Sunday, April 17, 2005

Backs and writhe

It's a sad, sad day in Good Reverend land. I just found out that one of my favorite song lyrics of all time never really existed.

But first:

One of the greatest parts of rock 'n roll is the random lyrical shout. Completely separate from the normal chorus or verse, the shout can come at any point at the song and is usually the singer's way of asserting some aside, such as a command for the audience to do a certain dance, or a rant on some recurring musical theme, or an expression of emotion as a result of the song. Think Paul McCartney's "Judyjudyjudyjudy" in the "Hey Jude" na-nas, or James Brown's "Hep me!," or Michael Jackson's "shamone."

Of this great tradition there are a few that stand out for their creativity and bizarreness. One of my favorites is in the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion": "Great GoogaMooga, can't you hear me talkin' to ya?" I don't know what GoogaMooga is, and I don't care, but if you do, there's this. The brilliance of the line is in its rhythm and its impassioned petition--the whole song is a plea for understanding and compassion, but this takes the begging up a notch.

Another of my favorites is in Beck's "Loser": "Get crazy with the Cheese Wiz." Beck's lyrics are often surreal, but this command takes the cake. It's reminiscent of the kinds of shouts early rockers would say to get the joint to dance a certain way--"Watussi! Now slide!" But as far as I know, getting crazy with Cheese Wiz isn't a formalized dance technique. It is, however, something I want to ask the guys down at Jim's or Geno's to do next time I order a Philly cheesesteak.

The reason I say today is a sad day is because I learned that one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of these shouts was really just a figment of my imagination. In Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls," toward the end when Freddie Mercury is in the groove, he shouts, "Get on your backs and writhe!" This is just sheer ecstacy--another dance command, this one calling for complete hedonistic reckless abandon. Imagine my dismay when I learned that the words are actually "Get on your bikes and ride." What the hell? Not. as. cool.

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