The Casuals: Jesamine – Part 1

Casuals Jesamine single

That’s Jezamine with a ‘z’ in Europe

According to one source, Marty Wilde saw a shop called ‘Jesamine’ on his travels and thinking it a lovely name, wrote the song.

Writing Jesamine

Jesamine was written by Marty Wilde and Ronnie Scott (The Bystanders’ manager) under the joint pseudonym Frere Manston and Jack Gellar.  It tends to be Marty Wilde who is given sole credit; I don’t know if this reflects how songwriting duties were split between them or whether Marty Wilde crops up as sole composer as he is the better known name (by the way, it’s high time Marty Wilde’s 1969 Diversions LP was released – ‘Abergavenny’ might easily have been recorded by The Casuals, its toytown pop feel and big production bearing great similarities to their output around 1968/69).

Bystanders Jesamine 45Jesamine has an interesting history.  It was covered firstly by The Bystanders as When Jezamine Goes.  Although released only six months prior to The Casuals’ version, its primitivism gives it the feel of a 1966/early 1967 single.

In fact The Casuals’ ‘Jesamine’ eclipses The Bystanders’ original in every way starting with the title: Jesamine is itself such an unusual and lovely name, why add anything to that?

The Bystanders single lacks atmosphere and finesse.  Even featuring a leaden drum, the butterfly child doesn’t stand a chance of taking flight.  Strings unimaginatively parallel the somewhat forced lead vocal.  The arrangement briefly improves with some long overdue harmonies towards the end but the closing la-las create the sense of an incongruous singalong.  Perhaps it was rushed out or maybe “the powers that be would never spend the money” as group member Clive John comments (in sleeve notes to The Bystanders: Pattern People – The Pye Anthology, Castle 2001, CMRCD 270).  Significantly there is no credit for the arrangement.

Arranging Jesamine

The Casuals were fortunate to have as their Musical Director Cy Payne whose imaginative and sympathetic arrangement perfectly elucidates the song at every turn, maintaining both its gentle momentum as a pop song and its ‘butterfly child’ utopianism through subtle layers of orchestration.  Woodwind, brass and strings add much colour and interest.  The mood remains light even when brilliant brass predominates (as on the lead-off).

Listen to how Cy Payne handles the mid-song breakdown which is little more Jesamine 45than an awkward pause in The Bystanders’ version.  There are delightful, unexpected but just right plucked strings, curling woodwind and that drowsy single acoustic guitar strum before the harmonies return.

It also has to be said that John Tebb’s vocals are ideally suited to the song’s inherent melodicism and play a huge part in its success as a record.

Beyond its musical accomplishment, part of the fascination of  ‘Jesamine’ for me is that it seems somehow psychedelic and yet it obviously isn’t psychedelic at all in the genre defining sense.  But that ambiguity is its marvel.  The whole experience of love and of being in love in ‘Jesamine’ is transformative.  That dreamlike, otherworldly fragility… could Jesamine have emerged from her chrysalis in any other year but 1968 when the beautific visions of the previous year had filtered through to the public and the pop mainstream?

Deconstructing Jesamine  

One feature which adds hugely to the effectiveness of the song is its unusual structure.

The introduction poses a question ‘What am I supposed to do with a girl like Jesamine byline 1Jesasmine?’, setting us up for the song.

The main body of the song revolves around repetitions of a two part chorus – ‘When Jesamine goes…’ and ‘When Jesamine stays..’ offering a kind of light and shade or, in this case, shade (‘goes’) and light (‘stays’).

A bridge breaks up the repeated choruses parts 1 and 2 (with ‘When Jesamine Goes’ heard once more than ‘When Jesamine stays’).  The bridge resembles the introduction by again posing a question – ‘What can you say when a girl doesn’t want to know?  – but to a new melody.

Then we reach the most innovative part of all, the repetition of the forlorn ‘What am I supposed to do..?’ introduction but now heard as counterpoint to the ‘What can you say when a girl doesn’t want to know?’ of the bridge, adding to the elegance and sophistication of the song and dramatising how much the protagonist is both dazzled by love and beset by self doubt.

This unusual feature leads into a brass dominated instrumental lead-off of the chorus with John Tebb’s vocal joining in to fade.

So using the classic A-B-C structure of a song, ‘Jesamine’ would look something like this:

A  Introduction  What am I supposed to do..?
B  Chorus 1  When Jesamine goes…
C  Chorus 2  When Jesamine stays…
B  Chorus 1  When Jesamine goes…
D  Bridge  What can you say..?
B  Chorus 1  When Jesamine goes…
C  Chorus 2  When Jesamine stays…
E  Bridge D What can you say..? with Introduction A What am I supposed to do..?
B  Chorus 1  [When Jesamine goes…] instrumental
B  Chorus 1  When Jesamine goes… – to fade

It’s also worth pointing out how the choruses’ dual swings between ‘Jesamine goes’ and ‘Jesamine stays’ hang on the pivotal ‘but then the whole world dies’.  This somewhat startling word ‘dies’ – heightened still by it being suspended in mid air at the end of a line – clearly shows the protaganist’s bewilderment when Jesamine leaves and his world seems to have faded away with her – he is left only with his feelings (and ‘Jesamine’ is all about feeling).  But crucially ‘dies’ also strikes at the heart of the ‘butterfly child‘ – her ephemerality and the very fleetingness of his taking pleasure in her.

Next time: Charting Jesamine, Imagining Jesamine, Loving Jesamine

The Casuals: Jesamine – Part 2

Previous posts on The Casuals
The Casuals: beyond Jesamine
The Casuals: before Jesamine: 1961- mid 1968


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s