Saturday, September 24, 2005

does anybody really care?

RJ Eskow at skippy wonders about dumb song lyrics:
this question came up as i was in an airport waiting to fly coast to coast ( i'm on the road, which is the reason i haven't posted lately) - because they were playing the old song by chicago called "does anybody really know what time it is?"

you remember: "a man came up and asked me what the time was that was on my watch, and I said/does anybody really know what time it is?" the use of violence is a highly personal decision, involving both ethical and moral choices based on a spiritual ethos. for me, however, it would be justified if i asked somebody for the time and got this answer.

but you'll have to search your consciences and ask yourselves: does anybody really know when it's time to take a swing at that guy from "chicago"?

I saw CTA, as they were first known, at a tiny club in Buena Park, CA, in '68, on their first pass trough SoCal. Totally original, what a sound!

But I remember turning to my friend and saying, "They have a great sound, but nobody can sing!" Late guitarist Terry Kath, a member of the George Reeves Gun Club, had his faux whiteboy growl (think Stevie Winwood in Spencer Davis Group) but Bob Lamm and Peter etCetera impressed me not. Obviously I was wrong, as the vast record buying public is always right, no?

But the late '60s and all the '70s were a blur of stupid lyrics. Chicago had plenty of their own:

Color my world with hope of loving you

Nice idea, god-awful lyric.

Waiting for the break of day
Searching for something to say


Children play in the park, they don't know
I'm alone in the dark, even though
Time and time again I see your face smiling inside


But they weren't the only practitioners of crappy writing. In fact, it afflicted many of that time's musicians. As rock'n'roll developed, flourished, and made its way in the world, conventions were being overturned and rules broken on a daily basis. Being in the music biz, I have experienced this, and largely reveled in it. Freedom to express one's self in heretofore new and undiscovered ways was thrilling.

As can be expected, however, a lot of chaff went flying with the wheat. Some great words were penned, some real poo was written. Here's some more:

Looking Glass:
The sailors say "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"Yeah your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea"
(dooda-dit-dooda), (dit-dooda-dit-dooda-dit)

Smokin', smokin'
We're cookin' tonight, just keep on tokin'
Smokin', smokin'I feel alright, mamma i'm not jokin', yeah.

Fleetwood Mac:
Tusk! tusk! tusk! tusk!
Tusk! tusk! tusk! tusk!

REO Speedwagon:
As soon as you are able
Woman i am willing
To make the break that we
Are on the brink of

Well, i'm hot blooded, check it and see
I got a fever of a hundred and three

Air Supply:
But i'm never gonna make it without you,
Do you really want to see me crawl?
And i'm never gonna make it like you do,
Making love out of nothing at all.

Now don't get me wrong, rock lyrics don't all have to be the musical equivalent of Shakespeare, they can be trite, even silly, and still be wonderful. I mean, c'mon. Freddie Mercury sang "Radio Ga Ga" and it was high art.

Some other inane gems:

She was a fast machine
She kept her motor clean
She was the best damn woman I had ever seen
She had the sightless eyes
Telling me no lies
Knockin' me out with those American thighs
Taking more than her share
Had me fighting for air
She told me to come but I was already there

Sing with me, sing for the years
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow the good lord will take you away

Thin Lizzy:
That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favorite song
The nights are getting warmer, it won't be long
It won't be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again

Now comes the fun part. Guess the source of these lyrics:
I could not take it oh so seriously really
When you called and said you'd seen a UFO
But then it dawned on me the message in writing
Spelt out a meeting never dreamed of before

Fashionable country gentlemen had some cultivated wild gardens,
In which they innocently planted the giant hogweed throughout the land.
Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
Royal beast did not forget.
Soon they escaped, spreading their seed,
Preparing for an onslaught, threatening the human race.

There coming over Charaton Bridge
Look do you see the man who is poor but rich.
What do you wish; and where do you go;
Who are you; where are you from:
will you tell me your name?
Rest awhile; call me your friend.
Please stay with me I'd like to help.