Let’s stroll back to memory lane, where I like to head now and again. Recently I was in a dialog with a classmate (yes you Richard) and we talked about a song and I said we had no idea at the time what the lyrics meant. He couldn’t believe what the song was really about. Then I was listening to Norwegian Wood on the radio and really hearing the lyrics which I tend to do so much more now that I am a writer.
Norwegian Wood is basically about a guy who tries to bed a woman he just met, and he gets dissed so he gets upset and becomes an arsonist. As I was a ten year old singing that song over and over again, I had no clue what the story was about. As an adult I can relate as I similarly dissed a famous ballplayer (MVP!!) back in my Phillies Girl days in the 80’s and he was NONE too happy about it – retaliating against me. He didn’t torch my room though. (I can link you this experience in a blog or any of my other blogs mentioned if anyone requests)
Hearing the real meaning behind the song had me thinking how naive I was as a young girl who loved to sing along to pop music of the day. (I also have another blog about how we constantly sung the wrong lyrics, blissfully unaware because there was no internet with lyrics available and there were seldom liner notes with them. My daughter cannot relate at all being from this era and thinks this is hilarious, but they have written whole books on mis-sung lyrics)
Though when rap came out with graphic sexual lyrics I used to tell my son we had songs called “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Put your Head on my Shoulder,” to show him my outrage at the rap lyrics, songwriters of my era were kind of sneaky about sexual and drug laced innuendo.
Take my beloved Monkees for example. As they began to write their own lyrics, we had Randy Scouse Git (which was banned as a title in England because it means sex) where one of the lines was about talcum powder on a letter – a reference to cocaine, which I knew nothing about at 10 years old. Who would have thought?
As I belted out Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, also as a 10 year old, I had no idea it was all about LSD. Yet now when I hear it, OF COURSE it is.
One of the more fun Beatles songs, “Obla Di Obla Da” is about cross-dressing or trangendering, something I would not have fathomed at the time.
I remember belting out Honky Tonk women, having no idea it was about prostitutes and using cocaine. When I sang, “She blew my nose and then she blew my mind,” I thought it had to do with a cold and some tissue sharing.
Similarly “Mother’s Little Helper” was not about Valium to me, it was about having a cleaning lady, as we did. In fact the Rolling Stones took the prize for risque lyrics that I didn’t know I was singing.
“She’s Come Undone” by the Guess Who was sung cheerfully even though it was about a girl lost in drugs (a bad LSD trip like those scary movies they showed us in Health class to deter us?) I think I thought it was about a bad hair day or something.
Truth is, I didn’t pay attention to the meaning of the lyrics, and wasn’t even close to getting any messages in songs, even though I loved to sing along. I wasn’t a wordsmith then, and wasn’t into writing either.
From my conversation with Richard and others, I know I wasn’t the only clueless little girl going around singing risque phrases at the top of my lungs.
What about you?