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Karen By Night- Learn to play it!

Chords, Lyrics and a picture of Karen!

This was backstage at Radio City when I was opening up for Joe Jackson. I was no longer working at Barney's but she still sure looks bossy.

A little Karen By Night info

In spite of the fact that it was never released as a single or promoted to radio, 20+ years on, Karen by Night continues to be one of my most requested songs. I’m not exactly sure why. It’s wordy. It needs one’s full attention as It’s a story song - with a middle, beginning and end. . Maybe it’s because secretly everyone wants to be “Karen”. And I don’t mean the Trump era “Karen” - the complaining, MAGA, Nancy Grace hairdo, anti-vaxxer type who loses it at the Wall-Mart and then get's publicly shamed on Youtube. (By the way, I feel so sorry for my friends named Karen. They didn’t ask for it.) Our Karen, at least the one from Karen By Night, is cool, sexy, and dangerous.

When I first moved to New York City in the late 80s, I got a day job selling shoes at Barney’s - a now-defunct fancy-pants department store. The only reason I got the job was that my girlfriend at the time, Big Jill, had moved to the city six months earlier and had been hired there on her very first day in NY. Karen, the manager, must have been impressed by Big Jill’s extensive shoe-selling resume, plus it didn’t hurt that Jill was a knockout in a kind of 1930’s aviatrix way. Karen was always flirting with Jill. I think they might have had a fling, now to think of it. It matters not.

Karen, by day, was elegant. She had long blond hair, wore Chanel suits and was never without their classic red lipstick - N. 5 Rouge Allure. Karen looked like she could have been cast in a Roger Moore era Bond movie as the sexy but icy Soviet or Spector agent. She scared me. Yet, she was so sweet to me. I think she took pity on me as I was a terrible salesperson. I had performance anxiety. I can play music in front of a thousand people at the drop of a hat, but ask me to go up to a customer to offer my assistance? Forget it.

After a couple of weeks, Karen started warming up to the Jills- mostly Big Jill.. She invited us to meet her at the Cubby Hole - a lesbian bar in the West Village- for a couple of evening cocktails. Karen was gay? We got there. Karen was late. Lateness was not acceptable at Barney’s. One hour later, Karen walks in with this cocky gait, all decked in black leather. She looked like Marlin Brando in “The Wild Ones”. When she got closer and smiled, I noticed she popped in a fake gold tooth. She looked fucking fierce.

Karen could drink, she got loud, she started getting in a fist fight with the bartender. She was “Karen By Night”.

The song hints that she may be a spy, or involved with a high level crime ring - something nefarious yet fabulous.In truth, Karen, sadly, was neither of the two. But she still was worthy of the song.

Just to let you know, I sold shoes to Barbra Streisand. They were the $1,700 Donna Karen thigh-high boots. Why do I remember that?

1 Comment

Debbie Cieslik
Debbie Cieslik
Jan 15, 2022

What a fun story; thanks for sharing it! It’s at least in part why I suspect this is your most requested number - its plotline makes for a really fun song! Also, it’s upbeat and fast-paced, just like I can imagine (that side of) Karen is.

Sweet of you to give US a gift - of (my favorite of) your song’s chords, lyrics and story - on the occasion of YOUR birthday! Have a great day tomorrow, Jill; Happy Birthday!!

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