Down the Rabbit Hole, Musically

Little Vampire Boy stopped by the homestead on a Sunday Night.  As with most LVB conversations it went everywhere and nowhere simulatenously.  At one point while we were discussing wine he said, “you know, ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange‘ was the perfect song for the time.”  For the record, noone mentioned ZZ Top, Blues, Texas or whore houses prior to this.  I looked at him quizzically, looking  clues of where the hell this came from.

“I don’t know the song,” Lambchop said while washing wineglasses.

“Of course you do!  You make me change the channel everytime time it comes on the radio!”  And that is often. She still shook her head in disagreement.

So I decided to sing.  As most of us know, there is a lot of word  slurring  between the hot guitar licks in that song. I didn’t pretend to know all the words.  I just wailed – I mean we had consumed a few bottles by this point.

‘must been roww, tha’ Texas toww
‘Bout that shack outsi’  legrange

rrrr rrr rrr rr
ruff ruff ruff
Hmmm Hmm Hmm
‘Know what I’m talking ’bout
They got a lot a nice gurrrls.. .HUH!


“I still don’t know the song,” she said as if her case was settled.

“Seriously?”  I was flumoxed.

LVB decided it was time to chime in.  “You’ve nailed it. You were right on key. You have perfect pitch.”

Two things:  I dont’t have perfect pitch. It is well known I need a bucket to carry a tune.   Second, these are the lyrics to the song, even though my interpretation is far closer to the recording than these words read in the King’s English.

Rumour spreadin’ a-’round in that Texas town
’bout that shack outside La Grange
And you know what I’m talkin’ about. 

Just let me know if you wanna go 
To that home out on the range. 
They gotta lotta nice girls ah

Have mercy. 
A pow, pow, pow, pow, a pow. 
A pow, pow, pow. 

Once I got over my shock of the lunancy that someone thought I had good pitch or could carry a tune, my mind went in 100 different directions.  Nah, writing about brothels is too easy.  And so is the curiosity that the only guy without a beard in ZZ Top is Frank Beard.    I’ll even ignore LVB’s amusement and amazement that I DO NOT shave my legs.  My near hairless extremities is a direct contrast the beautiful head of hair I’ve been graced with.

Lyrics, the last frontier.  How many singers mangle the pronounciation of words and leave listeners wondering what the song was really about?  Not everyone can ennounciate like William Shatner.  His voice is clear and strong.  Listen to Rocket Man or Mr. Tambourine Man.  On a similar note, you listen to Leonard Nimoy sing of Bilbo Baggins.  No instead let’s focus on the war crimes of singers that butcher lyrics.

Who can forget John Fogerty looking for a bathroom on the right?

Or Jimi Hendrix appologizing for kissing this guy.

Sometimes its the listener’s ears that mishear the lyrics.  One person I know always heard Radar Love (why hello Golden Earing) as Red Hot Love.  I have always wondered why Jeff Lynne is always asking Bruce not to bring him down?  No clue.  Wrong lyrics

Nope. But my favorite has to be of a more religious nature.  Years ago, 1982 to be precise (or close enough), I was hanging out with an acquaintance from the comic shop.  Yeah, think Stuart from Big Bang Theory.  I wasn’t working there yet.  We were walking to see the fabulous new movie “Swamp Thing” when he starts talking about this new song.  He tells me that “it’s really weird and has some trippy religous allagory.”

Fuck.  I sure hope we are not going to talk abous C.S. Lewis or why my being Jewish was consigning me to a future in hell.  Normally I screen people better than this.  Nope I was wrong.  Whew. Big concilatory sigh.  He just wanted help analyzing the lyrics from that new song “Sweet Jesus the Maitre De.” I about died.  That was the funniest thing I had heard in a long time.  I have no idea how he got to those words. It was so out of let field.  When I finished laughing I explained to him what the song was really called.  If you haven’t figured it out, I’ll tell you later.**  If you get it now, you get extra Stuff and Things points, redeemable for just about nothing.

I have always loved music, but if you are familar with my home here in the interwebs, you knew that.  I try not to pretend that  I know more than I do, especially about music.  I know what I like and have tons of useless, arcane info floating in my hard drive.  That “Whipping Post” starts in 11/4 time or that the theme from “That 70s show” is a Big Star classic (and redone by Cheap Trick).  So much in there. Stuff. And things.

Like that The Tubes album “Remote Control” is and incredible, complete album.  I’d classify it as power pop, a far cry from the over the top theatrics of  “White Punks on Dope.”  I played side one to death for 10 years or so..  A lot that is because Todd Rundgren produced it.  Don’t worry, I’m still saving my prime time for you.

And that everyone should know about the origin of the name Led Zeppelin and The Cry of the Mudshark (urban legend or not.)

And then there are the songs that are lost in translation.  Driving this morning I heard the members of Night Ranger (what the hell, they are local) talking about the meaning of “Sister Christian.”  I’ve heard the story several time that the lyrics were about his sister Christie, but they way he sang it, it sound like Christian.  In Minnesota, a waitress once asked them, in her full local accent, if the song was about “a nun selling drugs to school kids.”  Yah. Sure. Yu Betcha!  Where did that come from?  Of course they afirmed her analysis.  Why crush her dreams as a music critic?

More topical is the revelation I heard (somewhere I don’t recall) about Nine Inch Nails.   Someone claimed that Trent Reznor wrote “Closer” as a priest’s love song to an alterboy.  Seriously?

I want to fuck you like an animal
I want to feel you from the inside
I want to fuck you like an animal
My whole existence is flawed
You get me closer to g-d

It could be, but I’m voting urban legend on this one.  You know like when we were kids and we thought Bubbleicious bubble gum was made from spider eggs.  And it was still scarce.  I’m going to go with “closer to g-d” as a metaphor for le petite morte or turning Japanese (you knew that song was about masturbation right? (I still need to write that critical essay) with those orgasmic eyes.

While we can debate what various lyrics mean, sometime times, if you don’t actually look at the lyrics, it can be impossible to tell what’s going on (cue Marving Gaye.)  One of my favorite bands is Genesis ( pre 1980.)   And if you were the typical prog rock fan, you’d be thinking does he prefer the Lamb or Selling England by the  Pound?  It doesn’t matter.  I’d like to discuss my favorite Genesis song. Harold the Barrel.  Many other songs are more beloved – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Musical Box, Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, but few are more theatric.  Harold provides a glimpse into the the theatrics that Peter Gabriel will later infuse into his music.

But you wouldn’t know it from listening.  Harold the Barrel is a powerful and catchy pop tune that is confusing.  One needs to look at the lyrics to see it is really a 2:59 one act play.  While Gabriel uses his various voices to imbue the characters, its not apparently obvious on an initial listen.  But then you read the lyrics — there were NONE on the initial US release — and realize there are 8 separate characters and 2 different choruses.  Such joyful noise.  All in a song about a man about to jump from a ledge to his death.  This predates “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by 5 years.  Who thought Genesis has a suicide song, masquarading as a pop tune in its catalog?

Harold the Barrel

A well-known Bognor restaurant-owner disappeared
early this morning.
Last seen in a mouse-brown overcoat,
suitably camouflaged,
they saw him catch a train.Man-in-the-street:
“Father of three its disgusting””Such a horrible thing to do”
Harold the Barrel cut off his toes and he served them all
for tea
“Can’t go far”, “He can’t go far”.
“Hasn’t got a leg to stand on”
“He can’t go far”.Man-on-the-spot:
I’m standing in a doorway on the main square

tension is mounting
There’s a restless crowd of angry people

“More than we’ve ever seen.

– had to tighten up security”

Over to the scene at the town hall
The Lord Mayor’s ready to speak

Lord Mayor:
“Man of suspicion, you can’t last long, the British Public

is on our side”

British Public:
“Can’t last long”, “You can’t last long”.

“Said you couldn’t trust him, his brother was just the same”
“You can’t last long”.

If I was many miles from here,

I’d be sailing in an open boat on the sea
Instead I’m on this window ledge,
With the whole world below
Up at the window
Look at the window…

“We can help you”

Plod’s Chorus:
“We can help you”

Mr. Plod:
“We’re all your friends, if you come on down
and talk to us son”

You must be joking
Take a running jump

The crowd was getting stronger and our Harold
getting weaker;
Forwards, backwards, swaying side to side
Fearing the very worst
They called his mother to the sight
Upon the ledge beside him
His mother made a last request.

67-yr-old Mrs Barrel:
“Come off the ledge if your father were alive he’d be very,
very, very upset.
“Just can’t jump, you just can’t jump”
“Your shirt’s all dirty, there’s a man here from
the B.B.C.”
“You just can’t jump”

Mr. Plod:
“We can help you”

Plod’s Chorus:
“We can help you”

Mr. Plod:
“We’re all your friends, if you come on down
and talk to us Harry”

You must be joking.
Take a running jump……

Perhaps I just needed a reason to listen to Harold the Barrel today.  I’m still looking for that perfect song with just the right amount of cowebell.  There never really is enough is there? I wonder what lies deeper down the rabbit hole….

** It was “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)” by The Eurythmics

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