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!

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