"Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Pretty self-explanatory
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Jack of All Parades
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"Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Oct 28, 2018 8:29 am

In lessor hands the trope of laying bare the detritus of a couple's interactions over time could easily devolve into cliche and a tired sans froid. This song elegantly and freshly portrays the elapse of time between a couple, telescoping the events shared through the lens of time present and time past, in a vividly urbane melodic and lyrical archeology. The metaphor of 'stripping' back layers of time, unearthing the physical evidence of past memories and shared experiences, is handled subtly by EC; it could have been clunky. His careful usage of delicate piano chords to punctuate reverie is near perfect. It fits with an overriding theme of his album which is the admonition 'to look", to 'look now", to 'look' unflinchingly. But looking is also remembering and the dredging up of those memories.

The couple, primarily the wife, in this song is portrayed in a sympathetic manner. As the wife goes back in time one clearly hears how time has 'hollowed' out the relationship but competing with that current emptiness is the vivid memory of a more playful time between the two when spontaneity could break out and a door could be kicked shut and coy compliments could be exchanged culminating in a 'rococo' moment of shared ecstasy. That moment is exactingly brought to life in the middle eight of the song when the wind arrangement swirls about. There have been few moments in recent pop music where my breath has been arrested as when 'rococo' appears in this song. The relationship of a couple can easily alter over time. This song holds true to that notion. The hollowness that takes over this couple is punctuated by unearthed memories of a child. What should fill the void of a 'withered' relationship, the love between a mother and a child, is equally void with "no place in her heart'. Time is both a balm and a painful irritant for this woman. Sadly, time is what she is left; time spent persistently 'stripping paper'. That is a private and punishing hell.

EC has deftly layered this song. His understated piano melody pins the emotions visually on the lyric sheet and sonicly within my ear. He has become a master of the piano ballad as this album, and this song, repeatedly demonstrate. He is ably served by his band-mates. Their playing never eclipses the melody and serves when required to punctuate and underscore the lyric. EC has given us a memorable ballad with its tale of sadness and regret as if the protagonist has been through this many times and it's too late for her but future listeners might gain some self-knowledge as gleaned by the protagonist as we all 'have time on our hands'. A top 10 song for me and a damn near perfect one to my ears, too.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Poor Deportee » Sun Oct 28, 2018 11:04 am

Splendid post, Jack. I whole-heartedly agree - this is quite simply a superb song from a master in peak form. Moving, complex, and multi-layered. The simplicity of the metaphor, while risky, is exquisitely handled.

I find it very moving to realize that the love-making depicted in the song's first half is almost certainly the moment when the child was conceived ('not much later...'). So much of her life is captured in those hours. I also enjoy the incidental aesthetic remark about the 'vine that withered too soon.' Sure, this works as a metaphor, but who hasn't made a home decorating decision they regretted later? A nice touch, that - exactly the kind of side-remark that punctuates a reverie.

The only thing that keeps this song from total perfection to my ear is the slight awkwardness of 'what seemed to follow/that ended up hollow was our vow.' There's something stilted about that. This is a minor quibble, though, about a song that probably stands with 'Isabelle in Tears' as an obviously classic composition on this gorgeous record.
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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby sweetest punch » Sat Nov 10, 2018 1:59 pm

In this interview Elvis reveals that this song was written for the “Painted From Memory” musical (alltough completely written by himself):
https://www.cbsnews.com/video/elvis-cos ... cer-scare/
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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Hawksmoor » Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:41 am

Poor Deportee wrote:This is a minor quibble, though, about a song that probably stands with 'Isabelle in Tears' as an obviously classic composition on this gorgeous record.

I agree with this, except to say that although 'Stripping Paper' is a work of genius which few other songwriters/performers could even get close to...it is still left standing in the dust by 'Isabelle in Tears', surely one of the great achievements of Costello's 'later years' (if we might presume to call them such).

The melody is immediately arresting and haunting. The narrative voice shifts seamlessly between Isabelle's sometime lover, Isabelle herself, and a narrator confronting the listener (who is also cast as a lover). The whole thing is incredibly poignant, but at the same time the puns and the wordplay come at you like machine-gun fire: 'is a bell (is) ringing?', the bombshell/incendiary line, getting the genii/genius back in the bottle, the onomatopoeic 'tripped-up-the-stairs', the half-rhyme of shot/bottle. There's a hint of Jimmie ('standing out there in the rain') and of Josephine (the ashtray flung at his head echoing 'he took a walk in the dark with a dish from the stand').

'A flimsy negligee, of innocence and feathers'. Who else, in the current line-up of lauded singer/songwriters, can even approach that? Who else, in the current line-up of lauded singer/songwriters, would dream of using the line 'can you confess her worth?' And don't get me started on 'the slant of time'. I have no idea what 'the slant of time' is. And yet, every time I hear this song (and start crying at the 'can you admit your love' line), I know exactly what it is.

It's effortless brilliance from start to finish, and, of course, the result of fifty years relentlessly plugging away at the art of song-writing. Perfectly crafted, perfectly executed, with a deft lightness of touch that should leave every listener - and every other singer/songwriter - open-mouthed in admiration.

PS I quite like it. :oops:

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:00 am

Well said, Sir. I have been mulling this song in my mind since the album appeared and I, too, will try to commit my thoughts to screen, shortly. It is the second of three stand out songs from this record that consistently resonate with me. It might be the best of them. And it continuously shocks me that this one was left on the 'cutting room floor' -off the original record. One has access to it only if one purchases the 'Deluxe' edition. Like Dylan, this songwriter's choices for a final cut sometimes baffles me. That it is not featured nightly in his current tour is equally a mystery.
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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby stricttime81 » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:37 am

"Can you admit your love"

"What is it about my love you can't accept"

Interestingly different perspectives about giving and receiving.
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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby A rope leash » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:47 pm

Nice deconstruction here.

Elvis has been saying that maybe he wasn't the best original choice for singer of the band. But, when it comes to Elvis, I've never heard a cover sound better than his original. He's trained his voice well over the years, and he's become very adept. I don't know what kind of wine it is, but it has definitely aged well. Some guys who try to sing at his age sound really old. Elvis has simply matured.

Dare I compare him to Sinatra? I don't know, I'm getting that vibe...

This song Stripping Paper, really gets under the skin. I get in my mind some ambiguous blonde on stage actually stripping paper from a wall as she sings. She's kind of blurry, but blonde. I just can't see how she sings it as well as Elvis, though. I don't know why she's blonde.

I love riding along with this song. My voice has gotten better over the years, as well, and I've learned to entertain myself. This song suits my pace.

I've done a bit of papering myself, you know. To cover up the past, you know?

Right?

Elvis is so funny. The time is literally on his hands.

What seemed to follow, it ended up hollow as our vow...that's just Elvis showing off.

Now I've got no place in her heart. Let me go back to the start...Elvis seems to know women well. I imagine writing a song from the perspective of the opposite sex must take a lot of research. It makes me wonder if Diana had some input.

I haven't listened to the bonus disc much, but it looks like I need to check it out.

What fun!

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Nov 29, 2018 5:59 pm

I do hear a warming in his vocals these days, particularly in the lower registers when he hunkers into a piano ballad. It is a beautiful thing. That and the development of a falsetto from time to time. It is a medium I would love him to explore more as his voice ages. The Sinatra connection for my ears is in the torch song mode of which there are many prime examples on the new record. I, too, find myself breaking out in sing along to Stripping Paper. I cannot help myself at times. It, along with Isabelle in Tears, are the gems for me on the record. Do spend time with the bonus songs. Though I am not as fond of Adieu Paris, as say Poor Deportee, two of the best songs on the record were not even included on the main record. Go figure.....
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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby jardine » Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:58 pm

Yes. It is a beautiful thing. And this song (and many others on l.n.) are, well, imagine Sinatra singing "Don't look now." Try to imagine someone else singing "Stripping Paper." Not many have the control and clarity. And then, too, the song itself is so good, and could be deeply "interpreted" by...well, who? Any thoughts? Be interesting, I think, to ask E.C. this sort of question.

This album is that good. I can't do top tens, but Look Now is, I think, as good as anything he's done, striding alongside so many others...as is this song. Feel so fortunate to have started -- almost by chance -- paying attention, when? September '77. Something or other caught my ear and, 41 years later, that catch is still proving true. Amazing. In my lifetime, this is unmatched. Think of how many have not lasted, have not grown and deepened and got better in so many ways. Cool. Lucky us, eh? Lucky me.

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Dr. Luther » Fri Nov 30, 2018 3:40 am

Lovely sentiments, jardine.

I, too, started "paying attention" fairly early on. December 6, 1977. My brother bought My Aim Is True on his birthday. It grabbed us immediately, unequivocally.

Who could have possibly imagined where the path would take us over the following 40+ years.

All I can really say is that it has been a true privilege to have experienced the journey.

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby A rope leash » Fri Nov 30, 2018 1:00 pm

It doesn't matter what kind of music your are into, because Elvis has a little something for everyone. He's like the Santa Claus of songwriters.

I can literally feel my vocal chords trying to work out the songs on this recording. I'm getting better, but the range is sometimes impossible. Forget the falsetto...maybe after a few beers!

I could see Frank Sinatra doing Why Won't Heaven Help Me?...maybe, but the songs are really too deep in places. This is more than pop, this is an education.

Tom Jones doing Suspect My Tears? I suppose it's possible that some auto-tuned diva could get a hit out of Unwanted Number or Photographs Can Lie. Lady Gaga? Celine? Cher?!

This is fun.

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:22 pm

The thought of having Sir Tom sinking his vocal chords into "Suspect My Tears" is intriguing. Good choice given what he did with Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song" not that long ago........
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby jardine » Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:31 pm

It's interesting in itself how difficult this task is to think of covers. Says something about the uniqueness of e.c.'s talent as a singer and the uniqueness of the songs themselves...his talent as a writer. there are so many ins and outs to many of his songs -- depth, someone mentioned above -- that to be able to sing them well enough to get them to fly is no mean feat.

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Poor Deportee » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:14 pm

Pitching in belatedly here to agree that EC works very well in the lower registers and that the recent dabblings in falsetto are also very welcome. My view of his singing is that it's at it's best when he's not pushing it. "Almost Blue" is as good a vocal as any in his catalogue precisely because it sounds natural and effortless.

As you may infer, then, I can't agree with rope leash's apparent implication that EC is a great vocalist per se, and he is certainly not on the level of a Sinatra. He sings well enough to get the songs over, and I love the way the new album effortlessly showcases all that he's internalized from his various experiments over the years. But his singing, taken as a whole, has tended to be too mannered and overwrought, and to be insufficiently nimble, to qualify as top-tier in my opinion. He is an outstanding songwriter with a rather harsh voice whose singing tends to radiate 'effort' rather than the effortless expressive command of the truly great singers.

All that said, is this a great album? Damned right!!
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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby A rope leash » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:32 pm

I think most of the world would agree that Elvis does not have a "beautiful" voice. It is very distinctive, however, and he manages to put it where and when it needs to be, all up and down the register. Yes, the high-end is often strained, which is okay for Rock and Roll, but maybe not so much for Pop. That he was able to open up for the falsettos on Look Now, at his age, is pretty incredible.

Of course, since the start, I've told people that complain about Elvis' voice to try it themselves. Are you ready? Dishonor the Stars...in one, two, go! They don't know where to start, and I think this is probably true of professional vocalists as well. Frankly, as desperate as he sometimes seems on God Give Me Strength, I haven't heard a cover that matches his earnest rendition.

I've been hearing Frank Sinatra four or five times a week on the jazz station. "Breakfast with the Chairman" they call it. Frank doesn't really have a "beautiful" voice, either...it's rather ordinary, I think. His greatness is in how he commands it, like Elvis. Beautiful male voices of the past...Tom Jones, Robert Goulet, Jim Nabors even...might have trouble with an Elvis song because loveliness is not a quality that projects the tune.

Then, there's guys like Tony Bennett or Tom Waits. One can complain about the harsh nature of their natural voices, but it's difficult to say they are not among the great...with sales to prove it.

But, I mention these old coots because I am one myself. What young modern vocalist of today could do an Elvis song well? I can't even think of a name!

Timberlake?!

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:55 pm

I'll nominate Curtis Stigers, for one.
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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby Poor Deportee » Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:11 am

It's not just the harshness - like I say above, it's also the laboured, strained quality of the delivery and the general lack of nimbleness and even subtlety in many of his performances, Sinatra was a master of delivery and it's this that sets him several notches above an EC, not only his voice. Lest you think I am fetishizing 'nice voices,' I'd add that Dylan is another master of vocal delivery whose best efforts are at another level from EC IMHO. I'm not trying to slag EC here. I just think we slip into exaggeration when we try to portray him as some sublime vocal master.
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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby jardine » Sat Dec 08, 2018 12:13 pm

i do understand the characterizations of e.c. re: sinatra, but some of the things you mentioned might just as easily be seen as characteristics of his (that he has got quite good at using) rather than simply failures to be something/someone else. there's lots of a sort of subtlety on looknow, i think.

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby A rope leash » Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:59 am

The songwriter has an idea of how the vocals should sound. In Elvis' case, he knows how it's going to sound and what works. He also has a lifetime of tricks he can employ here and there as spice. On the current release, the words "confessed" and "welcome" come to mind, the little change-ups in the final chorus it's a long way back/when you cover your tracks,and the tip-toe from a pretty picture hat/to a supermarket trance come to mind. I think this is why covers fail...only Elvis knows how to sing it perfectly, even if it is a bit hoarse.

A long time ago, when he was referring to himself as the Little Hands of Concrete, I read that he said he decided he should work on his vocal skills since he was never going to be a guitar hero. That's key to the triumph of this album and much of his later works. Elvis took what he had and made more than the best of it, once again hard work being the element that produces the product. On Suspect My Tears, he goes from almost Barry White to nearly Barry Gibb, and he's practically Barry Manilow in between.

Of course, the studio does wonders, and Elvis is known for not always being in good voice. The last time I saw him live was in St. Louis more than a decade ago. He had great air and the show was flawless.

Or maybe I was drunk. I get that he's no Dean Martin. He's better than Bob Dylan, though...come on...

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Re: "Stripping Paper"- an archeology of Eros

Postby jardine » Tue Dec 11, 2018 4:45 pm

utter poetry

He had great
air and the
show was flawless.
Or maybe
I was drunk.

beautiful (interesting post as well)

his songs certainly are sometimes just bulging with words and ideas and points of view and baits and switches. even something simply like the backstage assistant being warned not to tell him her name, and then the soft cooing of the alternate strategy bent to the same end "He asked her boyfriend's name. then her whole family tree" --so soft, sounds almost "caring" -- and she can't see this as falling under the same warning...needs a complex voice, all this...


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