Behind the song: Deeper and down

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Indy Lifestyle Online
`You Oughta Know'

First released: 1995

Highest UK chart position: 22

Most people like something to suck on while they're watching a film at the cinema, and Alanis Morissette is no exception. The Canadian songstress hit the headlines in 1995 with her third album, Jagged Little Pill - specifically the track "You Oughta Know", which tells how she performed oral sex on her boyfriend in a movie theatre, only to be swiftly dumped for a newer model soon afterwards. After witnessing the ex-boyfriend proudly parading his new flame, Alanis challenged them both in a restaurant and demanded: "It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced / And are you thinking of me when you fuck her?"

As if that wasn't enough to turn their Peking duck into sweet 'n' sour, she follows up with the controversial lines: "Is she perverted like me / Would she go down on you in a theatre?" If it were not God's honest truth, you could justly accuse Alanis Morissette of downright sensationalism, but she swears that it really happened.

"I did do that, it's true, I went right down on him in a movie theatre," Morissette shrugs. "Yeah, I was a little worried about putting that incident into a song, but I don't believe in censoring anything, so I used it. It was something I had to do, this whole album came from a place inside of me. But it all boils down to the fact that I want to walk through life, not get dragged through it." Besides being a great song in its own right, "You Oughta Know" is also a remarkably honest piece of lyricism, providing a useful warning for the average male over the way a 1990s female will react when she's treated disrespectfully. Despite claims that "You Oughta Know" is "not about revenge", she insists on demanding of her ex-lover: "Every time I scratch my nails down someone else's back/I hope you feel it". And doubtless he does.

Such lyrical intensity would be wasted if unaccompanied by a musical spirit. Fortunately for Alanis and her co-lyricist/producer Glenn Ballard (who has subsequently enhanced his reputation by working with Aerosmith and Van Halen), they persuaded none other than Flea and Dave Navarro of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to guest on the track, bringing to it a warming, fluent groove.

But beside all this anger and bitterness, Jagged Little Pill contains numerous astute observations on real-life situations, from puzzlement at her Catholic church upbringing to the false promises of the music industry. However, it also manages to celebrate the joy and contentment of finding the right person. Comparing the confrontational lyrics and take-no-shit attitudes with the innocuous nature of her first two LPs (1990's Alanis and 1992's Now Is The Time - only available in Canada, and described by the lady herself as "more pop than rock'"), the critics have judged Morissette harshly as some kind of post-grunge opportunist. She refutes such accusations, while admitting that she hasn't always found it easy to address these difficult subjects.

"In the past I have denied myself any revelling in my darker side," she says. "But as soon as I started writing, I came to terms with it. If you're too precious, you lose the spirit in which the song was written."

`Behind the Song' by Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh is published by Blandford at pounds 14.99. Independent readers can buy the book for pounds 12.99 (including p&p). To order 01624 675 137