A Song of My Own: Porcelain Doll – Padraig O´Connor

Hey folks, before I write my next post, I’d just like to shamelessly plug a song I wrote called Porcelain Doll, that I’ve posted a (slightly amateurish) video for on youtube. In the spirit of The Song of the Week Blog, here’s a short summary of what it’s about.

porcelain doll still from video

While I was working in an office in Dublin circa 2003, I came across a couple of women who inspired me to write the song. One of them always dressed immaculately, wearing high heels and far too much make-up, but turned out to be a lovely person. Another would be ingratiatingly nice to people’s faces, but as soon as their backs were turned, was quick with a cutting comment.

As with actors on the stage, we all move through our lives playing certain roles, and though she was sure she was getting away with it, it was painfully obvious to everyone but her what her agenda was. The two characters blended into one, the first girl inspired the look of the doll/office worker and the second the stormy conflict of her mind. In the end it became something of a cautionary tale that went beyond the original inspiration.

I came up with the idea of a fairytale featuring a clockwork toy/porcelain doll walking around in circles, as a metaphor for the painted persona that’s only skin deep. The character believes they’re getting away with the charade. With all the stresses and strains that come with office life, all is not right within the mind of the immaculately made up “doll”. She puts on the facade of a kind of polished perfection, answering the phone in a sweet sounding, but ultimately fake “hello, how can I help you/have a nice day” voice, but on the inside, just like Humpty Dumpty, she’s cracking up. She hates her job, her boss, and “walks around in circles” doing the same things every day. The judgemental two-faced way she treats others reflects the negativity she turns inward on herself.

Although it seems like the protagonist is a nasty piece of work who gets her comeuppance, falling over and “smashing” into pieces as soon as she leaves the building, I like to think she gets a second chance to start again after her “make up and breakdowns” moment.  In spite of how she comes across, the character has had a hard life, and sought solice in a prickly judgemental ego. Underneath that hard shell, there’s an unstable and self critical personality who feels like she’s going in circles in her life. But unlike Humpty Dumpty she now has the opportunity to rebuild and start again from scratch.So the main body of the song signs off with “see you later pretty Porcelain Doll”, i.e. to be continued…

It’s my most popular video on youtube, but that’s mainly down to the fact that there are people out there who love looking at videos of pretty little statuettes, and good for them. 🙂 Whatever gets you through your life…

When I’d finished working in the office, I did a Masters in Music & Media Technology, and for one of the projects we had to make a video, so I decided to record this song, and film the video in the week leading up to the deadline. I blew my budget on a actual “pretty little porcelain doll” for about €100 from a shop on Dublin´s main street, O’Connell St, and after some reservations decided there was only one course of action possible to end the video. No spoilers, have a look for yourself. 🙂

A couple of people have since told me they’ve met people just like this in offices, so I think I might have struck a chord here.

I’ll be including a new version of this song on the album I’m working on, which is provisionally entitled, The Lights of Dublin. There are some other demoes of tracks uploaded here…

This is me by the way…

me plus guitar

The track features friends and fellow musicians, Julien Lonchamp on bass, melodica and backing vocals at the end, Adrian Hart on violin, me on guitar, glockenspiel, shaker, vocal and backing vocals. I wanted the song to have a clockwork music box sound from the beginning. On first listen the music gives the impression of a sweet melodic song, and the lyrics start out that way too, but dig a little deeper and there´s trouble brewing. Just as with the character in the song.

And here’s a live version with fellow friends and collaborators here in Madrid, Amber Stiles on backing vocals, Kester Jones on melodica, and Benjamin Jones on violin.

Well, that´s the story of the Pretty Little Porcelain Doll. I´ll be back soon with another song of the week.

Seeya later pretty…

Lyrics:

Pretty little porcelain doll

She walks around like a clockwork model

On her three inch heels

Well don’t fall over pretty porcelain doll

 

She talks like a recording

But sounds sweet as a birdie

Smiles like turning light-switch

Pretty little porcelain doll

 

Pretty little porcelain doll

Wears diamonds

Paints her eyes with shadows

Puffed red blushing cheeks

Face like white ‘Paper Mache’

 

She walks around in circles

Wants to kill her manager

Talks behind your back you know

Has a cold judging eye

See you later pretty porcelain doll

 

Pretty little porcelain doll

Puts on her paper hat

Leaves the building by the front door

Works in a large office

 

Into the world of cobwebs

Has a heart of splinters

Never had it easy

Falls over on the doorstep, smashes

Seeya later pretty porcelain doll

 

It’s all make up and break downs in the office these days…

It’s all make up and break downs in the office these days…

 

O’Connor 23/10/2003 15.10

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10 thoughts on “A Song of My Own: Porcelain Doll – Padraig O´Connor

  1. I love this song but you knew that. I’m glad you decided to feature yourself. The dustpan is my favorite part but you knew that too.
    I live in a city crawling with women like that. Such pretty painted dolls of brittle clay.

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