ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE / LONDON DANNY / NEW TOWN INCIDENT
This time we are actually dealing with three songs, the trilogy of love songs that were an intriguing highlight to 1988’s BAD PENNY album, namely ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE, LONDON DANNY and A NEW TOWN INCIDENT. Between them, these songs deal with a menage-a-trois from a variety of viewpoints, giving rise to much speculation as to how much of the inspiration for them came from Jez’s own experience. We can say from the outset that we can shed little or no light on that particular subject, which to my mind only adds to the intrigue and to the attraction of these songs.
We have in our possession a tape of a Jez Lowe gig from 1987 at Pennistone folk club in South Yorkshire where, three songs into the first, set he introduces a new song called A COLLIER’S WIFE. Played on the cittern, it is most of the words to ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE, but to the tune of LONDON DANNY! The result, with hindsight, is a bizarre concoction that doesn’t really get off the ground and gives no hint of what was to follow in the eventual finished pieces.
Within a few months, Jez was already performing the two songs that developed from this inauspicious start, LONDON DANNY and ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE, which were basically, in their lyrical content, two opposing views of the same situation: one the husband of the woman and the other the interloper who hoped to take her for his own. What the female had to say about all this… well, more of that later.
LONDON DANNY was for a long time Jez’s personal favourite among all his compositions, and at one time there wasn’t a gig at which he didn’t sing it. In the tradition of some of the more sensitive old Geordie love songs by writers like Joe Wilson and George Ridley, it was later to be recorded by Fairport Convention on their album “Jewel in the Crown”. The presence on his own recorded version of a clarinet, incidentally, was Jez’s idea. He was heard to tell an audience at a songwriter’s workshop a few years ago that the song had taken almost two years to complete.
ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE is a light-hearted lyric with puns and double-entendres galore, put together with what producer Paul Adams referred to as a “disco arrangement”. Opening the album with a daring slow air, played by Jez on keyboards and tin-whistle, it was a drastic departure from what had gone before, with Roger Wilson’s fiddle being the first time that instrument was used on one of Jez’s albums. Jez also plays cittern, banjo, harmonica and bass guitar on this track, on almost a blueprint of what was to become the Bad Pennies’ sound in the years ahead.
By the time recording sessions for a new album started in March 1988, another song had been added to the scenario, written from an observer’s point of view, and titled A NEW TOWN INCIDENT. This was and remains quite unlike anything else in Jez’s body of work, in terms of arrangement, style and length. It was inspired by (once again) Bob Dylan’s 1986 song “New Danville Girl”, later renamed “Brownsville girl”, a long narrative tour de force that dodges in and out of this listener’s understanding, but is undoubtedly a major work and worth checking out (on the album “Knocked Out Loaded”.) The central theme of a lost relationship and the sense of time moving on are common to both songs, as is the feeling of resignation and unfulfilment at the close. It is the instrumental riff which punctuates and fades out “New Town Incident”, the same melody of course as the slow air that opens the album as a preface to ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE, that rounds the whole thing off in a satisfactory yet understated manner.
The chorus of this song gave the album its original title, announced by Fellside in the Autumn prior to its release. It was slated to be called “Black Cat and Blue” virtually up until the cover went to press. A last minute change of heart rechristened it “Bad Penny”, a significant decision if ever there was one.
Some years later Jez mentioned in passing that in fact there was a FOURTH song in this sequence, the one that told the story from the woman’s point of view, and that he and Paul Adams had hovered around the decision of whether to allow vocalist Sylvia Barnes be featured in a solo capacity for one track on the album. In the end they decided against it and the song was never recorded, a shame as it would have been an ideal addition to the album when it came out on CD eight years later. As it was, CDs and solo female vocals on Jez Lowe albums were still very much a thing of the future, and the song was lost.