30 July 2010

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Lyrics, Weakly has been preempted this week by an injury to the host followed by a round of dizzying muscle relaxants. (At least our host can legitimately claim it was a sports injury, adding a bit of much-needed dignity to the whole situation.) Please do join us again next week for our regularly scheduled installment of our show.

23 July 2010

Whitesnake: Here I Go Again

This week on Lyrics, Weakly we visit 1987 to take on “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake, the #1 song in the United States for one week in October of that year.

I don’t generally comment on the videos of songs when i link to them, by the way, but is anyone else bothered by the way the video fades out before the inevitable fiery crash that would follow the final scene? I mean, if you’re gonna make a video about distracted driving, you might as well end with a useful lesson for all the kids out there watching. And what’s with the way David Coverdale shakes the microphone while he’s singing? C’mon, dude, loosen your grip a little—your hand’ll last longer.

Anyway, there’s not much to say about this song except to admit, to my shame, that i actually bought the Whitesnake album on cassette back in the summer of 1987 so that i could listen to this song whenever i wanted to. So on the one hand, this means that i was a few months ahead of the rest of the country in really liking a hit single—but on the other hand, it means that i actually paid good money for an album by Whitesnake.

I apologize to all of you.

And with that out of the way, it’s time to get to the lyrics.

I don’t know where I’m goin’

Keep this line in mind. This, the opening line of the song, the line that sets the mood and underlies the narrative of everything else that follows…It also makes everything that follows make absolutely no sense at all.

But I sure know where I’ve been

Here Misters Coverdale and Marsden kindly inform us that they are not victims of amnesia. This is puzzling, however, given the memory loss that they offer evidence of later in the song.

Hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday

I have learned some things writing this blog. One of them is that the promises encoded in songs are doomed to betray you, whether it’s a promise of constancy in love or a promise of logical coherence.

I find it strange that a few months’ worth of blog-writing taught me not to believe such promises, but years’ worth of songwriting didn’t teach Misters Coverdale and Marsden the same lesson.

Or perhaps they’re just aware that, as hard rock/heavy metal types, they have a certain stereotype to uphold.

An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time
But here I go again, here I go again

I am reminded of one of the versions of Abbott & Costello’s classic “Who’s on First?” routine, where Abbott says “So do you grasp it now?” and Costello replies “I keep grasping it, but then it keeps slipping out of my hand!”

The same thing is happening as i try to parse this couplet. I think it’s the word but, actually—that implies that something is happening that contravenes what comes immediately prior in the discourse. However, i don’t see what getting started on going again does to contravene not wasting time. Well, unless what he’s starting to do is waste time, but he keeps talking about going down a road, which implies movement.

The lesson from this: Sometimes it’s possible to overanalyze 80s hair metal. I know, shocking.

Tho’ I keep searching for an answer

I find it interesting that every instance of the lyrics to this song i could find transcribed the first word of this line as tho’, even though tho’ sounds exactly the same as if it were though. So why leave out the last three letters? It seems Misters Coverdale and Marsden couldn’t take the extra second or two to write those letters down—apparently they really were serious about not wasting no more time.

I never seem to find what I’m looking for

This is a problem we all face now and again. Sorry, you’re just not that special.

Oh Lord, I pray you give me strength to carry on
’Cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams

That's not really an uncommon sort of dream, you know. So sorry, but once again, this doesn’t prove you’re all that special.

Here I go again on my own

And as you’ll all recall from the opening lines of the song, Misters Coverdale and Marsden do not have amnesia, but they don’t know where they’re going.

Which leads me to wonder…

Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known

…how in the world this works.

I mean, if it’s a road they already know, and they have functioning memory, then how is it that they don’t know where they’re going?

Like a drifter I was born to walk alone

This song, the version of it i’m discussing here, was actually a self-cover—Whitesnake had recorded it in 1982. The music was quite different in the original, but the lyrics were the same—except for this line. In the 1982 version, this line went Like a hobo I was born to walk alone. Interesting change. I wonder why they changed it? Well, according to lots and lots of sites across the interwebs—though most seem to base it on Wikipedia’s claim, which itself seems to base its claim on a line on David Coverdale’s IMDb(!) site—Mister Coverdale changed it because he thought people would think he was singing Like a homo I was born to walk alone.

What? Really? He thought people might watch him and his bandmates all dressed in spandex while singing and dancing onstage, and start thinking about alternative sexualities? Well, no never mind, I guess it does make sense.

An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time
Just another heart in need of rescue
Waiting on love’s sweet charity

No real snark about this, i just wanted to say that “Love’s Sweet Charity” would be an excellent name for a Kansas City-style barbecue sauce that was sold as a charity fundraiser. Do feel free to use the idea if you like, no need for attribution—but bonus points if you sneak a white snake into the label design.

An’ I’m gonna hold on for the rest of my days

Annoying 70s meme alert!

And then we get several repetitions of the annoying chorus as the song (like pretty much every 80s hit) goes out with a repeat and fade, so it’s probably best to stop here—but first, another annoying 70s meme to complete your day!

16 July 2010

Sonny & Cher: I Got You Babe

Sonny & Cher: I Got You Babe

Here at Lyrics, Weakly headquarters, my method of choosing a song to discuss generally follows the following schema:

  1. Are there any outstanding requests?
    1. If yes: Pick one of them, discuss it.
    2. If no: Proceed to the next step.
  2. Listen to the radio for a couple days. With all the dumb songs out there, something’ll come up by Tuesday.

This past week, though, has been pretty crazy, and i haven’t gotten as much oldies/​classic rock/​today’s top hits/​mix of the 70s, 80s, and whatever radio station listening in as i usually do. As a result, i arrived at a point where i needed to write up a song, but i didn’t have a song to write about.

And then deep memory rescued me.

True story from my twisted life: Somewhere in my parents’ house is an old VHS tape that contains video footage of one of my sisters and me singing along with Sonny & Cher’s 1965 chart-topper, “I Got You Babe”. The best part? I sang along with Cher, and she sang along with Sonny, not ’cause we were being silly (though we certainly were), but because Cher sounds so much more guy-like than Sonny in this song.

Anyway, it’s time to move on to the lyrics. This is a duet, which means i probably ought to show who sang what. So i’ll be italicizing the words Cher sang (like i do with most song lyrics on this blog), underlining Sonny’s lines, and marking the lines they sang together with both underlining and italics.

They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow

If you look through the lyrics of this entire song, you’ll find no real hint about what it is they say that Sonny and Cher allegedly don’t know. Quite seriously, i’m curious. Maybe they don’t know the rules to Parcheesi? ’Cause i could totally help them out on that one.

Also, at the time this song was released Sonny was 30 years old, Cher was 19. Yeah, Cher, you might have been young and not known whatever it was, but Sonny clearly was at least old enough to know how to stay this side of legal.

And finally, i find it telling that Cher doesn’t specify exactly what sort of growing was to be involved in letting them find out what they didn’t know. Given these before and after album covers, i’m suspecting it had to do with some sort of plastic surgery.

Well I don't know if all that’s true
’Cause you got me, and baby I got you

Well, Sonny, of course you don’t know if it’s all true—it’s a statement that can’t be evaluated for truth. Maybe if we knew what they say you don’t know, well, then you could tell if it was true or not. As it stands, though, it’s not possible to say one way or the other because you don’t have the information you need.

This lesson in hermeneutics brought to you be the letter B, the number 2, and Donald Rumsfeld.

I got you babe
I got you babe

True fact (at least according to Wikipedia, so you know it must be true): Sonny Bono wrote this song to capitalize on the popularity of the term ‘babe’. Were he alive today, i’m thinking he’d’ve written a much more aggressive version of the song, titled “I Pwned You Babe”.

They say our love won’t pay the rent

There are, however, some people who actually do pay their rent that way. Apparently they, whoever they might be, are simply underinformed and are passing their lack of knowledge on to the two of you.

Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
I guess that's so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Oddly, even though they didn’t have a pot, they very clearly did have pot, judging by the way Cher’s playing with her hair in every single mid-60s video of them singing this song i’ve ever seen. Amazing the difference a single determiner makes!

I got you babe
I got you babe

Yes, we know—you already told us, remember?

I got flowers in the spring

Unlike everyone else, right?

I got you to wear my ring

’Nother deep memory: Back in the early 80s, when i was of an age that Mad magazine was the height of middle-class subversiveness, they ran an article with reasons we should love various celebrities. One of the entries was for Cher, and i remember two of them. One of them was “She’s really attractive, if you get turned on looking at a pencil”, but that’s not important right now. The one that’s important for the last line of the song was “We should all be grateful to her for keeping Sonny Bono off welfare all those years”. Apparently men actually do come out financially better in marriage than women!

And when I’m sad, you’re a clown
And if I get scared, you’re always around

I would just like to say that i would not find having a clown around comforting. That is all.

Don't let them say your hair’s too long
’Cause I don't care, with you I can’t go wrong

This is a nice sentiment and all, but it really is a whiplash-inducing non sequitur.

Then put your little hand in mine
There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb

Every time i hear this line i get an image of Sonny and Cher, hand in hand and dressed in beaded-fringe hippie garb, walking up K2 until they succumb to hypoxia. A bit morbid, i’ll admit, but you have to remember that this is the duo that did not only this song, but alsoBaby Don’t Go”, after all.

I got you to hold my hand
I got you to understand
I got you to walk with me
I got you to talk with me
I got you to kiss goodnight
I got you to hold me tight
I got you, I won’t let go
I got you to love me so

You know, i had some stuff to talk about here, but i just don’t have the energy. I mean, all this lovable-and-cute-beyond-imagining schmoopyness is threatening to throw me into sugar shock, and i’m not even diabetic.

I got you babe

Yes, i know—remember, i already said there was no need for you to mention it anymore.

I got you babe

Stop, please. Pretty please?

I got you babe

You’re just doing this to annoy me now, aren’t you?

I got you babe

Yes, yes you are.

I got you babe

That’s okay, i know of something even more annoying than this song! (Only just marginally, though.) So there!

09 July 2010

Night Ranger: Sister Christian

Okay, easy pickings this week: Night Ranger’s 1984 hit “Sister Christian”. But before i get to the lyrics, a personal memory about Night Ranger:

I went to high school during the mid-80s, so i was unable to escape being surrounded by the sound of Night Ranger during that time. I never really liked their stuff—my tastes tended more toward the new-wave and synthpop side of things—but i was, at least, able to recognize that they played with some decent skill. Clearly, though, there were some serious fans in my high school, including one who made a sculpture in honor of the band.

No, really—one afternoon, an after-school group i was in ended early, and so instead of just sitting outside waiting for my ride i wandered around the halls of the school. My wanderings led me down halls i rarely traveled, past the metal shop room, where i saw, proudly displayed, a sculpture made of wire loops. (It’s a frighteningly common sculpture method, as my wanderings around Etsy have informed me, along with accompanying video documentation, believe it or not.) The sculpture showed a guitar player not of normal human proportions in what appeared to be the midst of the ecstasies of a killer guitar solo—and there was a shiny bit of metal at the bottom with the title neatly engraved: Night Ranger.

Yes, it was such a horrifying sight that it burned itself into my brain twenty-five or so years ago, and now i share it with you. And speaking of sharing, let’s get to the lyrics, in which Night Ranger’s drummer (and lead singer on this track, which he wrote), Kelly Keagy, shares a bit more than we care to know about his family’s dysfunctional dynamics.

Sister Christian

See, we’ve got a problem right there—“Christian” is a male name and “sister”, whether marking a sibling or a nun, is a female title. Heavy cognitive mismatch, you see.

Actually, i was curious enough about this mismatch that i actually ventured onto the sort of web site where people sit around and muse on the meanings of song lyrics, and i came across this little gem of an exchange:

dementia: it’s about the dude who wrote it’s little sister.. they misinterpreted the lyrics. it’s supposed to be “sister Christy”…

crazycrane02: Lovely Shiksa your right, it was about his sister and it was about Kelly Kagen’s sistrer Christy. but the other guy (lead singe4r) thought her name was Christian, or at least thats what she thought he Kagen was saying. So he changed it. lol i just watched VH1 Classic’s Now Power Ballads an hour ago and this song was on. i love this song

So let’s see…The guy that wrote this song is Kelly Keagy. So Christy is apparently Mr. Keagy’s little sister. Mr. Keagy was also the lead singer (or, possibly, the “lead singe4r”) on this song. So, according to these people, Mr. Keagy misheard the name of his own sister, and thus got her name wrong for the song.

Yeah, that makes sense.

Of course, you really have to wonder about somebody who chooses the name “crazycrane02” to go by. I mean, nothing against crazy cranes, but if you’ve got your heart set on “crazycrane” as a screen name and you find out it’s already taken, you can do better than to announce to the world that you’re the second person to come up with the idea, really you can.

Anyway—enough digression. Back to the song.

Oh the time has come
And you know that you’re the only one
To say okay

The only one? Okay, i’m calling Mr. Keagy out on his lie right here.

Also, it’s almost not worth noting that, in all seriousness, this bit makes absolutely no sense, even in the context of this song (such as it is).

Where you going
What you looking for

If i were her, i’d be looking for a brother who could write coherent lyrics about me—but who knows what her preferences are?

You know those boys
Don’t want to play no more with you
It’s true

I just want y’all to remember this bit, ’cause it ends up making the rest of this song make absolutely no sense, even for a Night Ranger song.

You’re motoring

Can i just say how much i love how overwrought Mr. Keagy and his backing vocal bandmates sound when delivering any line in this song that contains the verb “motoring”? Quite honestly, i feel like it encapsulates everything that’s right and wrong about 80s music—the grandiose self-importance, the lyrical nonsense, the power chords, just everything.

What’s your price for flight

Well, it really depends on where she’s flying from, doesn’t it? If she’s flying from Denver it’ll be a lot cheaper than if she’s flying from Cincinnati.

True fact: Night Ranger was based in San Francisco (thus making them the spiritual heirs of the Jefferson Airplane, apparently), which is the second-most expensive major airport in the United States to fly from. This means that her price for flight is going to be pretty high, unless she bothers to search for flights from Oakland as well. Fortunately, most travel websites let you search fares from nearby airports, too, so that won’t be too difficult for her.

In finding Mister Right
You’ll be alright tonight

But, Mr. Keagy, if you’re correct that those boys don’t want to play no more with your sister, then she’s probably not going to be alright with finding Mister Right—it sounds like it would be kind of a fruitless endeavor for her, since hanging out with a bunch of Misters would, in most cases, be a prerequisite for finding out which one is Mister Right.

Well, unless Mr. Keagy is saying he’s working out an arranged match for her. That’s always a possibility, i suppose.

Babe you know
You’re growing up so fast
And mama’s worrying
That you won’t last
To say let’s play

You know, up until the last line of this verse it sounds like an ordinary sort of family worrying about their little girl growing up—the mother and older brother are feeling a bit protective as their daughter/​sister is moving toward becoming sexually active a bit earlier than she should, in their opinion.

And then the last line turns really dysfunctionally creepy—it’s not that she won’t last in the sense of not having sex for a while longer, it’s that she won’t last long enough to say “let’s play”. And since “play” really, really sounds like a euphemism for sex here, that means that this girl’s mother and brother are worried about her because they want to make absolutely sure she’s…​Ummm…​Dudes, this is really kind of sick—i mean, this is coming from her mother and her brother, you know? And her brother just implied that he’s working on an arranged match for her.

Oh, dear.

(Later edit: Or that they’re afraid that she’ll die first. Either way, somewhat icky.)

Happy place! Happy place! Happy place!

[brief pause]

Okay, i’ve applied liberal amounts of brain bleach. (I would suggest you do the same.) I’m better now, or at least as better as one can be while pondering Night Ranger.

Sister Christian
There’s so much in life
Don’t you give it up
Before your time is due

So you’re advising her not to sleep with anyone before you set her up with the guy you’ve chosen for her to sleep with? You know, this is the kind of thing Jerry Springer made a career out of.

Wait a minute—back to my happy place.

[cleansing breath]

Much better.

It’s true
It’s true yeah

As a professional linguist, i must ask: What exactly is the it that these lines are referring to? It couldn’t be the time from the preceding line, not the it from a couple lines earlier. It appears that we’ve got a basic case of pronoun trouble going on here.

What’s your price for flight
You’ve got him in your sight
And driving thru the night

And now Mr. Keagy is making it sound like his sister has some free will in the matter. It’d almost be cute, watching him play with her emotions like that, if it weren’t so demented.

Once again: Happy Place! Happy Place! Happy place!

Anyway, we then get a bunch of repetition of the chorus, which is followed by a repeat of the first verse, and i’ll spare y’all going through that again.

I really have to say that when i started this post i didn’t realize that it was going to turn quite out so dark—i mean, i’d always felt like it was a manipulative song, but i hadn’t really thought about how thoroughly twisted it was. So to make up for the horror of having to sit through a Night Ranger song, let alone one as sick as this one, i close by offering you a moment of sheer old-school internet meme diversion.

02 July 2010

Roxette: The Look

As regular readers know, i’ve piled up a lot of requests for songs to discuss, and so i’ve been going through them the past few weeks. Well, a few weeks ago, Karate Mom (an actual reader of this blog who i’ve never met in real life! insert swooning over the miracle of technology and such rot here) made a request: the Swedish duo Roxette’s 1989 multinational (including the US) chart-topper “The Look”.

(By the way, i would like to make it clear that i very emphatically do not want to know anything about the specific fetishes the director of that video is into. Having watched it, i already know too much, thank you very much.)

Now, i have to admit that i’d never actually paid attention to the lyrics of this song before the request came in—it was just a fun little 80s-pop bit of background music you still hear on the radio every once in a while.

And then i listened to songwriter Per Gessle’s lyrics.

And then…Wow.


I’m so glad Mr. Gessle has decided to add to the store of educational music that’s already out there.

Walking like a man

Like this?

Or maybe this.

Either way, this this appears to be a good thing.

Hitting like a hammer
She’s a juvenile scam, never was a quitter

What is it with rock songs and young girls? At least this one appears to be both masculine and violent, so maybe at least we’ll get a Michael Bay movie out of this.

Tasty like a raindrop,

The raindrops have flavor in Sweden? The whole acid rain thing must be simply out of control up there!

She’s got the look

Apparently, she’s got this one.

Heavenly bound cos heaven’s got a number

Heaven’s got a number? I didn’t even know it had an area code!

Of course, if she’s heavenly bound, one might expect that that means she’s dead or dying, meaning this upbeat little song has suddenly taken a dark turn. Oh, those wacky Swedes!

When she’s spinning me around, kissing is a colour

Perhaps frighteningly, Google gives 372,000 hits for a search on “synesthesia kissing”.

Her loving is a wild dog, she’s got the look

Safety tip! If someone comes up to you and says “My loving is a wild dog”, smile, nod, and edge away slowly until you’re out of their peripheral vision—and then run like mad.

No, no need to thanks me—it’s a service i’m happy to provide.

She’s got the look (she’s got the look)
She’s got the look (she’s got the look)
What in the world can make a brown-eyed girl turn blue

Suffocation can, or so i’ve heard.

(More death. Noontime darkness really gets to you after a while, apparently.)

When everything I’ll ever do I’ll do for you

This may be the first coherent complete sentence in this entire song. Of course, it’s also the first time any part of the song has been in the second person (i.e., ‘you’) rather than the first or third person, so the reason it’s a coherent sentence is obvious—it got borrowed from another song.

And I go la la la la la
She’s got the look

Has anyone out there ever actually gone “la la la la la”? I mean since you were, like, eleven? ’Cause i’m pretty sure i haven’t.

Of course, i’ve never actually had any reason to tell anyone that she is in possession of the look, either, so maybe my experiences are simply more limited than Mr. Gessle’s.

Fire in the ice,

Which gives water—and now we’re learning physics!

For what it’s worth, Mythbusters has concluded that you can use an ice lens to start a fire, and there’s even a site out there with fairly detailed instructions, should you decide to freeze while trying to keep warm.

Naked to the T-bone
Is a lover’s disguise, banging on the head drum

This is just wrong on so many levels.

First of all, a T-bone is either a cut of steak, the name of a Christian rapper, or a term for an often-fatal type of accident. I’m not sure you’d want to be naked with your lover for any of those, unless you have certain fairly disturbing kinks, and i don’t, so i’m going to just plug my ears and go “la la la la la” now.

And banging on the head drum? Where’d that come from?

Shaking like a mad bull, she’s got the look

Well, i’m frightened, for one.

Swaying to the band, moving like a hammer
She’s a miracle man,

First of all, she’s a man? That explains so…Well, it doesn’t really explain anything, does it?

Second of all, there’s only one person who should be allowed to go by the name “Miracle”, and it’s not her.

Loving is the ocean
Kissing is the wet sand, she’s got the look

You’ve just completely given up on making any sense by now, haven’t you, Mr. Gessle?

She’s got the look (she’s got the look)
She’s got the look (she’s got the look)
What in the world can make a brown-eyed girl turn blue

Well, colloidal silver can, according to some news reports.

And then we get repetition of the rest of the chorus, plus a recap of the first verse (remember?—that’s where we found out she’s a young masculine girl who tastes like a raindrop), followed by a repeat and fade while we get told that she possesses “The Look”. Unfortunately, it appears that she didn’t keep it hidden away, but has allowed radio stations to play it for over twenty years.