Wednesday, 1 August 2012
The second song regards a character I've wanted to write about for some time. I attempted a song about the Petticoat Affair, or more specifically, the wonderful Peggy Easton, over a year ago, but I missed the sentiment I was after with the lyrics and the melody. Easton, or O'Neale as she was, had married the Tennessee Senator, John Henry Eaton, shortly after her first husband, John Timberlake, had died at sea (there were rumours that he had committed suicide after hearing of Eaton's affair with Peggy, though pulmonary disease is the more likely cause of death). The new romance was frowned upon by Washington society, and as Eaton became President Jackson's Secretary of War, Floride Calhoun, wife of the Vice-President, managed to turn Jackson's cabinet against the couple. Jackson - whose own late wife had been attacked for years for marrying Old Hickory before attaining a divorce from her first husband - took none too kindly to the gossip mongering and stuck by Eaton. Before long, his cabinet had been purged and incredibly, the affair altered the direction of many of the Washington's leading politicians. Through his own maneuvering, it almost certainly put Martin Van Buren in the White House and ensured John C. Calhoun would never secure that office.
Peggy herself, daughter of a Washington hotelier where many politicians stayed, was an astonishingly vivacious woman, who never held her tongue and despised the society ladies who turned against her. In her own words, "I was a lively girl and had many things about me to increase my vanity and help spoil me. While I was still in pantalettes and rolling hoops with other girls, I had the attention of men, young and old, enough to turn a girl's head." Peggy would end up dying penniless and poor. At the age of 59, three years after John Eaton's death, she married her 19-year old Italian music teacher, who duly swanned off to Europe with all her money and her grand-daughter, who he later married. No doubt a woman with few regrets.
Whilst not quite entirely written (my trusty compadres arrived at rehearsal before I'd written all the lyrics), it sounds like one of the most complete songs we have. Everyone seemingly had their parts written by the third run through. It's full of energy and a hell of a lot of fun to play. It's now only a week before we go into the studio and I'm mightily relieved we reached our target. It gives me a little time to revisit other lyrics and do a bit of polishing.
Also, just to let you know, I'll be blogging every day we're in the studio, so make sure you check in next week.
(The above quote of Peggy Easton is taken from John Meacham's excellent biography of Jackson's presidency. Although very well written, be warned, it focuses heavily on the petticoat affair, due to new source material. More extensive Jackson accounts of his presidency are undoubtedly out there. However, it did introduce me to Daniel Webster's tremendous defence of the Union (Webster's Second Reply to Hayne) to Congress during the Nullification Crisis. It gave me shivers reading it. My good lady had it written out and framed for me.)