A Stranger’s Bed

“A Stranger’s Bed” is the fourth song on Bachelors Anonymous’s eponymous six-song album, remastered and re-released digitally. Bachelor David Hughes tells the story behind the song.


Jacques Morali (1947–1991) may or may not be remembered for pulling together The Ritchie Family in Philly in 1975 and the Village People in 1977, both popular contrivances of the disco genre. He was born in Casablanca, but had no connection with the formation of the disco label by that name—a label that would actually sign the Village People. It was in 1984 that Morali came to my attention, having helped bring Eartha Kitt out of fourteen years of recording retirement at age 57 with “Where Is My Man.” It became a dancefloor hit and, as a veteran of Civil Rights stances, Kitt didn’t hesitate to stand in solidarity with the gay men in her audience as they battled the HIV/AIDS that would take Morali’s life.1

Earth Kitt in NY Daily News
Typo aside, Liz Smith announced the January 11, 1984 debut of Kitt’s hit. (Daily News, 08 Jan 1984, 12)
A Stranger's Bed visualized with lyric
Photograph: cottonbro

That same year, the Smiths, with only three singles to their name, got British pop singer Sandie Shaw to cover their first A-side, “Hand in Glove.”2 Shaw hadn’t exactly been in retirement, having been tapped by Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh (Human League; Heaven 17) in 1982 to cover the Bacharach/David “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” which had been a hit for Dionne Warwick (but would not be for Shaw). Morrissey, in his 2013 autobiography, explains that he was a fan of Shaw and that she was less than grateful for her “Hand in Glove” charting in the UK at 27, a position she hadn’t achieved since the late ’60s and wouldn’t achieve again even though she was only in her mid-thirties.3 But both these singles promoted their producers as much as Sandie Shaw. The Bacharach/David sleeve reads “B.E.F. Presents Sandie Shaw” (British Electric Foundation being Ware/Marsh’s post-Human League project). The “Hand in Glove” jacket is indistinguishable from that of any other Smiths release, including Morrissey’s chosen “cover star”—not Shaw but rather Rita Tushingham (from the 1961 film A Taste of Honey)—a stark reminder of Shaw’s working class roots.

Miss Peggy Lee

By 1980, pop artists had reconstructed Peggy Lee’s reconstructed cover of “Fever” (1958) and her version of “Is That All There Is?” (1969). Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s 1979 “Tumour” was faithful to the former, but for the title word.4 Cristina’s 1980 version of the latter was so reworked, it invoked the ire of songwriters Leiber & Stoller who successfully sued to yank the disc from distribution.5

I wasn’t so much a fan of Peggy Lee as an admirer. I had only one of her records, the 1960 Decca Best Of volumes collected in a 1980 double album by MCA. It didn’t include “Fever,” which I’d hoped for (the gatefold jacket contains no track list on the outside), but I really liked “Black Coffee” (1953) with its “hand-me-down brew” in a “weekday room.”

Chicken or egg, I was either inspired by Peggy Lee to write the lyrics to “A Stranger’s Bed” or I fantasized we were creating a standard—à la Morali and Morrissey—for Miss Lee, who hadn’t had an original single in ten years. If she could pull off lines like “A woman’s born to weep and fret/ To stay at home and tend her oven,” with the hint of a wink in 1953, I imagined what she might have done with the following.

Five years later, Rob and I reimagined the song, with a new drum track by Del Mar Richardson…

Lyrics

I’m in a stranger’s room 
I know, you’re unimpressed 
His arm around me 
Pulled to my chest 
You ask me what it was I did 
How I passed the test 
In a night of looking 
Did I find my quest? 

I’m in a stranger’s arms 
I know, you’re unimpressed 
You ask, to get this far 
How much did I invest 
You say I shared my body 
Did I share the rest 
You say I shared it 
But I’m still just a guest 

Chorus 
“Don’t talk to strangers” 
You said, “Don’t talk to strangers” 

I’m in a stranger’s bed 
I know, you’re unimpressed 
You ask me, was it worth it 
And did I get some rest? 
And you love me, don’t you?
You want nothing less 
But I can’t say that word 
You know it’s for the best 

I like you 
I should be impressed 
You give me your love 
I always settle for less 
That stranger’s got something 
To which a dozen would attest 
I mean, I’d love to love you 
But let’s just get dressed 

Chorus

Lyrics Reprinted by Permission

Credits

BACHELORS ANONYMOUS is
Rob Berg: Synth, Vocals
David Hughes: Drum Box, Vocals

Written and arranged by
Rob Berg & David Hughes

Produced by
Bachelors Anonymous and Rick Novak

Instruments recorded at
The Men’s Dept. (4-track), 1985
Del Mar Richardson, drums on “A Stranger’s Bed ’90”

Vocals recorded at
Control Center, 1985

Engineered and mixed by
Rick Novak
Control Center, 1985

Mastered by
Scott A. Jennings
Artistry in Sound, 2020

Photograph by
Rocky Schenck
Album cover by
David Hughes

© ℗ 1985, 2020 Berg & Hughes
Celibataire Music (ASCAP)

Notes

  1. See “Eartha Kitt – actress, singer and cabaret star has died aged 81,” 25 Dec 2008, at New York Theater Guide.
  2. Shaw’s cover of “Hand in Glove” was issued 09 Apr 1984, not long after release of The Smiths’ eponymous album on 24 Feb 1984, which included their own version of the song.
  3. Morrissey, Autobiography (London: Penguin Classics, 2013, 124–125).
  4. Descloux’s version of “Fever” does not include the lyrics that Lee added to Little Willie John’s original 1956 version.
  5. Cristina’s version contains a section in which she’d “kill” for the “most wonderful boy in Manhattan” who’d “beat me black and blue and I loved it.” This is typical of a chic post-punk meme that I critique briefly here. Both Cristina and Descloux appeared on the ZE Records label, founded by their partners Michael Zilkha and Michel Esteban, respectively. Cristina succumbed to COVID-19 fairly early on, in March of 2020, whereas Descloux had died in 2004 of ovarian and colon cancers.

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