Puritans' passion: Band riffs off Prince Charles' wedding


What does a local band have to do to get a little international attention? For hard-charging rock trio the Naked Puritans, the answer is simple: record a song about Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles's nuptials and send it to British public radio station BBC One the day before the wedding.

As the media coverage of the royal wedding reached fever pitch in the last few weeks, Lance Brenner, lead singer of the Puritans, revived "She's Gone," a song he wrote after Charles' first wife, Diana, the Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in 1997. The inspiration, he says, came to him while he was shoveling mulch the day after her death. In just hours, he'd dumped the shovel and written the song; eight years later, he says, "Most of it came true."

Brenner says it was Prince Charles' "blasé" attitude on television around the time of Di's death that made him think, "Isn't it convenient for him that she's gone?"

The lyrics are a harsh indictment of the prince, who for years was eclipsed by the photogenic, globe-trotting, charity-backing princess.

"I'm looking better and better," sings Brenner, impersonating Charles. "I lost all my troubles in gay Paree/ and now I'm the one who's chased by the paparazzi."

When Brenner contacted several DJs at BBC and described the content of the song, he received a positive response: BBC DJs Huw Stephens and "Fergie" told him they'd air the song during the days around the Saturday, April 9 wedding.

Brenner and bandmates Chris Ruotolo (Brenner's fiancée) and Tristan Puckett spent all night Thursday, April 7, recording "She's Gone," and as soon as the disc was off the mixer, had it winging overseas Friday morning.

Though neither DJ responded to the Hook's emails by press time to report the number of "spins" the song received, David Cowling, lead writer at British alt-rock website Americana UK, says the song was a welcome diversion.

"With the whole of the country (apart from 300 misguided souls) completely unmoved by the whole event," says Cowling, "the Naked Puritans' song brought some humor and fun that was sorely missing from the occasion."

The song, which sounds a little like the Pogues and the Clash, got some local airtime as well, though surprisingly not from local-friendly station WNRN.

"We haven't heard that yet," says Jeff Reynolds, 'NRN's local music director.

However, Rick Daniels of 3WV's "Big Greasy Breakfast" morning show spun the "way catchy" tune a few times to "pretty good listener response."

Not only is "She's Gone" catchy, it's also another example of the guerilla marketing technique that won fame for the band.

"I don't like the idea that bands or record companies spend obscene amounts of money to get noticed," says Brenner. In one memorable 1997 publicity stunt, the Puritans ran for governor of Virginia, he laughs, recalling the campaign slogan: "A new record Virginia can be proud of." For that they earned several local news stories, including page-one treatment in the Daily Progress.

The unusual publicity methods seem to be working, with fans from countries as far away as Sweden and Japan buying the Puritans' CDs off their website, nakedpuritans.com. In fact, Brenner is leaving his job with the city government at the end of April to pursue music full time, and while he doesn't see a sudden rise to fame in the immediate future, he sees some momentum building with both the BBC success and a recent chance meeting with the publisher of Spin magazine after a Puritans show in NYC.

"He liked us," says Brenner, "so who knows?"

The Naked Puritans celebrate the royal wedding with a song.