The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2023

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FEB 2023 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: Music

37. 1964 and Later, London

Thanks to her own talent, fearlessness and good looks, a 17-year-old working-class British girl secures a recording contract. Between takes at her first studio session she looks up at the control booth and sees her manager jumping up and down with excitement and the technicians around her laughing. “Your feet, your feet,” the manager explains over the microphone.

“What’s wrong with them?”

“You’ve got no shoes on!”

The singer apologizes and looks around for her slingbacks, which she had kicked off.

“No, no, keep them off. You sing better that way,” the manager says.

From that moment on, she nearly always performs barefoot, giving multiple reasons for doing so: 1. Comfort (“I could never find shoes to fit my size seven-and-a-half’s in Dagenham”) 2. Efficiency (“It is one less thing to think about when getting an outfit together”) 3. Safety (“I am extremely short-sighted and it helps me make my way around the stage without falling off the edge”) 4. Impact (“Its symbolic potency is immense”) 5. Sensuality (“It feels sexy”) 6. Pride (“A reminder of where I came from, rags to riches”). At one point, after her first husband squanders her earnings on his failed career as a fashion designer, the rags-to-riches scenario is reversed. Broke, living in a trailer with her infant daughter, she is compelled to take a waitressing job. In her late 30s she is rescued from semi-oblivion when two young musicians from a hugely popular band send her a fan letter and an invitation to record with them. Before long she is featured on Top of the Pops, backed by the band, all of whom perform in bare feet, while the singer, perhaps to convey that she is no longer the teenage heartthrob that many remember her as, sports spikey high heels.

(Sandie Shaw, née Sandra Ann Goodrich; Jeff Banks; The Smiths)


Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the New York-based author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). Excerpts from his recently completed book Libraries of Sand about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès have appeared in BombThe Fortnightly Review and 3:AM Magazine. In January 2023, Bloomsbury Academic will publish a collection of his writing titled Negative Work: The Turn to Provisionality in Contemporary Art. Since 2008 he has been Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2023

All Issues