Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Time and a Word

‘But you can’t hear the words!’

How many times did I hear that from my parents when I was about 9 years old or thereabouts? This was the finger-in-the-dyke cry from a generation who were desperately trying to hold back the tide that was the newly imported popular music, but it cut no ice with the young me.

I had no difficulty whatsoever in hearing the words and just to prove it, I would fill exercise books with lyrics from pop songs of the day so that I could sing along with them when they came on the radio (or wireless as my dad would have it). It must be the sponge-like mind of a child that is ever receptive to all kinds of junk that allowed me to do this and much of it I can still recall today. Whether I can hear and recall any of today’s lyrics are moot points and the jury’s still out.

I was reminded of all this recently when my 8 year-old daughter sang the whole of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ on a car journey. Not only was it just about word perfect (as far as I could tell), she knew every verse. But where did she learn it all? It’s not a song I tend to play at home and we don’t generally have the radio on in our house, so where did all this knowledge come from? It’s frightening to think that she has pieced this together from bits and pieces heard at school, in shopping malls and other public places. What else has she been absorbing?

However, on closer scrutiny, it is clear that what she is regurgitating is a sort of verbal facsimile. There are parts where it becomes apparent that she doesn’t really know what the words are but just makes the sound of what she thinks she is hearing – leading to some amusing misheard lyrics. It also means that she doesn’t really understand what she is singing about half the time, which is of some comfort given the content of some rapping material available to minors. But is does show that perhaps we worry too much about what children are exposed to. Real understanding only comes with education and experience.

In the meantime, I will continue to be amused by some of her facsimiles. After all, as I was reminded by my American friend, Byron Wilkins (see TR-1 Guy link), Creedence Clearwater Revival claimed in 1969, ‘There’s a bathroom on the right’!


TR1-Guy said...

Hey Martin!

Here's one from me that involves a Canadian group... how international of me!

BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive for the younger set) did a song called "Rock Is My Life & This Is My Song" and in the lyrics is this little gem:

"You're only as good as your last record..."

Which my best friend and I swore was:
"You're only as good as your last breakfast..."

Now, in writing the words look worlds apart, but if you go to iTunes and look up the song, Randy Bachman DOES sound like he's saying breakfast... well, at least to me!

Not a famous one, but sure made us laugh when we found the music book later and saw the real words!

Oh, and it appears we Americans aren't entirely stupid and have a new administration coming who's ALREADY making changes and he's not sworn in yet. Here's hoping we all get better!


musicobsessive said...

Hey Byron! I love it. As you can see from my sidebar, my favourite Queen misheard lyric is:
'Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard...'

Hope the new administration will be doing something about mumbled lyrics...:)