Lyrics & Analysis: Paint It Michael And Others, Maybe

Well, Peter was a shop man
Up every day at five
He’s marking up his papers
Keeping all the folks alive
He’d shout and swear each morn’
If his cup of tea just wasn’t right

Well, I was in the gang
Who delivered all the papers every day
There was Rob, Pete, Mick
Some others that I can’t even say
We’d look a Peter’s face
Then we’d take his papers all away

Guitar solo (six verses)

Sax solo (three verses)

One summer morning
Michael came to visit my place
We’d nothing to do
So we pained up Michael’s face
He put a long coat on
And a cane around his neck in case

We brought him to the shop
He walked straight through the door
The customers were shocked
And I guess that they don’t go no more
Pete fell in the fridge
And the rest of us fell on the floor

Even more solos from guitar and sax (three verses)

Jim Pembroke 1967

Artist: Blues Section
       Jim Pembroke, vocal
       Hasse Walli, guitars
       Måns Groundstroem, bass
       Ronnie Österberg, drums
       Saxophone, Eero Koivistoinen
Release: From the album BLUES SECTION, Love Records LRLP 3, 1967
Studio: Finnvox
Producer: Atte Blom, Otto Donner
Engineer: Erkki Hyvönen

General comment: This is the opening track on Blues Section’s one and only ‘real’ LP. For more general comment see ‘Only Dreaming’.

The Music: This is one of the few tracks by Blues Section that is really a blues song, at least with regard to the music: four rather short verses within the 12-bar format with a lot of soloing in between. A fine vocal performance, and the backing shows a vast improvement from the two early singles. The rhythm section of Groundstroem and Österberg is tightening up. Walli has more control over his sound and his playing, with some nice blues licks, though he still has a tendency to overplay, like white blues guitarists often do (presumably as a compensation for a subconscious realisation that they will never get the feel quite right). The result is a loss of rhythmic coherence, which rubs off on the rhythm section during Walli’s first solo. However, this would not have been a problem in a live situation where a song like this must have been dynamite. You can argue that Koivistoinen is going way too far into strict jazz territory for this kind of material, but that is part of its originality – take it or leave it. These guys are not strict blues players and they are not black, but they have something else to offer. Does that mean they have ‘stolen the black man’s music’? I don’t think so. No more than the black man stole the white man’s music when he stopped beating a tree trunk with a stick and picked up a guitar instead.

The lyric: The title is reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint it Black’ and a certain fellow named Michael appears. However, the references go no further than that. There is a slight pun, as ‘paint it’ when pronounced sounds like ‘painted’, which is exactly what happens in the song: Michael gets painted in the face. The idea of making the title long, surrealistically humorous and rather inscrutable is a style Bob Dylan seems to have invented.

The song starts as a third person narrative, but then a first person narrator takes over from the second verse onwards.

A lot of ‘the’s in this song are pronounced as ‘de’, presumably to give a native Afro-American feel. It somewhat fails to convince.

This lyric marks a turning point in Pembroke’s songwriting. With just a few lines he manages to create a little world of his own. In this world is a shop keeper called Peter, a meticulous everyday character who gets aggressive if something isn’t exactly as he expects it to be. One day a group of youths including the song’s narrator, who deliver newspapers to Peter, come into his shop and spontaneously take away his accounts (there is some faint pun here based on the fact that ‘papers’ can mean both sheets of paper and newspapers). Later on the harassment continues as gang member Michael is given a face paint by his mates, presumably to make him look like a ghost, and is taken to Peter’s shop, frightening the customers and falling into the freezer. The tale could well be built partly on a real experience.

This is the first of several Pembroke lyrics to deal with the phenomenon of youth culture and gangs, and the conflict between two groups of people with fundamentally different views on life.

-- Claes Johansen with thanks to Nic Stayt, 2007