April 03, 2012

Splain These Lyrics Willya?

I've written before about what Motown meant to me in high school. Saved my life, at one critical point really. And helped get me get my act back together after a rough patch. And I love it still. But that doesn't stop the occasional enigmas. Like for example on a couple tunes it's like I'm hearing the lyrics for the first time. And it's the same with this group, the Stylistics. It's a catchy hook and kind of urban so if you just go with it it has a definite groove going on.

But the other day I downloaded it to my iPod and listened... I mean really listened to it. And, like a couple others I'm hearing for the "first time," I'm not getting it at all.

It starts out with this safe kind of Bert Bacharat (or however you spell him) / Dionne Warwick vibe. Sort of people in their older twenties, 1960-ish, sophisticated whatever the hell. It like steals a whole riff from one or the other of their songs. Then the words get... odd.

Here's what I mean, plus my notes...

Trashmen didn't get my trash today
Oh, why? Because they want more pay
<---ok not so bad, urban stuff
Buses on strike want a raise in fare
So they can help pollute the air
<---um, mass transit reduces smog

But that's what makes the world go 'round <--- Just the bad stuff?
The up and down's a carousel
Changing people's heads around
Go underground, young man
<--- wait... WHAT??
People make the world go 'round <--- is that good or bad??

Wall Street losin' dough on ev'ry share
They're blaming it on longer hair
<--- it's true. you had to be there
Big men smokin' in their easy chairs
On a fat cigar without a care
<--- not if shares are going down. Um...

But that's what makes the world go 'round
The up and down's a carousel
<-- but where's the UP?
Changing people's heads around
Go underground, young man
<--- Yeah but... wtf??
People make the world go 'round

See what I mean. Something isn't jiving. You have this cool, pleasant, slick thing going on but the words are basically, you know, "go underground and fight the powers that be because, you know, the people that make the world go 'round are bad and smoke cigars. Or something."

I'm lost. I mean I like this a lot (and Spike Lee used it beautifully as the opening for the movie "Crooklyn" too!), but I'm scratching my head.

Listen for yourself...

4 comments:

sybil law said...

Man, I love The Stylistics. Sometimes, though, it's better not to pay attention to the lyrics and just enjoy the song/ melody.
:)

B.E. Earl said...

Well, with the buses on strike an all, you had to go underground to catch a subway train. Um, right?

Brian said...

Whatever you do, don't start listening to the Wu-Tang Clan.

SK Waller said...

You're right. I never really listened to the lyrics before. WTF!?