When PJ Harvey was writing songs for her second album, Rid Of Me, she was reading lots of short stories by American authors Flannery O'Connor and J.D. Salinger that fed her imagination. Many allusions to those tales found their way onto her fourth album, Is This Desire?
"A Perfect Day Elise" borrows elements of Salinger's 1948 short story "A Perfect Day For Bananafish." In the story, a troubled war veteran befriends a little girl on a beach vacation and entertains her with tall tales about the fictional bananafish before he goes back to his hotel room and commits suicide. Harvey borrows imagery from the story, but her song is very different. The beach location is the same, but the man is a civilian who becomes obsessed with a woman named Elise who rejects him after a one-night stand. He lets himself into the hotel room where they did the deed (room 509 in the song, 507 in the short story), but it's uncertain whether he uses the gun on her or himself.
Robert Smith of The Cure also had Salinger's story in mind when he wrote the band's 1984 song "Bananafishbones."
This was used in the TV series Millennium in the 1999 episode "Nostalgia."
This isn't the only song on the album inspired by a Salinger story. The opening track, "Angelene," borrows dialogue from the author's "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes."
The image of the "white sun scattered all over the sea" is similar to a line from Flannery O'Connor's 1955 short story "The River," when the main character notices "the white sun scattered in the river." The story also influenced another song on the album, "The River."
The chorus of "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir" in "Lady Marmalade" is French for "Do you want to sleep with me tonight?" When Labelle performed it on television, they had to change it to "Voulez-vous danser avec moi ce soir" (Do you want to dance with me tonight?).