Jude Cowan / Blog

How I came to write DOODLEBUG ALLEY

I work as a television and film archivist. The idea for the song 'Doodlebug Alley' came to me while watching the grainy, black and white footage from Second World War newsreels. It’s a song that sprung out of living in London surrounded by its rich history. I put the music to the words while waiting on a railway platform at London Bridge. The experience of women during conflict is a theme to which I repeatedly return, and 'Doodlebug Alley' is a tale of a young woman whose husband is away fighting in Africa while she’s at home enduring the Blitz, as they used to say, ‘London can take it’. She has an affair with a GI which distracts her from the loneliness and the danger. The thrill of the relationship becomes tangled up with the lottery of a potential bomb attack. Those interested in war history may know that this story is set in what is sometimes called the second blitz when Germany targeted the city with a new weapon, the pilotless flying bomb – the V1, or Doodlebug. If residents could hear their deep buzzing they knew they were in grave danger. But if the strange sound stopped, they would be within blast range. I wrote this album out of passion. I hadn't written for ten years, being a busy single mum with a young daughter, working hard on a PhD in film history. You could say I came back to music with a vengeance. I found myself writing about desire that was thwarted, threatened and twisted, inspired by the fallen idealism of my songwriter idol Jacques Brel. There are stories of love in peril, in frustration, in anger, in boredom. I have explored unwanted pregnancy, the depression of being jobless and loveless in the consumer city, of the difficult subject of bestiality. I have illustrated each song with a doodle on the CD cover, which hopefully signals the humour. The album isn’t comedy, but I have used irony, sarcasm and wit as if this were a short story. The main doodle is of me once upon a time in my summer school uniform. I am still that fourteen year old girl in red and white gingham, sat at the back in class in History and English, staring out the window at the horse chestnuts changing with the seasons, scribbling in the margins.