Did They Really Just Sing That?

Music is a touchstone for me. At work or when I’m at home surfing the web or reading, writing or crafting I always have something streaming in the background, from classic rock to jazz to movie scores depending on my mood (at the moment it’s the “Mad Men: Don Stares Into His Drink” playlist on Songza) and the CD player and the Aux jack in the car tend to get a good workout on my way to and from work.

I was recently listening to “The River Driver”, a classic Newfoundland ballad made popular by Great Big Sea and I noticed something strange.  For the most part, it’s a beautiful song and I love listening to it, but one stanza struck me as rather creepy.  The stanza in question talked about the singer building a “lonesome castle” somewhere where his lady-love could just sit and watch him as he went off to the river to drive logs.

That got me to thinking about lyrics, and I realised that some of the songs I like, or liked when I was younger, are downright creepy depending on how you look at them. I’m not going to quote lyrics in this post, as I cannot for the life of me figure out how the rules of fair use apply to song lyrics (and apparently no one else can either) but if you want to find them, you can use good ol’ Mr. Google to help you out.

Case in point for creepiness – Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”.  At the heart of it, the Boss is asking his lover, whom he addresses as “little girl”, if her daddy’s left her alone, and if he can please her like the singer can.  Given that these lyrics are about half the song, it ranks pretty high on the squick-scale.

The Boss doesn’t have the corner on the daddy-squick market, though.  George Michael’s “Father Figure” is pretty innocuous until you get to the chorus.  Up until then, it’s a pretty nice love ballad.  The chorus, however, has the singer wanting to be his love’s father-figure as well as his or her “preacher teacher”.

Then, of course, there’s everyone’s favourite stalker song – “Every Breath You Take”, by The Police.  I mean, seriously, take a look at the lyrics.  The whole song is about how no matter what the subject does, the singer will be watching them.  And at one point the singer even states that the subject “belongs” to them.

Speaking of stalker songs, what about “One Way or Another” by Blondie?  The singer goes on (and on and on) about how she’s going to “get” the subject, whom she hasn’t even met yet.  She’s going to follow the subject, find out where he or she lives, who they call, and who they hang out with.  No, that’s not creepy at all.  In fact, Deborah Harry has actually said that the song was inspired by her ex-boyfriend stalking her!

Of course, the reverse can be true too – look at the lyrics for “YMCA” by The Village People.  A song that many consider to either be a gay anthem or a piece of fluff to dance to at weddings, it’s actually a very uplifting song if you listen to the lyrics.  The singer sings about staying at the YMCA as a way to his life back on track, and offers advice to another young man going through the same thing.

And on that note, no pun intended, I think it’s time for me to go listen to something that will ease me into sleep – no creepy songs this time!



Indie Rock, Writing, and Blues – Oh My!

I had a busy day yesterday, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.  I headed off bright and early (well, early, at least…) to my monthly Writers’ Community of Durham Region breakfast meeting.  The WCDR is a 370+-strong writer’s organisation that I’ve been a member of, on and off, for years.  The speaker yesterday was David Bidini, who is a musician, writer, and hockey enthusiast.  David’s a member of the Canadian indie band, The Rheostatics, and On A Cold Road – his 1998 book about their cross-country trip opening for The Tragically Hip – won the 2006 F.G. Bressani award and was a finalist in this year’s Canada Reads competition.  His talk was great – funny, self-deprecating and studded with nuggets of wisdom.

The thing that stuck with me, and got me really thinking, was when David was talking about his writing process.  He said that, when he was writing surrounded by his band mates in their Delta 88 driving across Canada, he “was forced to write anytime, anywhere”.  That got me thinking  and I realised that I used to be a heck of a lot more productive with my writing when I stopped thinking of it as “I have to go up to my writing room, turn on my computer, and write”.  Back when I used to just hand-write on a pad of yellow foolscap (anyone remember that stuff?) I could crank out a lot more in half an hour than I ever do now.  Granted, most of it was crap, but at least it was crap that was on the page, not bottled up inside me.

I also realised something else.  I’ve been talking about writing this blog for months now, and had been agonising over my first post.  Last week I was stuck at the auto shop waiting for the brakes on my car to be fixed and instead of my netbook, I’d brought along a pad of paper and one of my favourite pens.  Well, I had that first post banged out in about forty-five minutes.  That was a real revelation to me and something I’m going to try in the next few weeks, doing first drafts on paper, not computer.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

(Right - Danny B, Left - Brian Gauci)

Energised and inspired, I headed to the other side of the city for a different type of inspiration.  Hubby and I met up with friends and had the pleasure of listening to the incomparable Danny B and Brian Gauci at the Fox and Fiddle in Etobicoke, where they’ll be playing for the next few weeks.  Danny’s a blues man I was introduced to several years back by dear friends of mine, and I love to listen to him sing.  He’s got that gravelly “blues voice” that sounds like he’s been gargling with rocks, and he never fails to bring me to tears with his version of Mr. Bojangles.  Brian, who accompanies Danny, is an amazing guitarist.  I have one of his CDs and I sometimes having it going in the background when I’m writing, especially when I’m toying around with my “hard-boiled PI” idea – it just strikes me as that kind of music.

While we were there, we ran into the lovely Tracy Shreve, who played Beverly Jackson on the Pax TV series Doc (yes, the one with Billy Ray Cyrus).  I love that series, and watching reruns recently on Vision TV has been my guilty escape from job hunting and other things I should be doing, so meeting her was a real pleasure.  She mentioned that she’s be doing some auditioning, so hopefully we’ll see her in something soon.