“White flowers weep in their warm dust sleep/ And it’s dog eat dog tonight.”
The song “Is it Day or Night?” by The Runaways is pretty much one of my favorite songs of all time, and definitely my favorite off of their debut album. It’s gritty, beautifully gnarly hard rock sound is exactly what I want in a song with such a darkly suggestive title, and the tracks lyrics reflect the narrative of The Runaways’ journey as one of many sleepless nights, seedy alleyways filled with druggies, and lots of noise. This is a song of no regrets, only rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s why I goddamn love it.
“Is It Day or Night” was released in 1976 on the self titled debut album, “The Runaways,” and was written solely by Kim Fowley, the bands manager. Fowley’s influence on the track definitely shows, as the lyrics are filled with quintessential “Fowley-ness” with its dramatic, darkly glimmering druggy-angel imagery. Lyrics like, “Porcupine kiss, novocaine lips,” suggest a harsh kind of romanticism while the speaker of the song gives the listener a brief overview of the harsh realities of a runaway, and the things they see along the way, like “Street wise hustlers and six string masters” who “look cold in their over coats.”
The hyperbolic imagery and lyricism, which are staples of Fowley’s song writing, would not work on another kind of song, but on this one it adds to its effectiveness as a badass punk track. The first sinister strums of the guitar inspire the mental image of a leather clad criminal approaching with the slow confidence of one who knows they’re not to be fucked with. It’s essentially a walk up song for the black-hearted. Now for me, who is certainly not intimidating by any means, this song allows me to get into the head space of a person like that, and puts me into that rock world almost instantly. When Cherie and the girls collectively sing the title lyric, “Is it day or night?” on the word ‘night,’ it’s sung in a way that in order to emulate it, you have to grit your teeth, contorting the face into a snarl to evoke the particular kind of note they hit. You literally have to bare your teeth like an animal to do it, which is completely relevant to the theme of the song in general, which highlights the inhumane, uncivilized nature of the road, and how it takes a “dog eat dog” mentality to survive it.
There are a couple versions of the song available online, but in my opinion the original album version is the best; they really captured the magic of it in the studio, and that’s the version I keep returning too. The other versions are from live albums, one from Flaming Schoolgirls (god I hate the name), which is the next best version, as the last one is from the Live at Agora album, which doesn’t have the best sound quality and the playing itself is a little clunky (Live at Agora is available on iTunes if you wanna listen to it anyway). The Schoolgirls version is the definite better of the two, the band clearly had much more practice performing, and Lita (lead guitar) really shreds on that one, so it’s worth checking out!
Here’s the original version (x)
And here’s the live Schoolgirls version (x)
Hopefully these song analysis posts are enjoyable, I’m excited to write more! Signing off, lovelies! V.