Upstairs Downstairs

from The Post Office Tower by Ian Evans

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about

This was recorded for the first Elevenses album and so is sung by Karen. I never considered re-recording it with my own voice, as she’s such an amazing singer and I really wanted a guest vocal. I remember very clearly coming up with the melody and lyrics, whilst walking home to Finchley through a snow storm. The underground had been cancelled, so I had to walk some of the way. The snare drum was recorded at my friend Mark’s house, as he had just bought a drum kit. I banged out the rhythm for ages! This song is so old that it predates me buying a drum machine. The lyrics are all about the life of a Victorian maid and some of the vocals were sampled and looped on my new porta-studio… Turning the tape upside down at the beginning, to make the song play backwards was really fun.

lyrics

My cat sleeps on the stairs
My boyfriend sails at sea
It’s a lie that you get paid more if you pass a degree
All Royalty and Empire’s saints are in no doubt
All small but I am happy and that’s what life is about

Nonsense about their weight is worried by each girl
I’m savouring the cool underneath of my pillow
Some clothes will take two people to rightly put them on
Ian smiled at the party but didn’t see her again

Cash = just useful to have, upstairs and downstairs

Limehouse and Sutton, Finchley and into port the ship
Mine is the cry of every woman at the colour changing strip

References

* Upstairs Downstairs – A 1970’s drama about servants and their employers. It’s also the type of song title that Stars in Battledress might use. They’re an excellent band
* Royalty and Empire – An exhibition of English royalty, which was once based in Windsor and run by Madam Tussaud's. I visited it on a great school trip. I loved all my school trips
* “Nonsense about their weight is worried by each girl” – I agonised about this line, as I worried that it might be seen as an insult to women’s attitudes. All I’m trying to say is that my female friends often seem to worry about their weight when, to my mind they look nice or even very beautiful
* Savouring the cool underneath my pillow – I do this a lot
* Some clothes take two people to put them on – For example corsets. It was common for Victorian ladies to require a maid’s help when dressing
* Ian smiled at the party but didn’t see her again – This refers to a postdoc, who I met at my first UCL Christmas party. I asked her if she was free for lunch and she said that I should meet her in the lunch room with the rest of her lab. I didn’t quite know how to handle it, as I would have been very outnumbered by people, who would all realise that I was hoping to ask her out properly. It eventually became clearer that she didn’t fancy me, so we just became casual acquaintances and I didn’t have to go to the awkward lunch
* Limehouse – An area of east London, featured a lot in Victorian literature due to its high Chinese population at the time
* Sutton – Karen’s hometown in Surrey
* Finchley – I lived in Finchley when I first moved to London in 2002. It’s a long way from Sutton!
* Mine is the cry of every woman – This Jungian idea comes from a book called Seahorses by Bidisha
* Colour changing strip – This refers to a pregnancy tester

credits

from The Post Office Tower, released January 6, 2006
Ian Evans, all instruments and some singing. Karen, lead vocals

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Ian Evans UK

Pop/experimental/rock musician and songwriter from London

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