Thursday, July 15, 2004
Pop lyrics written by space aliens
Veteran readers of this blog, from way back when it began in 1983, will know that I haven’t yet taken any of those “Which Paradise Lost Character Are You?” quizzes or surveys that ask one to express one’s preferences for Thomas Mann or James Joyce, boiling oil or the cat o’ nine tails, that sort of thing. But maybe it’s finally time for a little fun around here.
I’m asking readers to submit examples of pop lyrics so strange, so opaque, that they could not possibly have been written by members of our species. By my reckoning, fully one-quarter of the BeeGees’ oeuvre is eligible, which is no surprise, because everyone knows that the brothers Gibb are originally from the planet Zantok 6. Hence their famous line, “we can try to understand the New York Times’ effect on Man” from the quasi-autobiographical “Stayin’ Alive,” which many listeners have interpreted as a wry commentary on the Gibbs’ struggles to cope with the hostile gravity and atmosphere of Earth. And then, of course, as Janet has often pointed out, there’s the all-too-obvious
I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said
‘Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, If I’d only seen that the joke was on me.
But to start things off, I’m going to suggest the first verse and chorus of America’s “Tin Man”:
Sometimes late when things are real
And people share the gift of gab between themselves
Some are quick to take the bait
And catch the perfect prize that waits among the shelves
But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didn’t, didn’t already have
And Cause never was the reason for the evening
Or the tropic of Sir Galahad.
OK, so these are the rules: the lyrics have to be written by actual or suspected space aliens. They can’t be about space aliens, so all those early Bowie songs don’t count. They can’t be merely stupid, like “mountains come out of the sky and they stand there,” because if we opened the field to stupid lyrics we’d be dealing with 80 to 90 percent of all songs ever written. And they can’t simply make no sense, like Aretha’s immortal, “let’s go back, let’s go back, let’s go way on way back when/ I didn’t even know you, you couldn’ta been too much more than ten (just a child),” which, after all, bears no discernable relation to whatever events have led her to demand that her addressee “think, think about what you’re tryin’ to do to me” (because, after all, she didn’t know him then, right?). The lyrics have to be so utterly bizarre that they elude (or exceed) human understanding altogether; they have to sound like real words in real phrases, but there must be something really wrong with them, something that gives them away as the product of advanced hominid life forms from other star systems.
Or from the tropic of Sir Galahad. Have fun--