Today marks twenty years since the release of Your Woman by Derby one-man band White Town, the name under which Jyoti Mishra records.
Declared 158th best track of the 1990s by Pitchfork and taking the number 1 slot in the UK charts (the only Derby artist to have done this still) before storming high in other nation’s hit parades too Your Woman was a track which stuck in the the hometown brethren’s mind as much for throwing a spotlight toward Derby as it did the catchy pop refrain.
The sampled muted trumpet, the electronic pings and pongs that follow the echoes of a drowned ice-cream van chime, the squelching beat, and the enticingly ambiguous lyric; Your Woman is not just pop perfection on its own but was even more welcome against the downbeat dead-end of Britpop and the mass-produced sweetness and Girl Power elsewhere in music that year. Somewhat of an underground hit it was championed by Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley on their late night Radio 1 show and enjoyed a week at the top of the charts before being toppled by Blur‘s Beetlebum.
In the FAQ section of the White Town website Mishra addresses the meaning behind the words, “I was trying to write a pop song that had more than one perspective. although it’s written in the first person the character behind that viewpoint isn’t necessarily what the casual listener would expect. I’d been reading a lot of Wilhelm Reich and Andrea Dworkin and they both influenced the lyrics in different ways. yes, I’m a geek.
“So, these are *some* of the things it’s about: being a member of an Orthodox Trotskyist / Marxist movement (as I was for three years in the ’80s); being a straight guy in love with a lesbian (ditto); being a gay guy in love with a straight man (not tried this one yet); being a straight girl in love with a lying, two-timing, fake-ass marxist; the hypocrisy that results when love and lust get mixed up with highbrow ideals.”
Of the haunting muted trumpet refrain Mishra said on his website, “I’m a big fan of ’20s’ and ’30s’ pop music. Years ago, I saw an English TV series called ‘Pennies From Heaven’ written by Dennis Potter. On the soundtrack CD set from that series was a song called ‘My Woman’ which was recorded in 1932 by Lew Stone And The Monseigneur Band. The trumpet riff I sampled was played by Nat Gonella. I would recommend *anyone* who likes pop music to search out ’20s and ’30s compilations. It was all downhill from there!”
The black and white video, directed by Mark Adcock, was as revered locally for its use of Derby as the backdrop for external scenes as it was its referencing of cinematographic style of expressionism. Presenting one take on the lyrics its a desperate, mostly hopeless race for affection that never-the-less throws off the shackles of expectation and sex at the end as the pining woman in hat drops out of the race and chooses independence (arguably at least if not a more empowered message than the Spice Girls hits of the same year managed).
Mishra is still producing under the White Town moniker and released new material last year but Your Woman was to be White Town‘s only real brush with the mainstream. A lead single taken from album Women In Technology (the cover of which showed a stylised x-ray of a hand – a mid-point in an unconnected triptych of Derby cover art depicting hands, which started in 1996 with The Beekeepers Hold On single and completed later in 1997 with Cable‘s When Animals Attack artwork), the release was the only one Mishra made on a major label with his other albums self-released through own label Bzangy and various independent labels.
And while there have been several covers (perhaps most notably Amy Winehouse’s best friend Tyler James’ 2005 version) none have enjoyed the success or the enduring catchiness of White Town’s original; the only chart-topping single by a Derby artist to date.
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