Before Too Long (P Kelly) and Darling It Hurts (S Connolly/P Kelly) – Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls 1986
In mid-1984 Paul Kelly and Steve Connolly had moved into a large sparsely-furnished flat on Coogee Rd. in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, with Michael Barclay (drums), Michael Armiger (bass), and Peter Bull (keyboards), later Chris Coyne (sax) would come on board, and so gradually the Coloured Girls started to take shape. Armiger departed after Kelly, Connolly, and Barclay embarked on an acoustic tour opening for Australian Crawl and the Motels, and was replaced by Jon Schofield (bass). This became the classic Coloured Girls/Messengers line-up for the next seven years, and they would record Paul Kelly’s next five albums – Gossip, Under The Sun, So Much Water So Close To Home, Comedy and Hidden Things.
Michael Gudinski of Mushroom Records was losing faith in Kelly, his first three albums – Talk, Manila, and Post – hadn’t sold, and Paul was now proposing to release a 22-track double album! Gudinski had always doubted the quality of Paul’s vocals, and essentially he wanted to contract him as a songwriter for other artists, but he agreed to fund the album for the miserly sum of $60,000 and Kelly agreed, on the condition that it was marketed for the same price as a single album. The band would go into the Trafalgar Studios (Syd) with producer Alan Thorne in March 1986 to record Gossip, a landmark album for Paul Kelly, ultimately bristling with potential singles and three of Kelly’s finest compositions– Before Too Long, Darling It Hurts, and Leaps and Bounds
Before Too Long was the first single released by Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls (the name coloured girls was inspired by the term that Lou Reed used to describe his harmony singers on Walk On The Wild Side, later the band would become Paul Kelly and the Messengers to avoid any racist overtones associated with Lou’s reference) when lifted from the Gossip double album. It was a surprise hit, #15 nationally, given Kelly’s lack success to that time, Gossip was also a chart success at #15 and highly critically -praised, additional harmony vocals were provided by Astrid Munday, and Steve Connolly delivered an understated but effective guitar solo on his Stratocaster, to create the dream-like quality that seems to pervade this song.
But the lyrics are the bitter sentiments of a man who is jealous, predatory, and determined to prise a girl away from her current partner, his unrequited love manifests itself in a barely disguised contempt for their relationship, and he predicts his ultimate success “ Before too long/ The one that you’re loving/ Will wish that he never met you/ Before too long/ He who is nothing/ Will suddenly come into view”
The record’s success was aided by an innovative promo video which featured Kelly as a droll taxi-driver, who although overwrought with working long hours on the night shift and having to deal with difficult customers, he keeps his cool, and remains detached from their attitudes and poor behaviour. Before Too Long captured all the style and substance of the energetic and intelligent R&R for which Paul Kelly was justifiably known, a love song in a commonplace setting, that you remember because Kelly is the consummate storyteller.
The second single lifted of the Gossip album was Darling It Hurts, co-composed by Paul Kelly and Steve Connolly (lead guitarist) the song tells the story of one of Paul Kelly’s ex-girlfriends who had turned to prostitution and was working the Darlinghurst Road area of Kings Cross, which at the time was a red-light area.
An early reference to the world’s “oldest profession” can be found in the Bible when Rahab of Jericho was identified as a prostitute, and the red light hooker music genre has a long history since then, with references to sex workers in blues songs pre-dating the modern era including I Got What It Takes (Bessie Smith), Down In The Alley (Memphis Minnie), and Nobody’s Sweetheart (Cab Calloway), which all meditated on the power of “the moneymaker”.
Since then such performers as O.C.Smith (Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp), Bobby Gentry (Fancy), The Animals (House of the Rising Sun),The Police (Roxanne), La Belle (Lady Marmalade), Donna Summer (Bad Girls), Lou Reed (Walk On The Wild Side), Cher (Gypsies,Tramps and Thieves), Nick Gilder (Hot Child In The City), The Ramones (53rd and 3rd), and locally Richard Clapton (Girls on the Avenue), Nick Cave (Jubilee Street), Jon English (Hollywood Seven), Sharon O’Neilll (Maxine), and others have continued to musically underscore the lives of these working girls.
This song is a strident pub rocker, Kelly’s vocals are impassioned, angry, frustrated, “I see you standing on the corner with your dress so high/ And all the cars slow down as they see you, driving by/Thought you said you had some place to go/ What you doing up here putting it all on show?”
The song is propelled by the splendid rhythm section of Michael Barclay’s drums and Jon Schofield’s rumbling bass line, the brassy attack by Chris Coyne (sax) and Wayne Freer (trombone), brilliant keyboard flourishes by Peter Bull, and the angsty vocals of Kelly. The monochrome promo clip features the band performing in an industrial setting, a couple jive to the music, but the images seem to be disconnected from the subject matter of the song, a little too light-hearted perhaps, lacking the necessary carnality, grit and menace.
The lyrics however graphically capture the precarious existence of sex workers who support pimps and often their own addictions ‘…in one hand and out the other, I don’t know why you even bother/ darling it hurts, to see you down in Darlinghurst tonight”. Gutter-crawling customers, pimps, drugs, and the use of the song’s title as an oronym of the location Darlinghurst, which Kelly first saw as grafitti on a railway viaduct wall in the area, completed the graphic story that Paul Kelly invariably conveyed in song, charted # 25 locally and #19 in the USA.