Certain Songs #1160: The Miss Alans – “Her Drug”

Album: Smack The Horse
Year: 1990

“Her Drug” is Ron Woods’s favorite Miss Alans song, but like all of Smack The Horse, there was a long gap between when it was recorded and when it was actually released.

It was recorded in April & May of 1989 at Paramount Recording Studios in Hollywood. Because it was cheaper and everybody was in their twenties, the entire record was recorded during the graveyard shift: sessions wouldn’t even start until midnight, and go until after the sun came up, always too damn early.

Of course nobody had any money, so the entire band stayed at Kirk & Kassia’s house in North Hollywood, getting up in the late afternoon to watch Batman, MST3K and films like The Great Escape, while dubbing one of the rooms at their house “The Traci Lords Room” because the decor of the room reminded them of something that had once been seen in a movie. I’m sure the close proximity drove everyone nuts after awhile, but was also a great bonding experience for a band that had recently survived two near break-ups.

I remember hearing some of the recordings when I went down in late April to see Lou Reed & The Feelies at the Universal Ampitheater.

But here’s the problem: they didn’t have a record deal. So while Smack The Horse was basically done in May, 1989, it took some time to actually get label interest. So Kirk sent demos out, got them showcase gigs around Los Angeles — more crashing at his house, natch — and worked tirelessly to try to get them signed. For awhile it looked like they were going to get signed by TVT records, but after they passed, the Miss Alans got signed by Genius records, who had recently put out records by Spacemen 3 and The Jazz Butcher.

But even then, it took some time to get the wheels grinding of even an indie label, so Smack The Horse didn’t get released until early 1990, and even people who had seen them live were surprised by some of the psychedelic studio effects that producer Ian O’Higgins layered into the tunes.

Once of the songs that benefited from O’Higgins’s ideas was “Her Drug,” which slowly built its way out of “The Indifference” with Ron playing his rims, and Manny spraying distortion & feedback in the background, changing the song from its original acoustic-based incarnation to something that musically matched Scott’s worries about some of the harder-partying women in our social circle.

Is your life all you’ve worked for?
Is it full, full and plenty?
Plenty plenty obituary
Used her life whole like a virgin
Herrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
She said “No don’t let me come
Dowwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnn”

With what sounds like seagulls echoing in the background — but is actually is an amplification of the sound of Jay sliding his fingers up and down his bass, another cool psychedelic trick from producer Ian O’Higgins — Scott’s vocals overlapping as he repeats “plenty,” and then holding out long notes on “her” and “down,” it’s all very disorienting, but just at that point Ron kicks in with a full beat, providing some temporary stability for the bridge.

We fell towards the sea
She trampled over the ocean
As her arms binded up
She reached out to me
A delight for her

I don’t even know if it was on purpose (and I’m not asking), but I kinda love the reference here to when Pete Townshend sings “oh, what a thrill for ya” in “Empty Glass.”

In any event, once “Her Drug” gets going, it never really lets up, and eventually Manny starts joining on vocals:

For the men (for the men)
That she loved (that she loved)
And the hope that she lost
(She loved she loved she loved)
And the men she loved
There was her drug
Her drug

And over the last “Her drug,” Manny then fires off a guitar solo augmented by Jay’s bass runs and Ron’s precision rolls until the entire song crashes into one last observation: “She said ‘I’m only human.’

“Her Drug”

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Her drug, companion pieces, seagulls and frogs, what a delight for her — pete townshend, twisty winding song.

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