The Spongetones: “(My Girl) Maryanne” (Torn Apart EP, 1984)
The first few Spongetones records, made in the early 80s, might be the single best love letter to the British Invasion of their time. Their debut album (1982’s aptly titled Beat Music), the non-album single “She Goes Out With Everybody” and the Torn Apart EP demonstrate an incredible mastery of the form and a quality of songwriting that elevates it well above pastiche or simple tribute.
The band’s mastery was earned over the course of years playing around Charlotte, NC, as a cover band, playing songs by the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who and the Stones—they’re long past that phase of their career now, but the vocabulary they built back then has informed their music ever since. They’re still going, too—their last album came out in 2009.
“(My Girl) Maryanne” is one of their best songs, the kind of song I find rattling around in my head even when I haven’t listened to it in a while. The little double-stop bits after the refrain, the jangling guitars, the harmony vocals… there really isn’t an element of the song that’s not crazily catchy.
And I like the lyrics, too, which is something I don’t often find myself saying about this type of song. There’s something about this song that seems sort of progressive to me. They’re obviously singing about a girlfriend, using all the familiar terminology of pop songs (possessives, use of “girl” in place of “woman”), but it’s in the way they do it—they never once mention how pretty she is or anything like that. The attraction in the song is purely based on what she says, and he really seems to respect her for it. The opening “she tries to get in as many words as she possibly can” sounds almost dismissive, but it moves on to give her credit for having a lot to say, for understanding, and then reveals that every word she says makes him love her more.
I don’t want to give them undue credit for writing some sort of feminist anthem or anything, but the last few times I listened to this one, I couldn’t help being struck by how different the mechanisms of attraction are in this song relative to the usual things people sing about, like hair and eyes and abilities in bed. He’s into her for what she says. And it still fits into a perfect post-Invasion guitar pop tune.