The Claudettes’ new song “Bad Babe, Losin’ Touch” – premiering today with an accompanying video on American Songwriter – was inspired by a truly bizarre dream.
“I had a vivid dream that the Claudettes got accused of having hit a pedestrian with our van,” explains bandleader / keyboardist Johnny Iguana. “None of us recollected any collision, but a witness had proof: they heard the old classic rock ’n roll song ‘Bad Babe, Losin’ Touch’ blaring from our van when we hit the person, and we possessed that song on CD in the van (it was in the CD player).”
Perhaps the strangest part of this dream is that it occurred before Iguana had actually written “Bad Babe, Losin’ Touch.”
“Thing is: this song [didn’t] exist,” says Iguana. “In the dream, it had kind of a ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and also Roy Orbison feel, I’d thought. So I wrote the song, about a woman scolding her man for not doing those sweet romantic things any more (they’ve settled into routine).”
“Bad Babe, Losin’ Touch” is the first single off the self-described “garage cabaret” outfit’s forthcoming album, High Times in the Dark. In the song, Berit Ulseth delivers a litany of romantic disappointments with plush vocals against flurries of keyboard and guitar. Her voice booms at the song’s emotional climax: “You don’t come visit me much / Yes, I miss you that much.”
Musically, Iguana says “Bad Babe, Losin’ Touch” was inspired by a handful of pop numbers that span several decades.
“[It’s] part 60’s Lesley Gore (a la ‘I’m Coolin’, No Foolin’) or ‘50s Patti Page (‘Conquest’), together with Big Audio Dynamite’s ‘Rush,’” says Iguana. “That’s where this music is coming from.” It’s an eclectic sampling, but if all three numbers share something in common with “Bad Babe, Losin’ Touch” it’s a sense of bravado–both vocally and instrumentally.
The music video leans into the song’s sheer playfulness while celebrating Chicago’s nightlife.
“[It] was filmed by Joe Martinez, Jr. in legendary, long-running gay Chicago nightclub Berlin and features members of acclaimed Chicago dance-theater ensemble Lucky Plush,” says Iguana of the video.
The Claudettes are rounded out by drummer Michael Caskey and guitarist Zach Verdoorn. High Times in the Dark follows the band’s last release–2018’s DANCE SCANDAL AT THE GYMNASIUM!–which they cheekily describe as “gonzo neo-vaudeville,” “impressionist,” and “post-burlesque.” That was the band’s first album with Ulseth, but as with their previous Yellow Dog Records releases (2013’s Infernal Piano Plot…HATCHED!, 2015’s NO HOTEL, and 2017’s Pull Closer to Me: Live in the Piano Room), it nods to diverse influences from piano blues and rockabilly to roots, jazz, and soul. They’ve cultivated a sound that’s equally clamorous and shimmering—hence the term “garage cabaret.”
High Times in the Dark was recorded at Chicago’s Shirk Studios, mixed at Los Angeles’ Kingsize Soundlabs, and mastered at Nashville’s Sterling Sound. Produced by Ted Hutt–a Grammy-winner who’s had a hand in producing or mixing albums for Violent Femmes, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dropkick Murphys, and others–the album is out April 3 via Forty Below Records.