Singled Out: Bullyheart's No Pleasing You
Her name really was Angel. I finally asked on the third Tuesday night in a row I ran into her at my neighborhood club. I'd sling my guitar on my back and walk the literal two blocks-a rare thing in LA- to go see and be seen by my peers. Far from some sort of industry showcase, these boozy Tuesdays were simply a night of local musicians hanging, playing, supporting each other on and off the stage. A smorgasboard of different talent would show up there - some straight up R&B pop singers fresh from stints on "The Voice" or on hiatus from some tour. Others were more classically Americana songwriters, driven by folk. Others like me steeped equally as deeply in rock roots along with folk and blues. It was a great scene- and it lasted only two months.
During those Tuesdays I got to know Angel a little deeper- though only really through one lens. We always met in that sloshy place after a few glasses of wine, when words flow freely and arms are thrown tightly around new acquaintances like life long friends. Though Angel's charm and charisma was that it didn't take the wine or whiskey for her to be free with herself. She was young- in her mid twenties. She was dark and ravishing, a gorgeous deep African color with long extensions in her hair, perfect white teeth, naturally hazel green eyes. And she could sing. The girl could sing almost anything.
But where Angel and I met most intimately was in talking about Him. He was one of the brothers in the band that had a residency these Tuesday nights- the brothers who were sort of the fulcrum for this whole far flung local musician scene. He was a good musician- a talented songwriter, guitarist, great harmonizer with his band of boys. He was tall and blessed with fine features. A pretty boy Irish lad. He was also her latest fling- a recent hookup- and was all consuming to her butterfly mind. I watched her flit and float around the room, engaging with everyone there- such a local sweetheart with her husky laugh and touchy embraces. But it was Him she really wanted to impress. And somehow, me being her older, 'wiser' cohort- she confided in me what was really going on in her heart about him.
I must admit, having known Him for years before Angel came into my life, I'd always thought him to be a catch. He was talented and kind and present in his skin. He had a charming way of never breaking eye contact when you were speaking- and of seeming genuinely interested in the lives of people he knew only vaguely. Certainly he was one of the guys I enjoyed sharing the stage with in impromptu local jams, and I followed his and brothers' band progress with some attention. So when I discovered that it was He she was enthralled with- I felt somehow a little connected. I got what she was so attracted to. And maybe through her weaving the plaintive story over the next few weeks, one Tuesday at a time, I was able to hop on board a bit. Like a voyeur into their on again- off again relationship that truthfully wasn't really based in much of anything and had absolutely no future ahead. I felt weirdly connected, like I had some role in this passion play.
But in the end, it honestly ended up making me feel a little gross. I couldn't quite understand why I devoted so much time - and looked forward to - listening to her pouring her heart out to me. And then the strategizing with her about how to deal with him. And eventually how to relent and put him out of her mind.
Oddly enough- by examining that sort of vaguely shameful space, I was able to go deeper into my own heartbreak memories of post-college love life. I remember so well the walks of shame back home. The dashed hopes that maybe this connection might really be something vital. The hot nights of passion followed by mornings of weary disappointments. (Beer goggles certainly aren't relegated only to the male of the species--What was I thinking?)
I wrote the first version of the song in a frenzy. It just sort of poured out of me all in one afternoon. Once I had Angel as my muse- it was gloriously easy. And a few months later when I decided to create the Bullyheart record, the song at the time temporarily titled "Angel" was certainly in the running for the track list. It just took a few rhythmic tweaks on my part, and some nipping and tucking at the lyrics so that I could deliver the song like Chrissie Hynde singing a Tom Petty tune.
When the tracking of all the songs for "Antigravity" was finished, and we were deep into mixing, it became clear that the song title "Angel" was just too lazy, and somehow didn't seem fair to the memory of my brief friendship with this girl. I had to dig a little deeper into my own memories to come up with a better one. And so, upon further reflection, I realized that the overall feeling I was working with in this tune- what I recall from those days of searching for someone to really see me- was the overlying hollow feeling that there was no winning there. No way to actually get what it was I was looking for- just as Angel felt at the end of the line with her would-be lover. Plainly put, and thus the obvious choice for the ending of each chorus and then later the title- there was "No Pleasing You."
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!