Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Know What A Prison Lover Ought To Be - Seven Wildly Misinterpreted Songs

1.) Okie From Muskogee - Merle Haggard

"It started out as a joke. We wrote to be satirical originally. But then people latched onto it, and it really turned into this song that looked into the mindset of people so opposite of who and where we were."
So said Merle Haggard when asked about his biggest hit. It describes a 1960s Oklahoma town where 'traditional American values' like football, the Stars and Stripes and respect for authority still reign supreme.
Some claim this is sheer revisionism. I tend to believe Merle.
The length of Haggard's hair does not define him. Neither does his well documented drug ingestion or tail chasing.
But it might give you a hint that he's taking the piss when the first line of the song starts " We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee. We don't take no trips on LSD."
He goes on to sing "We don't make no party out of lovin'. We like holding hands and pitching woo. We don't let hair grow long and shaggy like the hippies out in San Francisco do."
Besides, Haggard saw Johnny Cash's legendary San Quentin shows while doing ten years for holding up a Bakersfield saloon. He says it turned his life around.
I once saw Judas Priest at Maple Leaf Gardens while doing three years in journalism school for reading too much Kerouac. It did fuck all for me.
Who am I to argue?

2.) Short People - Randy Newman

I was nine-years-old when the song Randy Newman's song Short People was released in 1978.
I loved that song. I recognized it -- if not as satire -- than at least a joke.
And I was short and I was ... oh yeah ... NINE-FUCKING-YEARS-OLD!
It's a minor tragedy that the greatest song writer of the last fifty years is primarily known for a novelty song.
It isn't even a slight throw-away song. At it's best, it is a vicious smack down of bigotry. At it's worst, it's a fictional diary of a mad man. Who could take "They got little hands and little eyes, And they walk around tellin' great big lies, Don't want no short people 'round here" seriously?
Anyone under 5'2" in the 1970s, I guess. Midgets, Dwarves and the like used to throw Short People parties where they would throw tiny little eggs and tiny little darts at pictures of Randy Newman. It kinda makes you want to kick tiny little Tom Cruise in his tiny little nuts.
"It was too bad that was my one big hit--a novelty record like The Chipmunks did," Newman recently told the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star. He hates the damn song now. "It was a hit that did me no good, that did me harm. A bad break."

3.) Every Breath You Take - The Police

Every Breath You Take used to be a very popular first dance wedding song.
I've not personally known anyone whose wedding song was Every Breath You Take.
Mind you, I try not to hang out with stupid people. Especially two stupid people who are about to get married.
The song is about obsession and stalking. It's creepy. It's isn't about everlasting love. It's about a sinister, controlling character whose relationship is ending.
Casual living room poll?
Barb's wedding song: Turbo Lover by Judas Priest
Brian's wedding song? Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash
Also Brian's funeral song, BTW.

4.) Only Women Bleed - Alice Cooper

One might forgive the casual listener for assuming Alice Cooper had the worst intentions with Only Women Bleed.
He wrote songs about welcoming you to his nightmare. He wrote songs about necrophilia and the eventual world domination of man-eating spiders.
This was all on the same album that held Only Women Bleed.
So the song is about cutting up chicks, huh?
At least the song is about menstruation, right?
It's about our patriarchal society in which women do most of the work and get the shitty end of the stick.
Pretty sensitive for a dude with decapitaed dolls and torture equipment as on-stage props if you ask me.
Plus, Etta James covered the song in 1999.
I'll bow to Etta's judgment rather than the wankers who slap Parental Advisory labels on records, thank you.

5.) This Land Is Your Land - Woody Guthrie

It sounds incredibly patriotic. The majesty of America on display:

"This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me."

Except Guthrie was a self-confessed socialist. He painted the phrase "This Machine Kills Fascists" on his guitar. He reveled in sticking it to - for lack of a better analogy - The Man.
Witness the verse that usually gets left out by people who conduct choruses of school children:

"In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?"

And here comes the beautiful, left-wing, property sharing kicker:

"There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me."

see also: Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA.
Really, Ronald Reagan? You wanted Born In The USA for your re-election song? The first lyrics

"Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
'Til you spend half your life just covering up"

didn't tip you off the song wasn't as patriotic as the title suggested? Alzheimer's Disease may have kicked in by this point, but didn't you have handlers, Ronnie?

Please visit The Library of Congress for other Woody Guthrie songs of which Ronald Reagan would not have approved.

6.) The Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams

Bryan Adams was born in the fall of 1959. Therefore:

"Me and some guys from school
Had a Band and we tried real hard
Jimmy quit and Jody got married
I shoulda known we'd never get far"

never happened unless he and his friends were extremely precocious hillbillies.
The song is just a sophomoric reference to mutual oral sex. Fuckin' grow up, people. Jimmy never quit, Jodi never got married
... I'll wager it was just a bet with his producer about the dirtiest song he could get on Canadian radio.
Hence the closing line "Me and my baby in ... uhh... '69".
I'll wager Mr. Adams record label deemed The Autumn of Piston Fisting slightly not subtle enough.
Despite his obvious pranksterism, Bryan Adams is still a very shitty songwriter.

7.) In-A Gadda-Da-Vida - Iron Butterfly

Often confused with music.
It is not.

I double-dog-dare-ya to add your own examples.
Don't be a pussy.
Say something.


Barb said...

You completely ruined that Two Princes song by the Spin Doctors for me in the nineties, you prick.

barb said...

Oh and do you remember ruining "Wave over Wave" by Great Big Sea?
The line was "I'm as happy a man as the sea will allow", and now I can't hear it without thinking "I'm as happy a man as LESLIE will allow".
Which I have to admit is funny, but.....

Neal said...

Terribly misinterpreted first song at a wedding (ask Barb, she'll tell you who's): "In the Air Tonight", the song that made Phil Collins think he could get by without Genesis. He can't.
It's a pissed of 'I'm having a shitty divorce' song. Not a love song.
I nearly shit myself when I heard that come on.
And what the hell was I doing at that train wreck any way?

P.S. In-A Gadda-Da-Vida comment made a little coffee come out my nose.

Neal said...

Oh - and the "Shakira: Underneath Your Clothes" wedding. I won't comment, 'cause I still like those people.
Again, ask Barb.

Anonymous said...

I remember Jason making greg and I listen to the fucking Venga boys one night...nothing funny about that.
Queer....but not funny.

Also confused with music.