Jasper Donalds' new green dress

I am writing these notes in November, 2003, and last night I watched Eddie Izzard being interviewed on the Parkinson show on BBC television in England. And Eddie dressed in women's clothing for the interview. Of course, his transvestism is an integral part of his act as a stand-up comic. Nevertheless, this was 'Parky' and I think it was the first time he had done that on such a talk show. In a way, I feel this is a testimony to how attitudes have become more relaxed about the issue of transvestism, over the past few decades. When I wrote this song in May 1979, I felt that I had to think carefully how to handle the topic. I was playing it in a pub folk & blues club in the North East of England in a town that was built on mining and shipbuilding. In Sunderland in 1979 it seemed to me that men were men and lasses were lasses, despite the rising influence of feminist literature at that time.

I wanted to write a song that would treat the topic of transvestism sympathetically and I decided to do this by painting a portrait of a very ordinary man going about his day-to-day life, much as the folk in my audiences might. The song has both a gentle tune and a gentle finger-style accompaniment. I wanted to relax people as I sang the song. You could argue that this strategy conforms to the therapeutic principles of desensitisation, although I can see that some might feel this is pushing things a tad too far. Anyway, I also wanted to use humour to defuse embarrassment (and that is a very Freudian thing to do, of course). But I had to be very careful there; transvestites can so easily end up being the butt of jokes. In the end, I settled for a reasonably subtle play on the word 'habit' and started every verse with the same two lines:

Jasper Donalds is a quiet man
He's a man of many habits
In one verse he walks along the street to buy the daily newspaper; in another he shops for the weekly groceries in the supermarket; in another he is in the pub getting a drink at the bar. In all these situations I speak of him walking around (to the store, to the bar, and so forth) in his new green dress. Yet I rob the listener of the opportunity of seeing this man in a new green dress since I insist that it exists only in his fantasy, as part of Jasper Donald's daydreaming. In order for the listener to grasp the meaning of the song, it is necessary to put his or herself into the shoes of Jasper Donalds and to imagine him wearing the new green dress. And in that moment the audience, if fully engaged in the song, becomes implicitly entangled in Jasper's transvestism. The chorus tied to the verse where he buys the newspaper is as follows:
As he walks along the street he moves
His body easily beneath his new green dress
But no-one else can guess, his fantasy
Musically, the song is played and sung in a style that is not dissimilar to Mrs Growbeck's armchair and they are both played in the key of E.

ISRC = GBGHU0300015

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