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.

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