Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Song Remains Inane (sic)

Cover of "Knee Deep in the Hoopla"Funny how the human brain works, isn't it? Well, mine at any rate...

My wee boy, who shall be eight in just over a week, was asking tonight about knowledge, I must ashamedly confess, of the man is limited. My brain, however, did its usual Rorschach's/mind map thing and - as I suspect most people's would - told him that "at Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender."

Childish I know, and I've promised to help him find out a bit more but it got me thinking. What on earth were Agnetha and Anni-Frid (albeit directed by Benny and Bjorn) playing at with those lyrics? Not only, it transpires, did Napoleon in fact surrender at Rochefort some four weeks after the battle of Waterloo, but how does a lovestruck female "meet her (sic) destiny in quite a similar way"? At what point does a Swedish maiden give in to the combined might of an Anglo-Allied army...or should we not ask?

Silly, poor or just plain stupid lyrics have always been present in music: see Joe Dolce's "Shaddap You Face" or anything by Black Lace for evidence of this; but I wondered just how much 'pop' music contains such inaccuracies?

Take, for example, the undoubted song-writing genius that is Paul Simon. His 1973 hit "Kodachrome" (1973, eh? The same year Waterloo was written...hmm) contains the line "everything looks worse in black and white." Really Paul? Can I just ask you for your thoughts on, say, the zebra?

Then of course there's the late, great Sam Cooke. A favourite of mine, for sure but even Sam wasn't averse to the odd idiosynchrasy in his lyrics; 1960's Chain Gang springing quickly to mind. This, let's not forget, is a song about a prison gang out working on, presumably, the railroad or enduring some equally arduous task. "All day long they're singing hooh! ahh!" Are they now? Really? That sounds a tad on the jolly side to me, Sammy. "Hooh ahh!" is Al Pacino's excited battle cry in Scent of A Woman - hardly indicative of hard labour...

Lastly - for now - it's the turn of Starship. 1985 saw the release of the (admittedly Bernie Taupin-penned) single "We Built This City". Here we get examples of both inaccuracy and inanity: witness "Marconi plays the mamba" or "Knee deep in the hoopla sinking in your fight" for the silly side of things. It's not until the chorus, though, that the band start to really test our patience: "We built this city on Rock and Roll" they gleefully proclaim.

Oh, really? Did you learn nothing from the tale of the Three Little Pigs Mister Bernie Taupin? We all know the dangers of building with not only straw but sticks as well! Are we really to believe that your 80's hair rock proteges thought double-four time would be a more suitable construction material for a whole city, never mind a house for a pig? Somehow I doubt it...

I'll remove my tongue from my cheek now...night night.