Monday, February 17, 2014


"Sweet Virginia" / Bill Lloyd

I first heard of Bill Lloyd via a Kinks tribute album -- might have been his cover of "Picture Book" on This Is Where I Belong, though I think it was his "This Is Where I Belong" on Mojo's The Modern Genius of Ray Davies. (Following that?) So from the very beginning, I've known him as a kindred lover of 1960s British Invasion Pop. Nowhere is this more evident that on his 1999 album Standing On the  Shoulders of Giants, packed with his own backbeat melodic beauties. That's where I found this charmer, co-written (bonus points!) with fellow Nashvillian Bill DeMain.

Right away, we experience the effect this girl has on him: "I can feel my insides / Take that elevator ride / Sweet Virginia, everytime that you're around." We've all felt that way -- I believe the cliché is "weak in the knees." He's so nervous, he starts babbling: "Well I can't think what to say / But I say it anyway" -- yup, been there, done that.

Yet this song isn't tense or anxious; it has a relaxed, cheerful, almost jaunty spirit, with that jangly guitar and skipping tempo. He's energized by this girl, his heart fluttering. I love how the next mini-bridge sighs into its short lines, as if our hero is stammering: "Ooh girl / It's you, girl / My heart beats for / And I'm / Too shy / To say much more."

In verse two, the story starts to fill out. "When I first saw your face / I was trying to erase / The memory of someone I had lost / And it felt like I'd died / Till you warmed me up inside / With a smile that could melt a winter's frost." Ah, so this is a Replacement Girlfriend Song -- a close cousin to "If I Fell" or "Help Me Rhonda." Yet the upbeat sound of this song tells us that he's already moved on a bit; he's not feeling so bruised, so wounded, anymore. 

There's an echo of the Beatles, both "Good Day Sunshine" and "The Word," in the next stammering mini-bridge, as he carries on the theme of her frost-melting smile: "Sunshine, / So fine, / You radiate / So why / Do I / Hesitate?" Wha? In fact, it seems she isn't even properly a Replacement Girlfriend yet -- she may not even have any idea how he feels. In both "If I Fell" and "Help Me Rhonda," the guy was already in command, demanding that the new girl heal his heart. But this Virginia has already done that with one tossed-off smile.

In fact that smile is all we actually see of Virginia -- everything else is her impact upon our hero. As the chorus repeatedly vows, he'll do anything for her, adding in the final bridge, "I'll be here for you /Now till ever after / Long as I can hear /The music of your laughter." Oh well, then, add the sound of her laughter to her presence in this song. Sketch in the rest -- hair color, eye color, shape, dress, voice -- in whatever form makes you happy.

Of course he won't be there forever; if he can't get up the nerve to talk to Virginia, another girl will eventually come his way. But this is how he feels right now -- and, man, is he grateful for the light at the end of heartbreak's tunnel.

34 DOWN, 18 TO GO


NickS said...

That sounded familiar when I listened to it, and I knew that you've posted about Bill Lloyd before. But then I figured out that it really reminded me of Marshall Crenshaw (specifically of the sound of his live album I've Suffered for My Art, Now It's Your Turn).

Holly A Hughes said...

Sounding like Marshall Crenshaw is a good thing!

NickS said...

Absolutely, and I give you credit for having introduced me to him (Crenshaw).

Holly A Hughes said...

The Lloyd-Crenshaw connection is not far-fetched. They've worked together, on Crenshaw's albums Miracle of Science (1996) and #447 (1999) and co-wrote Marshall's song "Ready Right Now," which I've written about here before, and Bill's song (from this same album) "Holding Back the Waterfall." You'd really like this Standing On the Shoulders Of Giants album, Nick. It even has Amy Rigby on some backing vocals! Which reminds me -- I should have mentioned that the backing vocals on "Sweet Virginia" were provided by Swan Dive, a.k.a. Bill DeMain and Molly Felder. I love their voices.

Holly A Hughes said...

And Marshall and Bill also co-wrote another of Bill's song, "The Man Who Knew Too Much," from Bill's excellent 1994 album Set To Pop.

NickS said...

You'd really like this Standing On the Shoulders Of Giants album, Nick. It even has Amy Rigby on some backing vocals!

Oh, fine. . . .

I'd had that on my mental list of albums to pick up at some point and I suppose now is a good time. I've just ordered a copy.

Speaking of collaboration, I've been recommending Ken Stringfellow to you for a while, and I just happened to notice that Jill Sobule played drums on one of the tracks on Soft Commands. They sound good.