Back in high school, I had a teacher named Joe Griffin who turned me on to TS Eliot. I think we spent the first semester of my senior year reading Murder in the Cathedral. It’s a play in which a bishop knows he’s going to get murdered by a king but does nothing to save himself because he has principles (or something along those lines). And though the temptation to write a song based on that one was exceedingly difficult to resist, I decided to go with another classic, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
Of course, I’m not the first person to write a song that riffs on “Prufrock.” Crash Test Dummies had a hit in the nineties with “Afternoons & Coffeespoons.” It’s from the part of the poem where the narrator, J. Alfred Prufrock, muses, “For I have known them all already, known them all:/Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,/I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
Prufrock, as you may recall, is a bit of a sad sack. He stands in a corner like a wallflower through the entire poem, trying and failing to muster the courage to ask a woman to meet him for a cup of tea sometime. My version of the story has the woman noticing him and taking charge of the situation despite his thinning hair. If you want to know why, you’ll have to listen to the song, but here’s a hint: it’s all about lighting.