Ever wondered what happened to Roxanne, once she was told in no uncertain terms not to turn on the red light?
Or Maggie once Rod Stewart told her to wake up because he had something to say? Or whether Jolene's begging was answered, or whether she did in fact have her man stolen?
Did Roxanne ever switch off the red light? These and other questions pondered...
Well, The Beautiful South’s David Rotheray has been pondering the same things, and now he's put together an album of 'Answer Ballads', the continuation of these and other characters' stories. He tells HuffPostUK all about his songtime sequels....
What inspired this idea?
I suppose I have a peculiar, literal way of listening to pop music- even the pop music that I don't like, I tend to take quite seriously. Every time 'Roxanne' or 'Jolene' would come on the jukebox, I would always wonder "what did Roxanne say back to him?" or " what was the real deal with Jolene, then?"
I realised that pop music was full of fictional characters, just as literature or films are, albeit that they are only sketched very briefly. But I always had pictures of these characters in my head
How difficult was it to take some of these characters further on their journeys?
Some of these characters give you more room for imagination than others.
I decided that Roxanne was an independent businesswoman who resented being lectured by a man. Jolene, I figured she becomes a nun because she is so sick of attention given to her looks.
But then with someone like Mrs Jones, (from 'Me & Mrs Jones') the situation is less clear; all you really know from the original song is that she meets her lover "everyday in the same cafe", that's it. So I wrote a song about the cafe. Similarly with Dino (from 'The Boys Are Back In Town',) all you know about him is that he runs a Bar & Grill that gets smashed up by Thin Lizzy every night! So I wrote a song about a beleaguered Dublin barman.
When you look in detail at a lot of pop songs, it's surprising how few lyrics there actually are, and how little you know about the characters. The listener fleshes them out from his own imagination, without even realising it.
Have you had any reaction yet from their original creators?
No, but I would be very interested to. I imagine they'd find the whole idea a bit strange! But I think I did them all the professional courtesy of taking their songs seriously, whether I was fan of them or not.
Who's your favourite character, and why?
I enjoyed thinking about Maggie (from 'Maggie May'). I always liked the sound of Maggie, and slightly resented Rod Stewart for wanting to leave her- I think he should have stuck around! I guess she is probably what people would now call a 'cougar' - but I saw her as an older woman, full of joie de vivre, who is simply more at home in the company of the young.
I also have a soft spot for Daniel ( from Elton John's song of the same name). I saw him as a sensitive man with a tragic past who eventually feels compelled to run away from his younger brother and his responsibility. I thought that maybe their parents had been killed in a car crash and Daniel had raised his brother himself. I found it much easier to write the songs when I concocted an entire scenario in this way- in fact I wrote my own little biographies of the characters before I started on the songs.
David Rotheray's 'Answer Ballads' are out now, from Navigator Records. Listen to Roxanne's song below...