Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lyrical Analysis

Having recently become a subscriber to XM/Sirius Radio I am afforded the opportunity to revisit the songs of my youth on a station called "The Bridge," a program of light rock going back to the late sixties. On my way to the local discount beverage store, a favorite tune of mine came on by none other than Sir Elton John. It was "Rocket Man", a timeless lyric especially today when NASA is more active than ever with its mission to explore the solar system and that the possibility of putting a man or woman on the surface of Mars is no longer science fiction. But having once been employed as a proofreader/editor of some lousy magazines, I am to this day unable to free myself from examining the written word, both lyrical and prosaic. And so here lies the rub.

The song, "Rocket Man" for the most part is perfect. Having only a limited knowledge of song writing, I do know of a practice used by many artists in composing lyrics called "verse filler" or sometimes "line filler." A perfect example of the latter is the Lennon-McCartney hit, "When I Saw Her Standing There," the line being, "She was just seventeen and you know what I mean....." The second half of the line which McCartney originally wrote as , "She was just seventeen, a real beauty queen..." was changed by Lennon to the former example. It was cool, suggestive and so perfect that it managed to sneak by the censorship of radio shows and record companies, unlike the the line in "I Want To Hold Your Hand," where in the chorus was originally written as "...its such a feeling that my love, I get high, I get high..." which had to be changed for performance and publication to, ".. its such a feeling that my love, I can't hide, I can't hide..." It still works but somehow dampens the transcendence of falling in love as a teenager. That was John Lennon and I miss him dearly. But I digress.

The song "Rocket Man" is nearly perfect except for the third verse which is written as "...Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact it's cold as hell. And there's no one there to raise them, if you did."

So what Sir Elton is basically saying is: "Mars isn't a place to raise your kids and if you decided to raise your kids there, there wouldn't be anyone there to raise them if you did in fact, decide to raise them there."

It bothers me but I still like the song.

But I think that one of the greatest blunders in songwriting has to be attributed to one of the greatest song writers of a all time and in one of his greatest songs. Though I wasn't much into him when I was younger, I have grown to appreciate the music of Neil Diamond. But I have a problem with the song "I Am, I Said." The song contains one of the best lines in popular music: "...LA's fine but it ain't home, New York's home but it ain't mine no more..." and one of the worst which comes in the chorus: "...I am I said, to no one there, and no one heard, not even the chair..."

What Diamond suggests here is that inanimate objects around the house, our dressers, desks, stoves and, of course chairs are not only aware of our presence but are listening when we start talking to ourselves and that they have the capacity to tune us out if we become boring or absorbed in self-pity.

But as with the previous example, I still like the song.

Now if you wasted your time reading this, I hope it does not put you in the trap that I am in and apologize if it has. Forget it and enjoy the music. There are too many great songs. And except for the classroom and other forms of institutionalized learning, we must remain free to appreciate, feel and fall in love letting the music take us there.


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