Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 46
Thurs, Mar 14, 2013
“Paper Doll [live at St. James Theatre]
One of my favorite records of 2001 was Neil Finn’s 7 Worlds Collide. Former Split Enz and Crowded House leader brought together six of his most favorite musical friends Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr, Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway from Radiohead, Sebastian Steinberg from Soul Coughing and Lisa Germano. So if you’re wondering how Lisa was invited to play with Neil Finn’s very history making super group, Germano recounted the experience to Under The Radar when she said, “We only had four or five days. Sebastian and I came first so by the time Johnny was there, he only had three days. Ed from Radiohead came the same day as Johnny, but the drummer came only two days before. It was intense but it was amazing and wonderful. We all learned a bunch of songs/ I hadn’t done anything in almost two years except for a couple of studio jobs then he just calls out of the blue and I started to get panic attacks. I had to get therapy again real quick. I didn’t understand why I was included. I mean it had Johnny Marr, Eddie Vedder, Radiohead and me! I learned a lot when I was there. Then I realized that’s how we chose everybody. He didn’t chose Eddie because he’s in Pearl Jam or Radiohead because their huge or Sebastian because that was a cool band, Soul Coughing; he chose us all because he knew us all and liked our spirits, our energy and thought we’d all get along.”
In that same interview, Germano discussed why she performed “Paper Doll” on 7 Worlds Collide she said, “I played “Paper Doll” because it was one of my newest songs that I had been writing and I thought it would be an easy song too.” Even though in Germano’s mind, “Paper Doll,” might have been easier to perform, Lisa’s compositions are anything but pop songs. Germano once told Magnet Magazine, “I’m not really a songwriter! It’s not a craft that I learned? I just started doing it. I might have some words. Other times, a whole song comes out at once.”
Lisa talked about her distinctive songwriting style when she said, “I think it’s cinematic. Atmosphere and color are very important to me. I have to have beautiful colors around me. In my apartment there are blues and reds and flowers. When I make music, I want atmosphere. I want some wine and good food cooking. You just play and experiment and all of a sudden maybe something will break. There are a number of tracks where this amp that you plug things into kept breaking and it would have this sound like (makes garbled noise). Most people would throw that out, but I was like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s how I feel about this song.’ I would have to record it very quickly because it would stop doing it and you could never get it back again.”
My favorite cut and one that stands out on Finn’s blockbuster of a live super group of an album is Lisa’s very personal “Paper Doll.” It’s personal and one of the most cinematic to me because I used to be the “Paper Doll” that Lisa sang about in her song. The year was 1994, she was older and would call me up at my parents’ house where I was living. She would always dial me after midnight and when I would answer she would ask me, “Can A come out and play?” When I was with her, it felt like she was unfolding me, and when she was done, she would put her secret play thing away. It was a pattern. Why did I keep going back? I loved the way she wanted me? I realized that her needs were conditional to her wants and cravings. “Paper Doll” remains a serious song that mirrors our very private encounters that literally left me in the dark.
Because of the serious tone of her songwriting, in between tours and making records, Lisa Germano actually worked at an independent bookstore in Hollywood. Lisa talked to M-TV about the kind of intimate songs she loves recording when she said, “ I know what you mean. I think it’s one of the reasons that my records don’t sell very much. They’re kind of like reading a book – you need to be alone to do it. A lot of times we’ll put on music when we’re cleaning or moving around, doing errands…my music doesn’t work like that. If you have the time or patience for feeling something about yourself, sometimes my music can help. But basically people don’t want music to do that. One of the reasons I continue to put out albums is because when you do connect with someone, the connection is very strong – they think the music is about them. Some people will actually cry.”
Lisa talked about the meaning of my favorite cut from 7 Worlds Collide when she explained, “The song ‘Paper Doll’ is about me letting friends of mine take complete advantage of me, and that’s the same type of behavior that a person that might let alcohol or heroin takes advantage of them. I think people need to look at why they are addicted instead of that they’re addicted.” Alcohol is the theme of Lullaby for a Liquid Pig, [The album where “Paper Doll” appeared in 2003, two years before Germano released her concert version on 7 Worlds Collide] Lisa explains how “Paper Doll” fits into her album when she said, “People ask, how is “Paper Doll” about alcohol? It isn’t. It’s about a person who might allow a friend to abuse them and play with them because they don’t have enough self-esteem to stand up and say, “I won’t be treated like this.””
It eventually subsided. She ceased calling and I stopped being her “Paper Doll” but sometimes if the phone rings after midnight, I think back to those moments back when I was an inexperienced twenty something loner but when she called it wasn’t the fact that it felt like her “Paper Doll” bookworm became a sensual super hero; just like listening to Lisa Germano, reminds me— I loved the way she said, I never lost focus on her delicate concentration.