It’s easy to forget how great of a singer Amy Winehouse was. I think in the last few years of her life, she forgot that as well. Everything was drugs and booze and drama, and she really was lost and unfocused and struggling. That’s what most people remember about her, unfortunately. How sad. Noel Gallagher of Oasis was asked about her a few months after she passed away.
What I thought at the end was, ‘It’s bad when the music can’t pull you out of it’, because music is generally a shining beacon in somebody’s life. I took a lot of drugs, but eventually worked out that I prefer music to anything else in the world. I shed a whole circle of friends to – and I’m not being melodramatic here – keep myself alive. Music is the greatest thing that can be bestowed upon you, and if it’s not enough to pull you out of the shit then how bad is it?”
Amy’s first album, Frank, is a lovely collection of jazz songs that showcase her brilliance. But listening to it now makes me sad when I think of how amazing she was and how much more she could have done had she been able to pull herself together. Sometimes people just cannot put their dreams first, and they let themselves get terribly distracted by a lot of bad shit. I understand that. I never did drugs, thank God, but I drank a lot and chased after men who were no good for me and did other self-destructive stuff, so I always considered Amy my girl. It’s only been in the past few years that I pulled myself out of that shit, and the longer I am sober and focused and in tune with who I really am, the more affected I am by Amy’s voice and lyrics.
Everyone knows “Rehab.” Great song. Everything on Back to Black is superb. But Frank is where Amy really showed her stuff. Lot of soul, just wonderful music. God, why couldn’t she have stayed on this path? If you compare just the way she looks on the covers of each album, and then look at the song titles, you can see that there was some major upheaval in the three years between each recording. Not that there aren’t some sad songs, some self-deprecating lyrics on Frank. But the tone of Back to Black is different.
As with so many artists I love I started with Amy’s second album. I had never heard of her until she performed “Rehab” on Letterman in 2007. I bought Back in Black pretty much right away and played it a lot before I knew about Frank. Wow. That was it for me. This woman was just amazing, so different and talented and interesting to look at. When I heard Frank I was impressed with how much she sounded like an old jazz singer. The contrast of that with some of her more modern lyrics was fascinating, and of course, when you threw in her 60’s girl group look, well, that was it!
“Stronger Than Me” is an excellent way to begin this album. It speaks volumes about the way Amy looked at relationships. She definitely was a girl who needed a boy in her life at all times. I laugh at the line “I always have to comfort you every day/But that’s what I need you to do. Are you gay?/…Feel like a lady, but you my lady boy” every time I listen to this song. I imagine Sarah Vaughan or Dinah Washington singing these lyrics, lol! But then there’s “Cherry,” a beautiful song that could have been performed by any of those grand divas. It’s got kind of an Antônio Carlos Jobim vibe that is irresistible.
“Fuck Me Pumps.” Yes. That is that shit! I love everything about this song. I totally relate to it (except for the E).
When you walk in the bar
And you’re dressed like a star
Rockin’ your F-me pumps…
Everyone knows ya name
And that’s your whole claim to fame
That was me 100% back in the day! I knew everyone at the bar, I never paid for shit, and I did whatever the fuck I wanted…and I was always in a gay bar! Never had a problem finding some fun for the night. I was always drunk and ready and having fun with my friends. We were the in-crowd. I don’t care about that shit anymore, but man, that sure was fun for a while!
You don’t like ballers
They don’t do nothin’ for ya…
You’re more than a fan
Lookin’ for a man
But you end up with one-night stands
He could be your whole life
If you got past one night
But that part never goes right
Guuuuuurrrrrrl! I mean…
So yeah, this is one of my favorite songs on the album.
And then there’s “In My Bed.” Jesus. Such a sexy, beautiful song; so funky, so perfect. She is just using this guy for sex, but he’s hoping for more. “You’ll never get my mind right/Like two ships passing in the night.” I fooled around a lot back in the day, but I was always very clear about what it was, so I doubt any of those guys expected more. There were a few I gave my phone number to for some (drunken) reason, but I never returned their calls.
Oh—it’s you again
Listen, this isn’t a reunion
So sorry if I turn my head
Yours is a familiar face
But that don’t make your place safe
In my bed
(or, in my case, in the handicap stall of the ladies’ room in the bar)
Amy and I were notorious for going after men we should have kept our distance from. Now, I keep my distance from pretty much all straight men, lol!
My destructive side has grown a mile wide
And I question myself again—what is it about men?
I’m nurturing—I just wanna do my thing
And I’ll take the wrong man as naturally as I sing
And I’ll save my tears for uncovering my fears
For behavioral patterns that stick over the years
Seriously, this is not even a little bit not me. There is a reason most of the albums I have written about so far have reminded me of some guy I wanted but could never truly have. My self-destructive side definitely grew a mile wide with each man I fell in love with. Pathetic, really, but I am passionate and sometimes I cannot see myself because I am so consumed with this man. I’ve gotten better, I mean, I have gone to the other extreme. There is still one guy I think about, but there is no chance of ever getting together with him again. I think he has gotten his shit together for the most part. Even if not, I’d still let him hit it if I had the chance.
The most prescient song on Frank is “Help Yourself.” It’s like she’s talking to her future self, and it’s very sad, though the song is sort of peppy and smooth.
Looking through your bloodshot eyes
And I know you…you so frustrated
But we all become what we once hated
Besides, nobody can be that wise
…You can only get so much from someone else
I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself.
Damn. I learned that the hard way. Most of the guys I fell in love with had drug and/or alcohol problems, and I could not help any of them. I had my own drinking problem, though I did not see it that way at the time. I see now that it was easier for me to devote all of my energy and passion and concern to these men rather than to myself. And guess what? I fixed my own shit. Once I realized that I could only change myself, my whole life changed. I had a best friend a few years ago who sort of freaked out when I stopped drinking. He felt like I was rejecting him by becoming healthy. And that is very common in co-dependent relationships; he was my biggest enabler, and if he could no longer buy me alcohol, if he could no longer rely on my drunken stupors to blind me from seeing how shady he was, he was powerless. Yes. He did become powerless over me. I wanted him to get better, to be happy, to stop lying and cheating and drinking and not eating and taking water pills to lose weight. But I could not make him do these things. His therapist could not make him do these things. He did not want to do these things. And he is still suffering because he is still doing self-destructive things.
Amy did not think rehab would help her. She wanted to do everything on her own. I can relate to that, because it took me many years of being a hot mess to realize that I needed some help. I saw a therapist for a while, but I had to do all the work to get better. She did help me see what some of my issues were. I never thought I would go to therapy. Amy did quit drugs a few years before she died, and she quit booze on and off, but she could never quite get past that shit. If she had been able to surrender and take the help she needed, who knows how things would have turned out?
“Amy Amy Amy” is the song on this album that makes me go Fuck yes, bitch! I had a thing with a guy I worked with many years ago, and this song kind of reminds me of that experience, at least, the fun parts of the experience.
Attract me, ‘til it hurts to concentrate
Distract me; stop me doing work I hate
And just to show him how it feels
I walk past his desk in heels
One leg resting on a chair
From the side he pulls my hair
…He’s just too hard to ignore
Masculine within your shell
I think you’d wear me well…
Where’s my moral parallel?
Man, that guy was so fucking hot! We worked together in a coffee shop, and there was lots of sexual tension all the time. It was a fun way to spend the work day. I would be at the espresso machine making a drink for a customer, and he would press his body against my back as he reached for a spoon that was on top of the machine. Sometimes he would just sneak up behind me and breathe on my neck. I was always dropping shit and my heart would skip a beat when he did that. One day he quickly undid my bra through my shirt as I brewed coffee. And more than once did he rub his boner against my ass as I washed dishes. So yeah, that was a great time!
This song is a fun way to look at the way women allow themselves to be distracted by dick. Amy and I went too far with that, of course, but it can be playful to just let yourself be enraptured by someone and make sexy time with them on a whim.
My weakness for the other sex
Every time his shoulders flex
The way the shirt hangs off his back
My train of thought spins right off track
Hell yes it did! I was always distracted when I worked with him. And I was happy to be distracted because that job fucking sucked. I only looked forward to work in those early days of our relationship when I knew we would have moments like those described above. I had no other desire to go to that shit hole.
I’m glad this is the last song on the album. It is fun and sexy and catchy, and I constantly sing “Amy, Amy, Amy” afterward. It leaves me wanting more. And I wish there were more Amy for me to enjoy.