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"The Charm Of Innocence"

[ from the album "Slender Sherbet" (1995) ]

Lyrics

It began at a school that turned boys into gentlemen
Then turned them on to debauchery
I was forced to my knees in front of these gentlemen
If I refused they would torture me
On Sundays I'd stalk the Botanical Garden
And under my uniform something would harden
Whenever I passed a girl of my own age

Or did it begin with au pair girls from Germany
Paid by the hour to look after us?
Did it begin with that first opportunity
To corner a stranger with nakedness?
Maybe the clinical way they undressed me
Stayed with me and deeply distressed me
I think, at heart, I'm something of a prude

I was born with the charm of innocence
On my back like a cross
Thorns upon my forehead
Round my neck I wore it
Sometimes a rabbit's claw
Sometimes an albatross

Then at 18 I decided I wanted
To be a commercial photographer
I rented a studio down by the docks
Which I shared with a friendly pornographer
I photographed models in fluorescent light
Whose veins were so blue and whose breasts were so white
I assumed, like the moon, women were blue cheese

When I left home I already had five years
Of self abuse under my belt
I found certain women who'd let me try anything
Just to find out how it felt
In some garish hotel room with vile decoration
The wallpaper witnessed my first pollination
The paisley patterns witnessed an abortion

I was born with the charm of innocence
On my back like a cross
Thorns upon my forehead
Round my neck I wore it
Sometimes a rabbit's claw
Sometimes an albatross

In the army they taught me to share the abuse
That I'd kept up 'til then to myself
There's nothing like killing
For coaxing a shy boy of twenty-one out of his shell
In the dark continent with a peace-keeping force
I fell in with a bunch of Algerian whores
And promised them I'd try and keep in touch

We met up again in the 18th arrondisement
I remember them well
Their lank stringy hair and their big bulbous noses
Their unmistakable smell
I'd approach all the ugliest, seediest jerks
And ask them to keep a young model in work
Well, some men, thank Christ, don't discriminate at all

I was born with the charm of innocence
On my back like a cross
Thorns upon my forehead
Round my neck I wore it
Sometimes a rabbit's claw
Sometimes an albatross

I will pass my old age by a pale two-bar fire
Patiently waiting to die
Twitching the lace as the schoolgirls go past
Tracing a page of Bataille
And if you catch sight of my secondhand coat
Leaving behind it a faint whiff of goat
Remember both of us are naked underneath

I thought it would end with the first obscene phone call
The second professional kill
But somehow detached from my actual behaviour
This innocence burdens me still
Up in the attic I pick up the brush
Paint in the crow's feet, paint out the blush
The face this portrait is of is still capable of
The face this portrait is supposed to be of is still capable of
The face this portrait is of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is supposed to be of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is supposed to be of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is supposed to be of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is supposed to be of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is supposed to be of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)
The face this portrait is of is still capable of (Paint out the blush of shame)