The Story of... 'Glory Box' by Portishead

10 June 2022, 13:33

Portishead's Glory Box is a cult favourite
Portishead's Glory Box is a cult favourite. Picture: Alamy/Go! Discs

By Tom Eames

Portishead helped spearhead the electronic trip-hop movement of the early-to-mid 1990s, helped largely to this silky indie track, 'Glory Box'.

Formed in 1991 in Bristol, Portishead are considered one of the pioneers of trip hop music, although the band themselves have always fiercely disliked the term.

Named after the nearby town of the same name, Portishead launched with singer Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley.

Portishead's debut album, Dummy, was met with huge critical acclaim in 1994, and became one of the milestones of electronica and trip hop.

  1. Who wrote 'Glory Box' and what song does it sample?

    Portishead wrote this song together, and it was included on their debut album Dummy.

    The song used a sample of Isaac Hayes's song 'Ike's Rap II', from his 1971 double-album, Black Moses.

    Coincidentally, 'Hell is Around the Corner' by fellow Bristol trip-hop artist Tricky also sampled the same track around the same time. What are the chances?

  2. What is 'Glory Box' about?

    Portishead
    Portishead. Picture: Getty

    'Glory Box' is an Australian term for a piece of furniture, where women store clothes and other items ahead of marriage. However, the title doesn't appear in the song's lyrics.

    The song is about a woman who is frustrated by love, and is ready to give up on her relationship.

    The song features the line, "Give me a reason to be a woman, it's all I want to be is all woman,", which is a plea to her partner, asking that they treat her fairly and with respect.

    The song had been misinterpreted as a call for the partner to take charge in the relationship, and reverting to traditional gender roles.

    Beth Gibbons was annoyed by this, telling the Independent: "Half the reason you write them is that you're feeling misunderstood and frustrated with life in general.

    "Then it's sort of successful and you think you've communicated with people, but then you realize you haven't communicated with them at all – you've turned the whole thing into a product, so then you're even more lonely than when you started."

  3. What happens in the video?

    The music video was directed by Alexander Hemming.

    It is set in the 1950s, and sees Beth Gibbons as a jazz singer at a club while various office workers watch her perform.

    Soon, sexual tension begins to rise between various characters, as all of the workers, as separate couples, attend the club.

    Apart from the band, the entire cast of the video appears in drag.

  4. How did it perform in the charts?

    'Glory Box' was the third single from the album, and their first UK top 20 hit, reaching number 13.

    Geoff Barrow told Pitchfork that they didn't want this to be a single.

    He said: "We had a row with the record company because we didn't want to release it because it felt too commercial. Fine in a body of work, but not as a standalone track.

    "We lost the argument really. But we bought houses! It's great, but the other side of that, when you play live, I feel like a bit of a performing monkey sometimes."