That book and the strange degraded English language he used to tell its story had a deep effect on me in the early 80s. There is a creepy Punch and Judy show in there that I based the song around.
I came up with a riff with an extra beat every second bar – kind of a nine and as I played it over and over; this big lurching feel developed that I’d never heard before. It was extreme – like the Punch story.
It’s a glimpse of carnage from the perspective of an archetype – a hateful, self-serving sociopath who winds up being haunted by his terrible acts. He kills and eats his baby and then his wife when she complains. When Jack Ketch comes to claim him, Punch tries to kill him but he can never die and will live on in his humped back forever.
More of a horror poem than a song in a way – I felt I couldn’t put in a chorus or bridge because it wasn’t anything to celebrate or transition from so I just changed the time to 3/4 and 4/4 between verses.
I also stopped rhyming so much in my lyrics around this time and off the back of Punch I wrote my novel Manslaughter – with that idea of karma living in one’s back.
When I took the song to the band they loved it and we worked it up into this monster piece of music that I ranted those lines over through our early line-up changes. We got to record it with Ian Morris at Marmalade Studios and I remember going down the hall to the toilets and hearing a play-back through the wall – it sounded like something from a strangely funky future and I couldn’t believe it was me.
I wrote to Russell Hoban and sent him a copy of Punch when it came out – I said I loved his book and would like to write songs for the movie.
He wrote back and said that there were no plans to make a movie but he loved the record and especially the B-side – Your Body Stays.
Here comes Judy with the baby
With nothing to eat in the frying pan
I’m getting terrible hungry Judy
Why don’t we put the baby in
I gone down and hit the baby
Judy’s not looking too pleased at all
I hit them both again and again
I’ll have to eat Judy now as well
Up come Jack Ketch he’s looking at trubba
He sees what’s happened to Judy and the baby
I knock him dead but he’s up coming back
I’ve got a hunch – he climbs on that