October 18, 2007

Stupid Song Lyrics

{a modest compendium; obviously it's scarcely possible to be comprehensive. For the most part I've avoided mentioning howlers like "In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they're only made of clay", because I'm aware that 'stone' or 'rock', which would be correct, doesn't rhyme with the last word of 'Our love is here to stay', and a songwriter has to eat after all}

"Wo-o wo-o, hey hey
I love you more than I can say.
Love you twice as much tomorrow.
Love you more than I can say."
Math and language skills about equally challenged here. If you can't say how much you love somebody, it's a safe bet you can't coherently promise twice as much tomorrow--and why should the object of his affection settle for, at best, half the love he's capable of, today?

I don't know how many times over the years Crosby, Stills, Nash and Yonge have sung "Four Dead in Ohio", or how many times Neil Young has sung it solo. Thousands I'd imagine and in all that time it's never occurred to them that these lines
"Gotta get down to it, soldiers are gunning us down.
Should have been done long ago."
means exactly the opposite of what they intend.

There aren't any intelligent lines in Neil Diamond's "I Am (I Said)" but I think the peak of stupidity is reached by the refrain
"I am, I said, to no-one there
And no-one heard at all, not even the chair."
Which is surprising when you consider what amazingly sensitive ears most chairs have.

The writer of these lines was exceptionally proud of them, since they're the only lyric heard (like it were a needle skipping) on a song running 4 minutes or thereabouts (I was in a bar and my drink wasn't finished, that's why I subjected myself to the nuisance)
"There's things I haven't told you
I go out late at nigh
And if I was to tell you
You'd see my different side."
I'll let that, and this blast from the past, stand in for all those songs whose invention stretches no further than the repetition of one exceedingly stupid lyric 'til you can practically see the drool tricking down the singer's jaw on both sides, and perhaps secretly wish it were copious blood
"I'm a Neanderthal man, you're a Neanderthal girl
Let's make Neanderthal love, in this Neanderthal world"
(I bet somewhere there's an errant Ph.d thesis comparing this lyric, not unfavourably, to the elegant thought twists of Wittgenstein, but stupid academic theses are a whole 'nother issue.)

"Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn't mean it.
"I just want you back again."
Where do women dig up these bozos? (I don't mean that literally.) And why do so many otherwise intelligent women stick to them like glue? (I suppose the same question can be asked in reverse, and about same sex mismatches, but that doesn't make it any less puzzling.) Assuming the lady he's singing to has a legitimate grievance--and the evidence of these lines is enough for me on that score--the least she should expect is awareness of precisely what she's complaining about, and a particular apology. I'd advise dumping. Shag him one last time for auld lang syne if you must, if his cock's in better repair than his hart and brain, but after that's done, make like the birds and flock off.

'Norwegian Wood' isn't at all a stupid song, but in his last interview Lennon made an amazingly stupid remark about it: "I wanted to write about an affair, but I didn't want me wife to know I was writing about an affair.
"I once had a girl
Or should I say
She once had me."
Really smooth camouflage there, Johnny.

I won't pursue this any further, but I throw the comment board wide open to reader contributions. Please make your quotes as accurate as possible. Cheers.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides


Chancelucky said...

Is there a law that says that lyrics have to make sense?

Music and poetry sometimes have their own logic. This is not to say that there aren't stupid lyrics, but I think Neil Young may have been aiming for a level of proud defiance as in the soldiers should have been done long ago, but they aren't because people are still protesting.

Martin Heavisides said...

What I'm pretty sure Neil Young intended to say was
"Gotta get down to it
Should have been done long ago"
and it didn't occur to him that if "Soldiers are gunning us down" intervened, he'd be essentially saying the soldiers should have started gunning people down long ago. In the same sense I think the Johnson's people meant something totally different than what they plainly said in a famous ad
"Johnson's foot powder Soaks away those tired aching feet."
In neither case is this a flight of fancy that soars above ordinary logic; in both cases it is a recognizable gaffe. I don't mean to say Neil Young's never written a sensible, or poetic, lyric. "Helpless", "Heart of Gold"--no flies on them to the best of my memory. "Helpless" in particular is astonishing in the power of its associative logic. If you think it'll redress a balance I'll Google the lyric of "Helpless" and paste it here to make it clear I don't think Neil Young always wrote stupid lyrics. In fact nothing else in "Four Dead in Ohio" is as off in its statement as this, though it isn't a song I find particularly inspired.

Neill said...

"Should have been done long ago" - it seems pretty obvious to me that this line is sung from the perspective of some hardcore, pro-war, hippy-hating republican. It's never occurred to me that anyone would listen to the song and not get that.