Song of the Day #1,020: ‘Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John’ – Belle & Sebastian and Norah Jones

Belle & Sebastian sing duets as a matter of course, with three or four of their seven members sharing vocals on most of their albums. Lead singer Stuart Murdoch often trades lines with Sarah Martin or (previously) Isobel Campbell as well as Stevie Jackson.

But on a couple of occasions, Murdoch has teamed up with somebody outside the band. One was the EP track ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane,’ on which Scottish singer Monica Queen laid down a spirited vocal track that threatened to blow Murdoch’s thin whisper right off the tape.

Murdoch has gained confidence and presence as a singer since then, and he finds himself evenly matched with Norah Jones on this track from the band’s latest CD, Belle & Sebastian Write About Love.

For her part, Jones delivers one of those sexily smoky vocal performances that put her on the map a decade ago. Her voice has a timeless quality that transcends the MOR trappings of her albums. I think she’s a lot more interesting than most of the music she sings.

I’m open to specific interpretations of this song. Why did this couple not become lovers or friends? The title characters are, apparently, Lou Reed, Jack Kerouac and John Lennon (or at least that’s where the names came from).

What a waste I could have been your lover
What a waste I could have been your friend
Perfect love is like a blossom that fades so quick
When it’s blowing up a storm in May

Travel south until your skin turns warmer
Travel south until your skin turns brown
Put a language in your head and get on a train
And then come back to the one you love

Yeah, you’re great, you’re just part
Of this lifetime of dreaming
That extends to the heart
Of this long summer feeling

Quiet night you see the TVs glowing
Quiet night you hear the walls are awake
Me and you are getting out of the party crowd
Can I see what’s underneath your bed?

Can I stay until the milkman’s working
Can I stay until the café awakes
Do you hate me in the light, did you get a fright
When you looked across from where you lay?

Yeah you’re great, you’re just part
Of this lifetime of dreaming
That extends to the heart
Of this long summer feeling

All the history of boys
I invent in my head
Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John

What a waste I could have been your lover
What a waste I could have been your friend

One thought on “Song of the Day #1,020: ‘Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John’ – Belle & Sebastian and Norah Jones

  1. Dana says:

    Well, my interpretation is that these are song writers who can put out passionate music about passion, love, friendship, connection, but, in reality, have issues, emotional or even psychological, that keep them from having the very same romance and friendships they write about.

    Anyway, nice song and a good blend of vocals.

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