Who Needs Lyrics?

July 9, 2004

(Quick computer update before I begin: The motherboard is toasted. I'll be upgrading to a cheap P4 or a P4-based Celeron and buying a DVD-ROM, possibly a writer if the price isn't too different. Since I'll be gone most of next week though, there's no time to ship it until I get back. I'm basically computerless until the 22nd. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.)

There are two types of singer in the world: Those that want you to hear what they're singing, and those who don't. The ones who don't are easy; you can just listen to the music while they shout whatever it is they're shouting into the mic.

The ones that do want you to hear them can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. Let's take Bruce Springsteen as an example. At least as often as not you can make out what he's saying. That's good, since he (or someone at his recording company) put some effort into the words. But sometimes he thinks he's Bob Dylan.

Since I'm picking on The Boss, I'll use one of his songs to prove my point. On Born in the USA (yes, I replaced the copy that got swiped) there's a song called "Downbound Train". For almost the entire song it's clear what Springsteen is saying (it's about the song's protagonist being dumped); it's not a happy song. Here's the last intelligible part of it:

The room was dark, our bed was empty
Then I heard that long whistle whine
And I dropped to my knees, hung my head and cried.

Unfortunately, that's not the end of it. There's one more verse and after repeated listenings this is what I pieced together:

Now I search head-bangers on railroad gangs,
Huntin' down that cross-eyed warden and a ram

These are obviously not the lyrics, simply because they don't make any fucking sense. I kept trying for a while, but once I had the incorrect words in my head it was nearly impossible to listen for the right ones. A look at the lyric sheet says what's he's really singing is:

Now I swing a sledgehammer on a railroad gang,
Putting down them cross-ties working in the rain.

Even considering that he's from New Jersey and thus speaks English as a second language (Joisey being the native tongue there) the only way he could possibly have mangled the words that badly is if he were drunk or stoned when he sang them. So maybe he does think he's Bob Dylan.

Now that I know what he was allegedly singing I can almost hear the "correct" words when I listen to the song now if I concentrate, even though I'm back to the head-bangers and cross-eyed warden if I don't pay attention. I've decided I like my lyrics better anyway.

July 8, 2004July 12, 2004