Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres

Album: Bedsitter Images (1967)
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Songfacts®:

  • If Al Stewart ever wrote a bad song, this is it. "Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres" is so bad it's classic. The second track on his debut album, it has truly awful lyrics – eyes like a poet AND hair like a rainbow? What manner of female is so cursed? And does such a song warrant an orchestral arrangement? That being said, rid of the over-production and injected with a certain humor, it doesn't sound half bad.
  • On November 8, 1970, Al recorded a session live at Warwick University which was eventually put out as an unofficial double CD set. Here he performed the song unaccompanied, and with a bare acoustic guitar and an uptempo beat it was far superior. In this version, his conquest had morphed from a daughter of a judge in St. Albans to one in High Wycombe. Prior to performing it he explained to his student audience that it was a song about seducing schoolgirls in London's Charing Cross Road, and that at one time this was the place to go to get seduced, although it appears that he didn't realize she was a schoolgirl at the time.
    It remains to be seen how much of it is true, but in his epic song "Love Chronicles," the title track of his second album, he alludes candidly to seeking sexual encounters in Earls Court and Swiss Cottage. Stewart moved to London in 1965, released his first single "The Elf" the following year and signed with CBS in 1967, by which time he had already made quite a name for himself on the burgeoning folk circuit. Although he did actually live in Swiss Cottage at one point, with his good looks, charm and prodigious talent it is unlikely he had to resort to artifice in order to get laid. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2

Comments: 3

  • Libby from Louisville, KentuckySounds plausible. My parents wouldn't let me run off to anywhere without knowing who I was spending the night with. I don't particularly like the orchestra, but he had no say there. The story itself is very sweet.
  • Adam from West Palm Beach, FlIf he did write a bad song, this one wouldn't qualify...not by a longshot.
  • Sean from Taunton, United Kingdom"If Al Stewart ever wrote a bad song, this is it."

    I cannot agree, sorry!

    I love this song, with its nostalgia and simple, economic story-telling. It's one of my favourite Al Stewart songs.

    It's a shame that you condemn it by quoting one line, oddly omitting to quote the following line which contextualises it. I doubt that you'd do the same with Clifton in the Rain's "A flock of salty ears".
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