Friday, January 22, 2010

Music: Jon English / Hollywood Seven

I have previously discussed whether music lyrics can and should be regarded as poetry, the bottom line being that some, but not all, would qualify as good poetry. The lyrics of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and Janis Ian are cases in point.

I have also previously discussed country and western music, and its ability to provide a complete story plus a life lesson in a 3 minute song. The example I used earlier was The Coward of the County (“Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man”).

So how about combining the two? Good lyrics telling a good story.

Set the Wayback Machine to 1976, Sherman, where we shall witness Jon English singing the classic Hollywood Seven.

For you readers who do not have a Wayback machine, you can hear it at:

Jon English, born 1949, came to Oz from England in 1961. In 1972 he played Judas in the original Jesus Christ Superstar. Looking like a panda bear with his dark eyes, he was one of the original Oz rockers, big voice.

Hollywood Seven is an underrated work that deserved, and deserves, greater recognition and airplay. It peaked at #13 for English.

It was written by two US songwriters, Gloria Sklerov and Harry Lloyd. Sklerov has 2 Emmys for songwriting and was nominated for 3 others. Hollywood Seven was published, but not recorded, in the US. Jon English’s recording was the first.

Gloria Sklerov’s comments on the writing of Hollywood Seven:

At the time I was a staff writer for Garrett Music, who had a sub-publishing with the Australian publisher. They had asked me to write an "urban story song" for an artist who had just had a major hit named Terry Jacks. The song was Seasons in the Sun. I really wanted to get that record.

On the way home on the freeway, I passed a motel called "Hollywood Eight" which intrigued me. I started to think about who might be checking in there. When I got together with Harry Lloyd, we discussed it and decided to change the name to "Hollywood Seven' because it "sang" better. We then plotted the story and it all sort of came to be like it was meant to.

Ironically, the Terry Jacks deal never happened and so the song was sent out to all the sub-publishers.

We were thrilled when we heard Jon’s record because they used some of the synth riffs we had used on the demo and his vocal was great...

As a writer, I was very proud of Jon's version.

- Emails to PopArchives, Dec. 2006,

Here are the lyrics…

She came in one night from Omaha, worn out,
She never could sleep on trains. Took the bus to Hollywood,
Lookin' for a room in the pourin' rain.
With hair so blonde and eyes so brown,
She thought she'd take this town and turn it upside down.

And me, I was livin' in a hotel just off Sunset,
She moved in across the hall,
And she said she'd be a movie star
And waited every mornin' for a call.
So I asked her in just to have a little drink but she hardly had the time
A call might come tomorrow, she got to learn her lines.

On Hollywood Seven, rooms to rent, till your name goes up in lights,
Woh-oh, Hollywood Seven, dream your dream, seven bucks a night.

And then the months went by without a job,
The money that she saved was nearly spent,
So she started bringin' strangers home
Just tryin' to find a way to pay the rent,
And she'd sit down and drink mycoffee, got nothin' much to say,
Just busy rehearsin' in her mind the scene she'd never play.

On Hollywood Seven, rooms to rent, till your name goes up in lights
Woh-oh, Hollywood Seven, dream your dreams for seven bucks a night

I found her there one mornin',
She didn't cme for coffee when I called.
She'd gone and brought the wrong one home this time,
There were crazy lipstick marks all over the wall.
Now she's goin' back to Omaha but not the way she'd planned,
There'll be no crowd to cheer her on, no welcome home, no band.

On Hollywood Seven, rooms to rent, till your name goes up in lights,
Hollywood Seven, dream your dream for seven bucks a night.

She came in one night from Syracuse, tired from sleepin' on the plane,
Took a cab to Hollywood, dreamin' of the lights, that would spell her name.
So I watched her take a lease on the empty room across the hall,
 Wakin’ up every mornin’, waitin’ for that call.

On Hollywood Seven, rooms to rent, till your name goes up in lights
Hollywood Seven, dreamin’ your dreams for seven bucks a night
On Hollywood Seven, dreams to rent, till your name goes up in lights
Hollywood Seven pay your dues, seven bucks a night.


  1. I often wonder about the lyrics at the end of this song about whether the girl was killed and went home in a coffin, or she discovered that she was not cut out for Hollywood and went home a failure. I always thought the latter until today

  2. I've always thought she was murdered because of the lyrics "I found her there one morning when she didn't come for coffee when I called. She gone and brought the wrong one home this time, there were crazy lipstick marks all over the wall" and the rage in English's voice. If she'd realised her dreams were delusions and quietly gone home, the rage wouldn't be there.

  3. Just listened to a clip of this on Classic Countdown. Like listening for the first time, realising she went home in a coffin.


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