Info → Protection (Song)
UK Release: 9th January 1995
UK Highest Chart: #14
Track Duration: 07:51
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Cassette, VHS, Digital. View Discography Entry.
Written By: Andrew Vowles, Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall and Tracey Thorn
Produced By: Andrew Vowles, Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall and Nellee Hooper
Promo Video Directed By: Michel Gondry
Assistant Director: François Nemeta
Filming Location: Paris, France
Date Of Filming: 21st December 1994
Video Duration: 06:32
After the fallout of losing their chanteuse from Blue Lines, Shara Nelson, Massive Attack were forced to be on the lookout for potential replacements for the sophomore album. Several singers were contacted including soul singer Aaron Neville, punk singer Siouxsie Sioux and Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor (who later on would appear on 100th Window). They even went so far as to advertise in the NME magazine with the ad description reading – “Female vocalist wanted for internationally acclaimed pop band. Influences include Aretha Franklin and Tracey Chapman”.
In the end it was Tracey Thorn from the alternative pop/rock outfit Everything But The Girl, who responded to them, basing her reasons both on her admiration for Blue Lines and also she had desired to collaborate with a electronic/dance act for quite some time. From there Massive Attack sent her the backing track for what would become Protection (Better Things was produced later on) where Tracey Thorn added to her vocals, together with a melody she had written which instantly arrested Massive Attack’s attention and make them pursue the song further until it’s ultimate conclusion.
Many credit Everything But The Girl’s music becoming more dance and electronic music orientated directly as a consequence of their collaboration with Massive Attack on Protection. The track would also feature on Everything But The Girl’s “Best Of” album released in 2003.
Much like its sister track Better Things, Protection has very rarely been played live due to the fact that Tracey Thorn has practically never toured with Massive Attack. There were apparently a handful of dates played during the 1995 tour in England where Tracey Thorn was present and played both Better Things and Protection but this has never happened since.
While it is true that Protection has been very rarely played live, for every date on the 1995/1996 tour, an instrumental version of Protection was played at the beginning of every show. This was only ever about two minutes in length and segued into a live performance ofSafe From Harm, acting mostly as a prelude to the show.
The Eno Mix – A remix provided by the famed ambient electronic composer Brian Eno, making the regular version of Protection into an even more relaxing and soothing tune. Massive Attack would go on to collaborate with Brian Eno again on an alternative re-recorded version of Karmacoma called Fake The Aroma. Included on all singles releases.
Radiation For The Nation – Another remix provided by the Mad Professor. Included on all single releases and on No Protection. As a sidenote, this particular remix of Protection was mentioned by name in the 2000 film “High Fidelity”. In the film, John Cusack’s character Rob puts Radiation Ruling the Nation on his list of ‘Top 5 Track Ones Side Ones’, to which Jack Black’s character Barry responds “A song with new classic status snuck into a list of old safe ones – very pussy!”. The remix itself however does not appear anywhere on the soundtrack to the film.
Underdog’s Angel Dust Mix – Following on from his recent remix work of Sly, the Underdog (AKA DJ and producer Tim Simenon) would also contribute his talents to this remix of Protection. His next and final remix for Massive Attack would be for Risingson. Included on all singles releases.
J Sw!ft Mix – Veteran rap DJ and producer J Sw!ft helped produced this remix of Protection. Sometimes it is wrongly labeled as The Pharcyde Mix, with The Pharcyde being a rap outfit from the West Coast of America. This confusion is because J Sw!ft is a regular producer for The Pharcyde. Included on all singles releases.
Flood 2k Mix – This remix was not released until nearly six years after the original single release when it was made available on a compilation entitled Manchester United: Beyond The Promised Land. The remix was done by Flood, the highly regarded and prolific producer of such bands as U2 and Depeche Mode. Flood himself remarked on how he went about remixing Protection – “I thought that the basic arrangement was so strong that I kept to that, and fiddled around with the bottom end of things. I had quite a bizarre bass sequence which I thought would pretty much plough through everything. Then I tried to just get a hint of their chords, because they are quite important to the melody – giving things a bit more of an edge without giving the full game away for what is effectively a seven-inch single. I suppose you could call the result a cross between a club record and something you’d listen to at home”.
Protection uses a sample from James Brown’s song “The Payback” which is taken from his 1972 album of the same name. It is not credited officially by Massive Attack.
A Californian rock band known as Dart covered Protection in 1995 that was only released as a B-side on a 7" single.
Tracey Thorn on how Protection was written – “They sent me five almost completed backing backing tracks, one of which would later become Protection, which were mostly stuff generated from loops and samples. It was different from sitting down with an acoustic guitar, but after a while, it was quite a liberating experience musically” [The Face Magazine – September 1994]
Daddy G on why Tracey Thorn was so suited to singing Protection – “When Tracey Thorn writes about love, it’s always so personal and it’s about love in a conventional sense. We felt that would fit with the track [Protection] we were doing because a lot of the stuff is sparse and there’s quite a lot of room to manoeuvre” [Wasted Magazine – December 1994]
Mushroom on the technical aspects of putting together the track – “The hi-hat is a one-bar sampled loop, then I programmed some James Brown snares and wah-wah over the top, then added some keyboards. The whole thing was programmed in my home studio. I just wrote it as a complete piece of music, without a song in mind, then we sent it off to Tracey and she wrote this incredible song over the top” [Future Music Magazine – September 1994]
This girl I know needs some shelter. She don’t believe anyone can help her. She’s doing so much harm, doing so much damage. But you don’t want to get involved. You tell her she can manage. And you can’t change the way she feels. But you could put your arms around her. I know you want to live yourself. But could you forgive yourself. If you left her just the way. You found her. I stand in front of you. I’ll take the force of the blow. Protection. I stand in front of you. I’ll take the force of the blow. Protection. You’re a boy and i’m a girl. But you know you can lean on me. And I don’t have no fear. I’ll take on any man here. Who says that’s not the way it should be. I stand in front of you. I’ll take the force of the blow. Protection. I stand in front of you. I’ll take the force of the blow. Protection. She’s a girl and you’re a boy. Sometimes you look so small, look so small. You’ve got a baby of your own. When your baby’s gone, she’ll be the one. To catch you when you fall. I stand in front of you. I’ll take the force of the blow. Protection. I stand in front of you. I’ll take the force of the blow. Protection. You’re a girl and i’m a boy (x4). Sometimes you look so small, need some shelter. Just runnin’ round and round, helter skelter. And I’ve leaned on you for years. Now you can lean on me. And that’s more than love, that’s the way it should be. Now I can’t change the way you feel. But I can put my arms around you. That’s just part of the deal. That’s the way I feel. I’ll put my arms around you. I stand in front of you. I’ll take the force of the blow. Protection. I stand in front of you. I’ll take the force of the blow. Protection. You’re a boy and i’m a girl (x4)
To accomplish the video, the set was constructed on the floor of an expansive soundstage. Tracey Thorn isn’t standing, she’s lying on her back. Upon first glance, the building appears quite tall and quite real. But a few of Gondry’s tricks betray the fact that the structure, instead of being six stories tall, is actually six stories flat. A few mirrors and a few screen projections were used to produce long hallways and bustling outdoor traffic. Much less noticeable are the removable parts of the building, which allowed the camera to travel between rooms inside the building. With close inspection, you can see the steps move at the very end of the video.
This would be the first and only video directed by Michel Gondry for Massive Attack. It is also the second time Massive Attack have employed the one-take shot for a promo video, the other time being the video for Unfinished Sympathy.
The video for Protection won the MTV Europe Award for Best Video for 1995.
Protection’s video was intentionally referenced in director’s Marc Klasfeld’s one-take video for Jay-Z’s Girls, Girls,
3D on the difficulty of filming the video for Protection – “The Protection video was one of the most memorable because it was one of the most difficult. It was an amazing idea and, for Michel Gondry, to pull it off was just the most amazing feat. The two days of rehearsal and shooting in Paris were just so hard. Everyone was suspended in an upside down position and shot from above in a flattened building which was meant to look like it was upright. It was one shot from a moving camera in a crane and he used pulleys and projection screens to give the effect of things moving”[The Raft – November 2001]
Michel Gondry succinctly states why he wanted a one-take video for Protection – “I was trying to push further the concept of the one shot video” [The Director File – November 2002]
- Interpretations From SongMeanings.com
- Wikipedia Entry
- BBC’s Top Of The Tops Live 1995 Performance
- Everything But The Girl Perform Protection Live 1999
- 1999 Documentary Featuring Interview Clips with 3D and Michel Gondry About The Making Of The Video
- Clip From The 1995 Movie “Hackers” Featuring Protection On The Soundtrack
- Clip From The 1995 Movie “Sabrina” Featuring Protection On The Soundtrack