[John Taylor goes track by track on the band's new release "All You Need is Now"; keep checking back to the blog section for the latest installment ]
Track seven: 'The Man Who Stole a Leopard'.
Back to those ideas of Mark's about remaking 'Rio'. "I want a 'Chauffeur'-esque track", he said to Nick, "Go away and make one!" Nick was more than happy to accommodate. He incorporated a wonderful sample from the Nino Rota score to 'Rocco and his Brothers'. Nick and Mark came up with a working title; 'The Man Who Stole a Leopard'. You've got to be kidding, I thought, but they weren't.
Simon came up with melody lines right away, but Roger and I struggled to find space in the mix. Eventually Roger would lean towards old-school Japan style drums and octobans. We had not been down that road since '82.
The title did kind of get to me. What the hell could a song called that be about? I thought about the photographer Peter Beard, and a book of his Simon had bought me for Christmas. What if a guy like that, on an assignment in Africa, became entranced by an exotic beast, becoming obsessed to such a degree that he found a way to smuggle it back to the States, where it is kept under lock and key right there in the guy's home? Of course it was an analogy for a woman too. It reminded Nick of 'The Collector', so we spent a mad afternoon honing the lyric, conceiving of it as a duet, that the Leopard would have a voice. For added authenticity we composed a mock-news report for the vamp-out.
Getting carried away, we considered a string arrangement. Mark introduced us to Owen Pallett. Owen is an amazing musician who had been in Arcade Fire at the time of their first album release, but is now an artist in his own right. Owen wrote a fantastic score for the song, and then went on to write two short instrumental pieces based on 'All You Need is Now'. You will need the full-length street release album to hear those.
God bless Kelis. She agreed to sing the part of the Leopard. It must have been an interesting side-step for her, an introduction to the rather strange and oddball musical habits of the English Art-School set. But she sang it with a ghostly and yearning beauty.