New Song: Clockwork Girl


She’s a clockwork girl, In a clockwork world
She does as she is told and she buys what she is sold,
She’s my clockwork girl

She’s always there on time and she always looks sublime,
Her shoes were made in France,
That’s where she learnt to dance
From une fille mécanique

But when the lights are low
And I try to take her clothes off
To see what she is made of
She turns her back to me
So I cannot see inside my clockwork girl

Everyone she meets as she’s walking down the street,
Gets an automatic smile ‘cos there’s not a hint of bile,
About my clockwork girl

She always toes the line and she’s always “doing fine,”
What secrets does she keep… where does her mind goes when she sleeps,
Behind that clockwork smile?

But when the lights are low
And I try to take her clothes off
To see what she is made of
She turns her back to me
So I cannot see inside my clockwork girl

She’s a clockwork girl – tick tock tick tock
She’s a clockwork girl

I couldn’t take it any more, so one day I closed the door,
And I waited in the dark as she walked across the park,
Like a clockwork toy

And, when the lights were low
I tried to take her head off
To see what she was made of
Instead of cogs and gears
She was wet behind the ears
And she just stopped working
So I made a jerkin
So that I could be
Inside my clockwork girl


Try as I might, I could never be Radiohead. Like most people I am wracked with doubts and fears for our collective future, plus my own store of private misery, but for some reason it never manifests itself in 8 minute art rock pieces. Whatever my personal mood might be, my music is generally upbeat and uptempo.

My oeuvre has thus been replete with annoying bouncy ditties for as long as I’ve been writing songs (a quarter of a century. Christ.) and this shows no sign of abating. Here, then, is a song that I’ve had in a rough form for probably 3 or 4 years and finally got around to doing a decent demo of.

Underneath the inane bounce – and I wouldn’t blame you at all if you find the melody irritatingly zippy  – is, however, a lyric with a little bit of a point that is actually pretty dark.

Women are (and always have been) viewed as objects by a proportion of men; as though a woman is just a tabula rasa onto which a man can project his desires and fantasies. In its most extreme form, this leads to killers who are literally unable to see their victims as people. Admittedly, such people are socio/psychopaths and one should be careful about using them to make sweeping characterisations about an entire sex, but it’s interesting way into the subject and very male a male psychopathy.

So, inanely catchy chorus aside, the subtext of the song is about that psychology: seeing women as unknowable ‘perfect objects’ and imagining their inner lives – perhaps just from seeing their images on social media or in the broader culture. A hint of disdain for what the protagonist imagines are their sanitised, consumerist lives, and they way in which he is dismissed as a potential suitor. So, in the final chorus, he takes her life and skins her so he can literally see what it is like from her perspective. How’s that for cheerful?

In fact, if you’re at all interested in this line of thought, I’d wager you’d find the the Doll On a Music Box song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang an interesting companion piece – as it almost hints at the same thing, but from the woman’s perspective.

What do you see
You people gazing at me
You see a doll on a music box
That’s wound by a key
How can you tell
I’m under a spell
I’m waiting for love’s first kiss
You cannot see
How much I long to be free
Turning around on this music box
That’s wound by a key

It’s possible that this song is just horribly misguided – and it could be read as my Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (The Beatles, Abbey Road, 1969). That being said, I love the chorus and these days am beholden to nobody for my tastes so you’ll have to like it or lump it, mate.