayed with me for a while, something about seeing myself at night in the reflection of an Edinburgh shop window and thinking that I looked like a ghost.
Several years later I started writing this song.  It’s about my final year in Edinburgh, the year after I had my first serious girlfriend.  She visited me several times, and each time it was the typical kind of emotional roller-coaster ride you’d expect from lovers in their early twenties.
The episode described in the song never really happened.  But ever since I wrote it I feel like it did.  And I wish Munch were alive to paint it.

About the production:     Riley came up with the beautiful instrumental melody.  And played it on melodica at shows.  This song is never much of a crowd-pleaser live.  But Riley always championed it and I appreciate that.
And then Todd worked his magic on it.  He lay down several tracks.  Riley played his tricks with them.  We were listening to it once – perhaps during the mix – and I told Riley that I couldn’t believe this was something we had created.  He agreed.  Todd’s swirling violins are beautiful.  Paul’s bass playing is also very tasty.  
I haven’t really said much about all the sound effects on the records.  But the fireworks on this song are one of my favorite effects.  I like the way they get soggy in the rain…
 

Night

About the song:    This is a rare song for me in that I wrote the chords and the melody long before I wrote the lyric.  I was very proud of the tune and the way it sounded on guitar.  I wanted the lyric to live up to it.  Nothing I wrote seemed to fit.  I stopped trying.
About a year later, I woke up very early one morning, shortly after dawn.  I was living on the Upper West Side in a tiny studio apartment with a loft bed.  For some reason, I decided to get up.  I climbed down the ladder from the loft bed, picked up my guitar, played the familiar chords and wrote the lyric.
I have never written another song like it.  It’s a tender song addressed to two women.  The first verse is sung to the man’s mistress, the second verse is sung to his wife/girlfriend.  It’s basically a love song sung by a man who has just been unfaithful.
A few weeks before I wrote the lyric I had been to the Walter Reade Cinema and seen the Antonioni film, La Notta.   The film is beautifully shot in black and white and stars Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau.  Still, I was pretty bored for most of it.  Marcello is experiencing some existential anguish.  So is his wife, Moreau.  They end up at an all-night party thrown by some aristocrat at his mansion.  Marcello wanders through the mansion by himself.  He finds a ravishingly beautiful woman in an ornate billiard room.  They flirt and soon kiss.  Moreau just wanders around on her own looking sad.  Finally, it’s dawn.  Moreau wanders past some partiers on the terrace and walks down a dewy lawn towards the woods.  Marcello sees her and runs after her.  The last image of the film shows Marcello, the rake, virtually smothering his wife on the lawn.  He holds her like a desperate baby clinging to its mother.
Somehow, this last image stunned me.  It didn’t matter that I had been bored for the first hour and a half.  I got it.  I obviously have more in common with Italian men than I like to think.  
If you don’t get it, see the film.  If you still don’t get it, see L’Aventura, another Antonioni film.  It ends very similarly and hit me as deeply.  Okay, you may not get it after that.  And this song may not be for you.
I wasn’t thinking about the film at all when I wrote the song. The connection only dawned on me once I finished it.

About the production:    Alas, I don’t like the way I sing this song. The way it’s voiced on the guitar, there’s only one key that’s right: A minor.  But it’s a little too high for my voice there.  Or too low.  In the French version I sing it an octave lower, but what might sound cool in French can sound ridiculous in English.  Music is hard.
 

End of The Day

About the song:    I wrote this song many years ago in an apartment in Dupont Circle, Washington DC.  It’s very simple and always very calming to play live.

About the production:    This is one of the first songs Riley worked on.  I like the simplicity of it.  A few summers ago, I was in Minnesota at my eldest brother’s wedding.  That evening I sat out on the lawn and played some songs for a few remaining guests.  I was relaxed and taking in the moment.  I remember another brother sitting near me as I sang this song.  I became aware of the overwhelming sound of crickets all around me.  I started to slow the pace of the song down.  Soon I was singing in rhythm with the crickets.   You can tell from these songs that I am a chronic bourgeois, citified and sissified pseudo-sophisticate.  But dude, playing with the crickets was cosmic.
I got back to New York and suggested a bed of crickets on the track to Riley.  What was his reaction?  “That’s a great idea.”  That’s why we love working with Mr. McMahon.  Never resting on his laurels.  Always ready to reopen Pandora’s box.
He recorded these crickets on his mini-disc recorder while visiting our friend, Peter Fox, in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles.


Nuit

About the song:    Riley and I were close to finishing the record.  We were recording the string parts on Caroline and Night with Hiroko and Mary.  They were packing up their instruments.  Riley asked them if they had been able to pay attention to the lyrics of Night while they were playing their parts.  Of course, they hadn’t.  Riley suggested I explain the story of the song to them.  Frankly, I didn’t want to.  I made a joke and said the song was very French, a man sings to his mistress and then to his girlfriend but it’s still a love song blah blah bah.
A few weeks later, I decided there should be a French version of the song.  Maybe I could sing it an octave lower…
Of course, Riley indulged me.  Not long after, I sat with Delphine Godin and Audrey Dana in Fort Greene, Brooklyn while they worked on it.  Life isn’t bad when two beautiful French women translate your song about infidelity into their language.

About the production:    We used the same basic track as the English version, but Riley turned it upside down.  Proud of the retro guitar and my little bass part.