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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"The Maid Needs a Maid" by Emily Haines

"The Maid Needs a Maid" by Emily Haines

Here's an interesting twist on Neil Young's "A Man Needs a Maid" -- Emily Haines' "The Maid Needs a Maid".

To say that Haines has re-interpreted the Young classic is a bit of an understatement. Undoubtedly, Young's version of "A Man Needs a Maid" has caused quite a bit of disagreement over the years.

Certainly, feminists in the '70's were quite taken aback from the literal title. However, over the years, a closer listen to the song's lyrics lead one to realize the song is more of a cry for help than a putdown of women.

So along comes Emily Haines' interpretation which is examined in great detail on Crawdaddy by Jocelyn Hoppa:
"Thirty-four years after Young’s song, Emily Haines puts “A Maid Needs a Maid” on her debut solo album Knives Don’t Have Your Back. Obviously, the title is a direct riposte to Young’s song. Similar lyrics like “Sewing up the fold ’cause I’ve been laid up / Would you put on the fire for me, draw the bath, and remind me to eat?” prove the correlation between the two songs. Set to a sparse piano that begets a cinematic, detached mood, the song is a nod to modern times (the usage of “bros before hos”) with an underscored desperate housewives theme—a place where, regardless of the strides made towards gender equality, men still dominate women, and women are still victims of themselves as well as men."

More analysis of Haines interpretation on Crawdaddy. (Thanks Michael!)

Also, see why Neil Young sang about needing a maid in the first place.


At 9/01/2009 10:08:00 PM, Anonymous eric said...

I liked the song, and thanks to Neil, it exists.

At 9/01/2009 10:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knive's Don't Have Your Back is a cool title for a song indeed! Soon I shall listen!

At 9/01/2009 11:10:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Sorry Thrash, I cannot see any connection between this song and Neil's "A man needs a maid" both musically or lyrically.(Soughta like comparing Dylan to Young!)

OOPS did I say that?

Germaine Greer

At 9/01/2009 11:47:00 PM, Blogger Pablito Barros said...

Only a disturbed mind to find the song by Neil "sexist". Poor 70's. I particularly find amusing analysis of these lyrics, but some overshoot. Sorry about my bad english.

At 9/02/2009 09:51:00 AM, Anonymous SONY said...

I need a maid

At 9/02/2009 03:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I`ve got a maid. Or a cleaner, anyway!

I love Neil`s song and as a woman I don`t find anything sexist in it to complain about. I think the words are very poignant and endearing.

Thanks Thrasher,very interesting.

Jill (from Rustington, UK)

At 9/02/2009 04:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Harvest first came out, a lot of people dismissed this song as a piece of drivel. Sort of just "filler" to make a full album. Most people didn't give it a second thought. But I loved it.

Young had just lost his first wife. "maid" is a song of loss and wanting a new woman in his life but he (like many men) emotionally can't be vulnerable and open his heart to another love who might hurt him all over again some day.

If you listen to "Maid" on the live Massey Hall album you will find that "Heart of Gold" was a part of the song. Signaling that he wants a woman of pure heart that inside he knows doesn't exist.

At 9/02/2009 04:40:00 PM, Anonymous Roger N said...

Great point about the Heart of Gold insertion in the Massey Hall version of this song. (I've thought about that too and how the songs have a cohesion/compatibility to them, even though it may not seem that way on the surface.)

I read a "Man Needs a Maid" as someone (whether it's Neil, who knows -- poets often create alternate personas) trying to convince himself that he needs only material support when, in all actuality, the narrative is that of someone who is truly wounded and needs much more.

In other words, he is trying to convince himself that having a person cook and clean for him is enough. This is a coping mechanism so that he can disengage and not feel wounded from what may be his realization of a failed attempt to engage with another person in the past.

Therefore, the chorus (A Man Needs a Maid) is not the reliable (true) voice of the persona Neil has created in the tune. The real voice is the person who says: "To live a love, you have to be part of." That is the epiphany, the realization, and the truism of the tune. Because this truism is painful -- perhaps due to one's failure to live up to this sentiment -- a perfunctory/crude sentiment like "A Man Needs a Maid" (all I need is someone to cook, clean and go away) is merely a coping mechanism for keeping this realization at bay. How do we know which is the true feeling and which sentiment is "all talk"? Look at the phrasing. Neil uses language like "I was thinking that maybe ..." I'll get a maid. Can the language be any less resolute? Meanwhile, the other sentiments ("To live a love") are spoken with so much more certitude.

The song as a whole reflects a struggle between engagement and disengagement. The thought that "all a man needs is a maid" is merely a method for convincing one's self that material support is all one needs, that detachment is the best course for dealing with "relationships," so as not to get hurt, even though what the narrator really knows is that it takes engagement (and giving of one's self) to make the relationship work.

It's a much more complex song than people give Neil credit for -- largely for their failure to see the psychological dynamic that is going on. To read this as a sexist song is to disregard Neil's artistic skill at creating a voice that seems to be saying one thing on the surface, but really means another thing altogether.

Anyone who has gone through a tough time in a relationship will be able to relate to the mood of this piece -- and how it shows the way we try to convince ourselves of one sentiment, even when we know the opposite is true. Beautiful.

At 2/20/2010 04:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked the last first anonymous' Ideas. Someone crying for help, after he's been run over by a bus a few times. Nobody, however seems to point out the message in melody.

The crecendos (sp?) and powerful orchestration (I'm a fucking teacher and I can't spell) of this piece give us the feeling of trajedy. I play this tune on the piano for other people, some who are immediately offended. Yet most people are fascinated by it, some even rushing to buy the album (wink, wink). Melody often says much more than the lyrics.

Yes, we know what Paul is talking about in "linor Rigby," but the powerful message in the melody, along with the chosen instruments, is a testement to the poetry in McCartney's head. What a powerful tune!

At 3/01/2011 12:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the original edit of "Harvest", the conclusion of "A Man Needs a Maid" ends in live applause which IMMEDIATELY transitions to the opening instrumental of "Words".

This point is lost in todays' individual MP3's and even some of the re-hashed collections or other recordings commonly available. However, even with these, if you listen to the close of "..Maid" and the immediate opening of "Words" on - - - you'll hear the applause on both - - - - which was the original transition between the two songs.

Whatever you make of the two individually, the choice to edit them into a continuum reveals additional sentiment which, for me, reinforces and expands on some of the thoughts already shared herein and, also for me, reveals a depth of understanding and emotion that transcends anything as shallow as a "sexist" sentiment.


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