Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Give me a break, Jake

When you've just gotta complain to somebody, it's a great comfort to have your own blog and know that on any given day, over a hundred people are going to stop by and read what you've posted.*

I love alternative rock music and I love to sing, but the lyrics to my favorite tunes are often just plain stupid. So on Saturday when we had a crowd over for our Eighth Annual Fourth of July Chili Dog Festival and Fireworks Viewing (the fireworks are set off just a few blocks from our house), I was embarassed when my aunt came in from the patio to ask if she could help in the kitchen. It's not that I'm ashamed of my voice, you understand, it's just that my aunt caught me singing along with a Wallflowers CD.

Jakob Dylan is a wildly talented young man, but lyrics are not his forte. Surely with all of Daddy Bob's money the boy could have been sent to a school where he might have learned standard English and how to make at least a little bit of sense. No, I don't write poetry (except for this single lapse), but even I could do better than "Angel on my Bike," a catchy little number you want to sing but shouldn't because it's so doggone dumb. Here's part of it:

She knows just what I like,
the angel on my bike.
She found me down on a two ton anchor,
tangled up in wire.
She always gets it right,
the angel on my bike.
I could be killed if the train goes faster.
Well, angel, watch my life.

I can't handle a care.
I want, but I can't be there
while angel's a prayer.

Well. At least it's (marginally) better than "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." I know songs aren't always meant to tell stories; sometimes they're intended simply to convey a mood or express emotion. But even when that's the case, shouldn't they make some kind of sense? I'd just like to know why lyrics can't be more...well, lyrical. So people like me could sing the songs without feeling the need to apologize to their eyebrow-raising aunts.

My Number One Son, who is emphatically not into poetry, complained recently about having to read Alexander Pope for his British literature class. (Did he think "British literature" meant Harry Potter? Mom wonders.) The kid is a big Wallflowers fan and an even bigger Bob Dylan fan, so I'm thinking if somebody set old Mr. Pope's work to some nice accoustic guitar music, he'd really dig it.

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.

--Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (Part 2, 362-365)

Very well said. I'd be proud to sing that.

* On behalf of my husband, I'd like to thank all regular readers of this blog. You have helped save considerable wear and tear on his patience.


tristan coulter said...

it isn't Pope I disdain, it's poetry in general. I liked Pope a bit, I think. Wordsworth was OK, too.

And I like Jakob's lyrics. They get better. Listen to his stuff recorded after "Bringing Down the Horse"

Brenda Coulter said...

Wordsworth is way better than "okay". Surely I brought you up better than that.

Neal said...

Brenda, I'm on your side when it comes to liking music with rubbish lyrics. Sometimes, you've just got to do it.

But we're going to have to agree to disagree on Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Meaningless, maybe, but surely you can't think it isn't lyrical.

Mind you, Lennon/McCartney had their fair share of rubbish lyrics too. I offer as evidence "I Want You" from Abbey Road.

Anonymous said...

Hey I liked Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
I loved to sing a long with it when I was growing up ;-D

Brenda Coulter said...

Gee. And you both seemed like such fine, reasonable people....


Anonymous said...

but you still like us don't ya
Brenda ;-D

Candy said...

Naw, those lyrics aren't so bad. But then, if you don't listen to top 40 radio or contemporary country and instead use Pope and Wordsworth as your yardsticks for lyrical proficiency, then yeah, young Dylan is going to compare poorly.

In terms of poems having to make sense: I tend to enjoy poetry that leaves me with a lingering image, a sensation, rather than anything too concrete. Pope drove me nuts in college precisely because he was too structured, too mannered. Here's are a couple of stanzas from my favorite poet:

who sharpens every dull
here comes the only man
reminding with his bell
to disappear a sun

and out of houses pour
maids mothers widows wives
bringing this visitor
their very oldest lives

Brenda Coulter said...

Ahem. It's true that I don't listen to top 40 radio and I believe (cover your eyes, Janice) country music should be illegal. But you err when you suggest Pope and Wordsworth are my yardsticks for lyrical proficiency. Wordsworth is the master. I wouldn't dream of setting the "proficiency" bar that high.

But you have forced me to the humiliating confession that I was a little hard on Bob's blue-eyed son. (I don't suppose you've ever been carried away by a rant on your blog?)

As for your mystery poet, it looks as though he took typing lessons from Archy the cockroach, so my best guess is that you're in love with e.e. cummings. Do I win anything?

Anonymous said...

TO LATE! Brenda, i read what you said ! you wound me! I think I'll cry ;-(

but really Some OF TODAY'S Country Music is not TRue Counry music!!!!!!
you have a nice DAy ;-D

Candy said...

"But you have forced me to the humiliating confession that I was a little hard on Bob's blue-eyed son. (I don't suppose you've ever been carried away by a rant on your blog?)"

Hee! Just tweaking you a little, Brenda. From the way it sounded, it seemed as if you wouldn't be embarrassed to sing along to, say, these immortal lyrics, which DO make sense:

Oh my God, we're back again
Brothers, sisters, everybody sing
Gonna bring the flavor, show you how
Gotta question for you better answer now, yeah

Am I original?
Am I the only one?
Am I sexual?
Am I everything you need?
You better rock your body now

'Scuse me, I have to poke my eardrums out now since the song is on permanent repeat after seeing those words. GAH!

"As for your mystery poet, it looks as though he took typing lessons from Archy the cockroach, so my best guess is that you're in love with e.e. cummings. Do I win anything?"

Ha! Archy the cockroach? Dayum. Them's fightin' words, lady. I'll take Cummings over Pope OR Wordsworth any day, though Wordsworth isn't a insufferable to read as Pope. *starts screaming as flashbacks to 18th century lit classes overwhelm her*

The other poet I'm all fangirly over also had a tendency to write as if she was smoking some of the goooood stuff, i.e. Emily Dickinson. Her best poetry would stretch language, meaning and punctuation until they came thisclose to tearing apart.

Brenda Coulter said...

Those lyrics weren't familiar to me, so I Googled them.

The Backstreet Boys, Candy? You're quoting The Backstreet Boys on my blog?

My first impulse was to ban you from here forever, but anyone who loves Emily Dickenson can't be all bad. So I will forgive you and I will even apologize for disparaging the typing skills of your favorite poet. Truce?