; Tangled Up In Blue: What's going on...what'd he say??

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What's going on...what'd he say??

I heard the long version of the Ray Charles epic 'What'd I Say' before I understood about sex. I WAS in bed at the time, but my bed partner was my green transistor radio ensconsed in a black leather case with perforations that allowed you to 'feel' the bass notes. I was nine years old. My parents hadn't had THE talk yet. When I heard the sighs and moans in the background of Ray's release, I just thought they were ecstatic utterances not unlike the pentecostal glossalalia I had heard about in sunday school. I thought these women really just LIKED Ray (After seeing the movie, I think most of these women not only liked Ray, but may have passed on his legacy genetically). A few years later, I UNDERSTOOD the moans and the double-entendres. When the song came on the radio anytime my parents were within the city limits, I was diving for the tuning knob or pre-set button in the car.

When Sgt Pepper came out, I taped it off the radio and listened to that tape so many times that my K-Mart mini-tape player gave up the ghost. Eventually, I purchased the album and wore the grooves out. About six months after Sgt. Pepper had been out and I could tell you not only every word but pretty much every freaking note on the thing, I realized that the letters 'LSD' were embedded in the title of 'Lucy in the Skies with Diamonds'. D'oh! Desperately wanting to be a little hipplet (I"m around 14 at the time), I was disgusted with myself that I had missed such an obvious clue to the inspiration of the song.

I vaguely knew that Norwegian wood was about marijuana, and that the Beatles had certainly smoked their share of chronic, but I didn't always connect the musical dots..

Later on when I was listening to whatever Billy Joel album contained Captain Jack for the 153rd time, I realized that there probably wasn't really anyone named Captain Jack but that B Joel was describing an activity not unknown to 99.9% of all teenage boys (and many older ones...).

Some songs don't take too long to decipher: Spill the Wine by Eric Burdon and War was so laden with drug imagery and references that I may have 'got it' by the third time I heard the song. Translating 'losing streak' in 'Satisfaction' to a girl having her period took a little longer, but 'Dead Flowers' was as a subtle as the proverbial brick when it came to heroin.

A more recent example comes from one of my favorite songs of the early 90s. The Liverpool group known as 'The Las' recorded only one CD and had one big hit ('There She Goes') and then pretty much disappeared. The song 'There she Goes' (I think this was namechecked in the one-hit wonder posts/comments), imo, is the nearly perfect power-pop jangly English rock song. The way the singer pronounces the syllable 'gain' with the long AAAAAAAA in the word 'again' (there she goes again) somehow just makes the song and evokes perfect memories of an earlier more-well-known band from Liverpool.

The song appears all over the movie "So I Married an Axe Murderer' and was covered by 6 Pence None the Richer who also charted with the song.

It's taken me 10 years, but the song really isn't about a girl. The song is really about the reason I suspect the band disappeared. Here are the lyrics...what do you think?

There she goes
There she goes again
Racing thru' my brain
And I just can't contain
This feelin' that remains
There she blows
There she blows again
Pulsing thru' my vein
And I just can't contain
This feelin' that remains
There she goes, there she goes again
She calls my name, pulls my train
No-one else could heal my pain
And I just can't contain
This feelin' that remains
There she goes
There she goes again
Chasing down my lane
And I just can't contain
This feelin' that remains

Any musical revelations after hearing a song a number of times and then realizing that what you thought you heard was really something else?


Blogger HUCK said...

My favorite use of drug inuendo is in the song 'Panama Red', by Peter Rowan.


Panama Red, Panama Red
He'll steal your woman, then he'll rob your head
Panama Red, Panama Red
On his white horse, Mescalito
He come breezin' through town
I'll bet your woman's up in bed with
Panama Red

The judge don't know when Red's in town
He keeps well hidden underground
But everybody's acting lazy
Falling out and hangin' 'round

My woman said, "Hey Pedro
you're actin' crazy like a clown"
Nobody feels like working
Panama Red is back in town


Everybody's looking out for him
'Cause they know Red's satisfies
Little girls love to listen to him
Sing and tell sweet lies

But when things get too confusing, honey
You're better off in bed
And I'll be searching all the joints in town for
Panama Red

1:48 PM  
Blogger Glen Dean said...

I know that song. Its on the Old and In the Way album. Great group that was, Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, John Kahn.

6:09 PM  
Blogger HUCK said...


I was listening to my "Breakdown" CD all weekend.

Honestly, I still haven't found another bluegrass group I like better, and that's saying something.

"Cause I loves me some bluegrass", he declares as he stares at the 'Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys' Hatch Show Print hanging above his desk.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Glen Dean said...

Do you like Leftover Salmon? Of course what they play is actually cajun slamgrass.

How about Del McCoury?

8:18 PM  
Blogger HUCK said...

Yep and Yep. Seen them both many times.

Plus, I love: Yonder Mountain String Band, Acoustic Syndicate, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Old Crow Medicine Show, Jimmy Martin, Alison Kraus and Union Station, Toni Trishka, Sam Bush, David "Dawg" Grisman, Flat and Scruggs, Dale Lawson and Quicksilver, and many many more...

I even own a banjo, of which I can pick a couple of tunes on, but that's about all I can do with it.

My parents came up from Birmingham this past weekend and I picked a little along to my Dad's guitar. That's why I broke out the 'Old & in the Way' disk. He's a big bluegrass fan, too. Hell, he raised me on the stuff.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

One of the most surprising drug songs comes from Sir Paul. "Got To Get You Into My Life" is a song Paul wrong about pot! I always thought it was this great love song for the Lovely Linda.

Paul was talking about that recently in reference to the Beatles songs people thought were about drugs. He was almost mad most were attributed to John Lennon. And the truth is, Paul had a cocaine addiction, but had the goody two shoes image. Paul and Linda were they real John and Yoko, but Paul was "the family man." Paul gave up pot three years ago, but smoked it for decades.
On the other side of that coin, Lennon always swore Lucy In TH eSky With Diamonds was not about drugs, but based on a drawing by his son Julian. Ringo has backed up John by saying he saw Julian's painting with that name. Now, he and Yoko were junkies for a while,but he was clean and sober (cept for a few mushrooms) when he died, and had just produced some of his finest work.
Okay...I just missed Paul in Atlanta last night...not happy about that.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

I'm so naive that I probably STILL don't catch them.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Raizor's Edge said...

I think The Royal Scam came out in 1976, and I bought it a year later. It took me until I was 26 to figure out that "Kid Charlemagne" was a drug dealer. (Is ten years an average timeframe for deciphering a Steely Dan song?)

I'll just drink my big black cow and get out of here. LOL

10:40 AM  
Blogger John H said...

i'm still working on most of the steely dan ouevre (orhoweverthehell you spell that word)...

1:51 PM  

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