Beware of catty song lyrics. They bite!

Our latest column from William Thomas

Whereas pop star Meghan Trainor is “all about da base, bout the base, no treble,” when it comes to listening to music, I’m all about the lyrics.

Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time could well be a scene set in a rundown Italian bistro in a Federico Fellini movie. “All the women tear their blouses off. And the men they dance on the polka-dots. And it’s partner found, it’s partner lost. And it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops. It’s closing time.”

Paul Quarrington, pushing through life during its most difficult times: “Driving hard, like lake effect snow.”

I believe my respect for words in music harks back to Harry Chapin, not so much a writer of songs, but a painter of pictures that moved across the screen of your brain like mini-movies of the mind.

Harry Chapin’s Better Place To Be is more than a song and more than a poem. “The waitress took her bar rag. And wiped it across her eyes. She said, I wished that I was beautiful. Or that you were halfway blind. And I wished I weren’t so doggone fat. I wish that you were mine.” It’s a romantic tragedy that sets an indelible film scene in your head.

I can still see the tandem truck that Harry wrote about spinning out of control down the hill that leads to Scranton, Pennsylvania spilling 30,000 pounds of bananas along the way in which the driver’s life was lost. ‘Yes, we have no bananas, today,’ comes to mind.

But sometimes the messages sent by the words of songs are mixed at best and occasionally diabolic. I think the lyrics to John Lennon’s Imagine served as a love song to the planet, an eloquent survival guide for humanity, a Hail Mary pass for peace. Turns out he wrote it as his very own “Communist manifesto.” What the hell do I know?

My faith in good verse was shattered yet again when I’m driving along the windy road that hugs Lake Erie and this lovely song comes on the radio. Rude. Not a great title, but the guy’s got a beautiful, soft tortured voice and I like it immediately. That is until I listen to the lyrics. “Why you gotta be so rude? Don’t you know I’m human too? Why you gotta be so rude? I’m going to marry her anyway.” Not exactly off to a rollicking start with this young man’s future father-in-law after having just asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Dad’s response: “Tough luck, my friend, but no still means no.” Ouch!!

So I barely recover from that when Adele comes on the radio with her hit single Hello sung in a voice that sounds like God, Herself: “Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet. To go over everything. They say that time is supposed to heal ya. But I ain’t done much healing.”

Never mind that this phone call is coming from a woman still wounded by some heinous crime you committed, like forgetting about an anniversary … think about what she’s proposing here. Now that things have settled down and everybody has moved on, Adele wants to dig up the body and then do a postmortem examination. Oh yeah, let’s pick over the bones again; there’s sure to be some meaty blame left on them.

After a failed relationship that was all his fault, that’s exactly what guys want to do – go over everything and rehash all the gory details, like the plates you dodged on the way out the door and the slow drive down the street on four slashed tires. Yeah, let’s relive that final descent into hell and see if we can’t find something positive or even a lesson or two.

Oh and Adele – time does not heal ya. What heals ya is alcohol and a lookalike voodoo of your ‘ex’ that comes with dull needles.

Adele, if you had any clue as to how guys think (I know, I’m taking a big leap there on behalf of guys everywhere.) you would rewrite that opening stanza to read something like this: “Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet in a public place and have a great big nasty fight. Harsh words and personal accusations, profane language, awkward shoving and rude gestures made from the backseats of separate police cruisers. How’s Tuesday late afternoon after my Pilates class?”

Sorry and I hope that didn’t sound bitter.

For comments, ideas and copies of The Legend of Zippy Chippy, go to www.williamthomas.ca.

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