Song Analysis

The Wrong Band

Monday 8 August 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

“This is for all my friends who are whores.” (BAM, March 11, 1994)

“In ‘The Wrong Band,’ the hooker’s saying ‘I have a voice here that’s worth believing. I got in over my head.’ The consciousness is divided. You’re either looking at who you are, or you’re not.” (B-Side, April/May 1994)

The female characters of “The Wrong Band” are all prostitutes. Tori was inspired to write the song in part because she played pianos bars for years in Washington D.C. and knew several hookers who came in the lounge with their clients. She always supported prostitutes against people’s harsh judgements ever since and even dedicated some of her songs to them during certain shows. “People don’t think of hookers as people, but I quite like them,” she told Free Music Monthly in August 1994. “I find their story really interesting, and when people start judging [them], they should just shut up because they have no idea what it’s like to be on the other side.”

She specifically talked about a D.C. hooker she knew and that got into big trouble because she had a powerful Congressman for client and knew too much. “My character, although I say she, was really written about a woman that I knew that had to leave for Japan,” she thus explained in the Baltimore Sun. “She left to be protected, because she was involved with somebody in the house years ago. This was years ago. She got in too deep. She just knew too much, and she was really afraid that they were going to kill her, they were going to set her up and kill her. She went to Japan to be protected by another powerful man, but she didn’t have too many choices at that point, and he was powerful enough to hide her in Japan. I never heard from her again. I don’t know what happened. And I knew her for three years.”

Although it stays quite suggested in the song, the main character seems to experience a very similar situation. “Senator let’s be sincere/as much as you can/He called her up and he said/The new prosecutor/soon will be wanting a word/so she’s got a soft spot for heels and spurs/And there’s somethin’ believin’ in her voice again/said there’s somethin’ believin’/instead of just leavin.’” And in the last verse, when the narrator calls Heidi for advice, she says: “She said it’s time I open my eyes/Don’t be afraid to open your eyes” and we could argue that Heidi tries to confront her with the reality of her situation: she’s a prostitute and is treated as such and maybe she’d better be leavin’ because of what she knows about the Senator. Whether her life is in danger or not, her consciousness is “divided” anyway, like Tori told B-Side, because she’s torn between being a blameless hooker and “drowning,”so she has to confront what she is to people and what her job expose her to.

Another influence on the song was what Tori called in interview “the Heidi Fleiss thing:” Fleiss was a very successful and influent madam in Hollywood and her prostitution ring was reputed to have some of the most wealthy and famous people of America for clients, though she always made a point of not revealing any names. She earned millions of dollars as soon as she created her ring in the early 90’s and LAPD subsequently led a wiretap investigation before charging her in 1993 for tax evasion and attempted pandering, among other things. She was sentenced to three years of jail in 1996 for tax evasion but not for any prostitution charges. Tori kept the name Heidi for one of the song’s characters.

Because protitutes are not accepted by patriarchy, Tori aimed the song to be a defiant one. The tune is uplifting and catchy - though the lyrics suggest something darker - and the girls of the song experience doubt but are unrepentant. It has to be noted the words ‘prostitutes,’ ‘hookers,’ or ‘calls-girls’ are never pronounced in the lyrics but the profession of the girls is more than suggested by lines such as “Ginger is always sincere/but not to one man,” “And she gets her cigars from the sweet fat man,” “even the sun’s got a price on it” or the verse about the Senator. For Tori, the Church teaches us to deny the prostitute in ourselves -figuratively speaking of course, it’s the sensual side of women - because “it depends on our sense of dislocation from ourselves because the spiritual body is made to feel ashamed of the physical body. That was part of my problem, even before the rape. But now I question this concept of ‘purity’. What does ‘loving purely’ mean? ” [1]

“The Wrong Band” thus shares a similar theme with “God” and “Past the Mission:” it’s about reintegrating our sexual self (the Magdalene archetype) and join it to our spiritual self.

information sources

The Baltimore Sun, January 30, 1994.
Hot Press, February 23, 1994.
BAM, March 11, 1994.
B-Side, April/May 1994.
Free Music Monthly, August 1994.

[1Hot Press, February 23, 1994.