Monday, June 3, 2013

Good songs Spoiled

Sometimes, an otherwise good song can be spoiled by an ugly bit of lyrics. here are a few examples.

1. That's The Way The World Goes Round - John Prine

Mostly, this is a pleasant song about how "you're up one day, the next you're down." However, the first verse is about a guy who's "a pretty nice fella but kinda confused" which sounds okay until this part:

He starts in drinkin', gets a big red nose
Beats his old lady with a rubber hose



Holy shit! Where the hell did that come from?
And you know, it would be one thing if this guy was the villain of the story, but Prine has already established that he's a "pretty nice fella," which he definitely is not if he's beating his old lady with a rubber hose. And the next line is

then he takes her out to dinner and buys her new clothes.
That's the way that the world goes 'round.

Like that's just one of those things that happens! You know, on the one hand, he's violently beating this woman, but hey, on the other hand, he's taking her out to dinner and buying her clothes, so I guess it all evens out!

2. Jack Straw - The Grateful Dead

Like most songs with lyrics by Robert Hunter, I have no fucking idea what this song is about. Except that it concerns a man named Jack Straw from Wichita. But it's mostly a perfectly fine song, although there are a lot of crimes committed within it. But for some reason, the song both opens and closes with the line:

We can share the women, we can share the wine.

What does it even have to do with the rest of the song? Hell if I know. But it seems like you could have come up with some line that doesn't involve passing women around like some sort of commodity, like bottles of wine.

3.  Getting Better - The Beatles

As the title implies, this is a song about things getting a bit better all the time. And most of the lyrics are about little innocuous things like:
I used to get mad at my school
The teachers who taught me weren't cool

But basically, he's getting over his anger issues, and everything's getting better, and Isn't that nice? Except:

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved

No. You don't get to just drop that in there in verse 3 like it was just another foible. Oh, I was really frustrated in school, oh, yeah, and I committed a bunch of domestic abuse, but hey things are much better now!
Seriously, look how frivolously the entire domestic violence issue is tossed aside:

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved
Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene
And I'm doing the best that I can (Ooh)

 I admit it's getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can't get more worse)

4. Slip It In - Black Flag

Musically, this is a great song. This is Black Flag at the height of their powers, a perfect demonstration of the raw power of LA hardcore.
Unfortunately, the entirety of the lyrics is a combination of slut-shaming and date-rape apologia.

For instance, here's the chorus:

You say you don't want it
You don't want it
Say you don't want it
Then you slip it on in
So, saying you don't want it is just a type of foreplay?  Or a pretense to be ignored?  The girl repeatedly says that she doesn't "want it," but don't worry, she'll give in eventually. And you wanna know why? 'Cuz she's loose! Seriously, in 1984, Henry Rollins was using the perjorative "loose!" (I don't know why I had the impression Henry Rollins was kind of an enlightened, progressive guy.)
Check this shit out:

You're loose
Put your brain in a noose
The next day you regret it
But, you're still loose
And the song climaxes with the denunciation
You're not loose, you're wide open!

I'm running out of Jon Stewart GIF's.

5. Only The Good Die Young - Billy Joel

I feel strange including a Billy Joel song on a list of "good songs," as I usually find his stuff to be, as the French say, "shitty." But this is the one song of his I can stand, it's got a great beat and you can dance to it, Dick. And the lyrics are even pretty sharp and clever. Unfortunately, the entire song is Billy mocking his girlfriend's deeply-held religious beliefs in order to pressure her into having sex with him.

Come out come out come out Virgina don't let me wait,
You Catholic girls start much too late
Sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one.

Really? You might as well? What girl could resist that kind of smooth talk?

Obviously, this isn't as offensive as some of the other songs, but I still feel like I should be offended.