07 April 2007

i have the sneaking suspicion that as a lyricist, no one knows what the fuck im talking about. and this is because i, as a music listener, sometimes go YEARS without hearing the lyrics of a song.

today on a rainy bike path ride into albany, a mist of drizzle slowly but steadily covering my face with a fine film of running-to-the-altar-too-late rain, built to spill's "you were right" came on:

You were wrong when you said,
Everything's gonna be alright.
You were right when you said,
You can't always get what you want.
You were right when you said,
It's a hard rain's gonna fall.
You were right when you said,
We're still running against the wind,
And life goes on after the thrill of living is gone.
You were right when you said,
This is the end.

Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?

god i do! i do think about! but all of the sudden, all of the sudden. i had never really heard those "jack & diane" lyrics until this mornings ride made me discover them...because in hearing them in the built to spill song, i recognized them but couldnt place them, and so got to play the hilarious game of trying to remember one song while listening to another, all while still riding in this romantic rain. eventually, it snapped in, oh mr cougar of course, and then suddenly i really heard it>

life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.

thats beautiful!
and so sad!

and true, and wonderful, and clever, especially the wordplay of the two meanings of "to live".
and i have sung along to this song for years, it was a childhood favorite when it came out (with all the cool picture frames bubbling in and out in the video...and cougars freezeframed punch!) but i never thought about what he was saying..i just let the delight of the syllables alone fuel my love for the song.

and ive had this experience several times, the sudden revelation of whats actually being said. theres some people that this doesnt happen with...like dylan, im listening to dylans lyrics the first time through, cause ive just been conditioned to know that thats what to listen for. but then a hall & oates song comes on and for all i know im singing along to the words of mein kampf.

sometimes i get it...ive been an advocate of billy joel actually having some pretty amazing insights into human loneliness and insecurity for a long time ("the stranger", "shes always a woman", and especially "an innocent man"), once i got really mad at my dad because he asked me if i knew what the lyrics to "born in the usa" were about (this is when it came out, 1984). i was irritated by the question and in a smart ass mood (yeah, i was 8) so i said "life liberty and the american way"...to which he laughed and then with my sister started to make fun of me because of course the song is in many ways about the exact opposite, its a fucking cynical song. but i knew that! that was the thing, i had actually gotten that, even at 8, but was just being a smart ass. but my reputation as a close listener was smashed. oh well. dad, lara, i forgive you.

but then much of the rest of time, yeah.
and so when i write songs, why should i expect any more of my audience than i can actually give?
especially in a theatrical setting, where you get to hear it once, just once?
words are hard, hard to hear.
do you ever think about it? do you get it, do you get it?

oh, i gotta go dry my hair.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, but in a theatrical setting, it's a little like you & Dylan--audiences are conditioned to listen to the words there too, 'cause they know there might be important plot stuff hidden therein. So don't despair. I bet at least some people really hear.