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Title: ‘Goldstar’
Where to find it: ‘To the Death of Fun’ (2011, Bella Union)
Performed by: Cashier No. 9
Words by: Danny Todd

I can’t believe it’s December already! But you better believe that at TGTF we’re already preparing for SXSW 2014, which will be my third. I was thinking about the bands I saw the first time around, and one of those were Belfast’s Cashier No. 9. I’d seen them previously on 24 November 2011, 2 days before my birthday, at London XOYO. It also happened to be the same night as Thanksgiving back home, so one of my friends took me for a Subway round the corner from XOYO and I had a turkey salad. ::rimshot::

Funnily enough, when I saw the band in Austin at the Northern Irish night at the Tap Room at Six, Danny Todd recognised me from the London show and I caught up with the band for a post-gig chat, which was nice, because it was my first SXSW and per mostly usual, I was covering the festival alone and it was nice to be around people who I knew. Their debut album on Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union, ‘To the Death of Fun’, was released in 2011 and while there have been some tinklings on Twitter that there might be a new Cashier No. 9 album in 2014, I’m not holding my breath until I have something in my little hands.

I’m famously against overuse of reverb and psychedelia, so you must know that I like Cashier No. 9 to put up with that sound. One reason is ‘Goldstar’, one of the singles from their debut album. It’s funny that until I actually went to go find the lyrics, I interpreted this as an encouraging “psyching you up” kind of song, especially with the line “I look better with my high heels on”, which, admittedly, sounded strange being sung by a man. It’s one of the easier lines to hear through all that reverb. But if you sit down and look at the words, it’s actually about the trials and tribulations of being in a band and then coming to the realisation that he has to come clean about being in love. It’s an entirely unconventional love song and wonderful.

First, the words:

Verse 1
Down on the streets they’re talking
Lock the gates I turn my back on
Don’t know but I seem to pass the time

And my track record is so misleading
I wage my war intent on succeeding
No friend would pay no bills of mine

Chorus
So I worked hard and yeah, got my dough
I take the beatings everywhere I go
Down on the streets they’re talking
I feel their eyeballs gawking
I look better with my high heels on
Tonight I will let everyone know
I’ll walk you through my life row by row

Verse 2
Set the scene, turn up the drama
The little people we’re leaving to karma
Fallen sons came as no surprise and yeah

Some of you the thieves are feeding
I took more people on, like that’s what I needed
The girls, they grew, they multiplied

Chorus (extended)
So I worked hard and yeah, I got my dough
I take the beatings everywhere I go
Down on the streets they’re talking
I feel their eyeballs gawking
I look better with my high heels on

Tonight I will let everyone know
I’ll walk you through my life row by row
Tonight I will let everyone know
I’ll walk you through my life row by row

Verse 3
Can’t lie, if you keep on guessin’ me
Trouble is, I’m not like I used to be
Don’t make me spill my beans tonight

You know I try hard to keep this guard up
Can’t deny that the tension’s been building up
No reason to make my decision, I want you, oh

Outro
I said I want you, oh
I said I want you, oh
I said I want you, oh
I said I want you…

Now, the analysis:

As I said in the introduction, for the longest time I interpreted this as a song of encouragement. The more I thought about “I look better with my high heels on”, the more I became convinced he meant mens’ high heels, i.e., the Cuban heels favoured by the Beatles and later, the Libertines. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with verse 1.

Down on the streets they’re talking (1)
Lock the gates I turn my back on (2)
Don’t know, but I seem to pass the time (3)

And my track record is so misleading (1)
I wage my war, intent on succeeding (2)
No friend would pay no bills of mine (3)

To be honest, I appreciate Todd’s building structure of all three of the verses. The first two lines of either half of the verse discuss the difficulties of life. “Down on the streets they’re talking / Lock the gates I turn my back on”: he’s being talked about and not in a nice way, it’s happening behind his back. As soon as he turns his back, the gates are locked, meaning he can’t get in. I’m wondering if in this context he means he’s been locked out of the industry, and therefore out of fame and success, and that’s why he can’t reach them. Then in the third line, “Don’t know but I seem to pass the time”: he’s accepting of it but life goes on, right? Then in the second half, “And my track record is so misleading / I wage my war, intent on succeeding”: you can’t keep this man down. He’s determined. Even if “No friend would pay no bills of mine”, no-one’s behind him, no-one would put their money on him because they don’t look at him as a good prospect. See where I’m getting this underdog, Rocky-esque vibe?

This feeling continues through the chorus. “So I worked hard and yeah, got my dough / I take the beatings everywhere I go”: he put in the time and made my money the honest way, but he’s still getting beaten down by life. “Down on the streets they’re talking”: another reference to him being talked about behind his back. “I feel their eyeballs gawking / I look better with my high heels on”: he’s being stared at like a curiosity, but he’s walking around town, proud as a peacock. What could be more confidence boosting? Being a woman, I’ve always wondered what it must be like for a man to walk into a room, seeing a woman that he’s attracted to. Society has dictated that a man has to exude the confidence to go after the woman who has caught his eye, or he’s lost his chance. “Tonight I will let everyone know / I’ll walk you through my life row by row”: this is his moment to shine, to tell the woman he likes he’s in love with her, and he’s going to start by making his intentions clear and walk her (the “you”) through his “life row by row”, his innermost feelings.

There isn’t a lot of information on Todd’s previous musical lives, but the words seem to indicate his disillusionment with the business: “Set the scene, turn up the drama / The little people we’re leaving to karma”, the people that put drama in his life and screwed with him, he’s done with that and leaving karma to deal with them, they’re not worth his time or energy. Then, “Some of you, the thieves are feeding / I took more people on, like that’s what I needed”: this reads like the sad story of why Elvis kept working, because the Elvis franchise employed so many people and they counted on him for their livelihoods. He couldn’t quit. Similarly, he started picking up people he thought were friends but in reality, they were hangers-on who, leech-like, stole from him and they weren’t his friends at all. The third line in both halves indicate the worst fallout from sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll: “Fallen sons came as no surprise”, people around him were lost to drink and drugs, and “The girls, they grew, they multiplied”, the number of groupies exponentially grew. It’s important to note that neither line is not sung fondly. How interesting…

Set the scene, turn up the drama (1)
The little people we’re leaving to karma (2)
Fallen sons came as no surprise and yeah (3)

Some of you, the thieves are feeding
(1)
I took more people on, like that’s what I needed (2)
The girls, they grew, they multiplied (3)

Then in verse 3, he’s come round. Like for most men, it’s making him very uncomfortable to discuss how to feels about this woman. He’s trying to be above board, “Can’t lie, if you keep on guessin’ me” and “You know I try hard to keep this guard up”, but he’s very anxious about the image of himself he’s projecting, “Trouble is, I’m not like I used to be” and “Can’t deny that the tension’s been building up”. He’s finding reasons why he shouldn’t come out and say it in “Don’t make me spill my beans tonight”. But the linchpin of the song is here: “No reason to make my decision, I want you”. He’s adamant there is no reason he has to make this decision on this night, but he actually comes right out and says, “I want you”.

Can’t lie, if you keep on guessin’ me (1)
Trouble is, I’m not like I used to be (2)
Don’t make me spill my beans tonight (3)

You know I try hard to keep this guard up
(1)
Can’t deny that the tension’s been building up (2)
No reason to make my decision, I want you, oh (3)

And the song ends with this feeling, so there is no question. Now I’m wondering if he wrote this song for his wife. If I were her, I’d have appreciated the honesty: the music business can be a pretty grisly place for relationships and for someone to be willing to come out and point out his misgivings with his chosen profession and still come to the conclusion he has to be the bigger person to show him how he really feels about her…just wow. Bring on the next Cashier No. 9 album, please!

Lastly, the song, the song’s promo video, with a suitably gold light glow but strangely (or not?), a male interpretative dancer’s moves are cut in between shots of the band performing.

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