Robyn Hitchcock and Emma Swift’s Stageit show for week 13 of “Sweet Home Quarantine” was a mix of Robyn’s songs. Performed on June 17, 2020, the show was made up of audience requests via social media. The show began with Robyn solo, singing “Freeze” and “Serpent at the Gates of Wisdom.” Emma then joined Robyn and sang “N.Y. Doll,” which she said is her favorite song of Robyn’s. It’s a great song from Hitchcock’s excellent 2006 album Ole! Tarantula. Emma sang it beautifully, and when she finished Robyn said, “That’s a nice tune,” as though he was hearing it in a new way when Emma sang it.
Robyn said “We’re going to do one of my radio hits. I had about 3 ½ radio hits.” It was “Balloon Man,” from 1988’s Globe of Frogs album. It’s a catchy bit of pop surrealism that Robyn wrote for the Bangles. In interviews, Robyn has expressed antipathy towards “Balloon Man,” and it was clear from last week’s concert that he prefers one of his other radio hits, “Madonna of the Wasps.”
“Saturday Groovers” was up next, one of my favorite Hitchcock songs, and as usual, Robyn and Emma sounded great together on it. Robyn then sang “Ordinary Millionaire” and “De Chirico Street” solo. I’ve always liked “De Chirico Street,” as Moss Elixir was one of the first Hitchcock albums I got into. “Ordinary Millionaire” was co-written with Johnny Marr, and after the song Emma laughed and said, “Hitcho, you’re not even close to a millionaire!” Robyn laughed and said, “Well, I was on paper around that time, I had some property…and then I got divorced.” It’s always interesting to hear little tidbits like that. The financial part of the music industry has always fascinated me, and I’ve pondered Robyn Hitchcock’s finances more than you might guess. It’s easy to daydream about the wealth of musicians who are super successful, like Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney or David Bowie or Adele, but I’m really intrigued by someone like Robyn Hitchcock: he’s been around for a long time, but he’s never broken through to a huge audience the way other artists have. How much money does Robyn Hitchcock make from Spotify? Probably not very much.
Emma returned for “The Wreck of the Arthur Lee,” “Madonna of the Wasps,” and “I Pray When I’m Drunk.” Robyn then sang “A Globe of Frogs” solo, and the show ended with a verse or two of “Queen of Eyes.” Emma playfully put out her hand to stop Robyn’s guitar playing, and he looked mildly surprised at this. She explained that she wanted to say a proper goodbye, and not just end in the middle of a chorus. Robyn said, “Let me Hitchsplain that I know how long my songs are.” It’s funny little moments like these that make the “Sweet Home Quarantine” shows so much fun.