This contest’s not so stupid after all

February is the worst month. Let’s just all agree on that. And don’t give me any of your “Valentine’s Day” claptrap, although I will grant you that February is a good month to practice your old-man words like “claptrap” and “hogwash” and “lollygagging.”

So before we all start acting like a bunch of fist-shaking, ornery coots, how about a CONTEST? (Ooo, shiny!) A giveaway book contest, and not just one of my own lame books in some lame attempt at self-promotion. That would be lame. A real book! Let’s dance!

White_ninja_dance

Here we go:

Like old boyfriends and girlfriends, everybody has songs in their lives that they’re ashamed to admit they once loved. You played them over and over again — the songs, that is, not Ol’ Plankhead, although maybe — and you thought they were profound and beautiful, only to realize later on just how stupid they actually were. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve forgotten which one we’re talking about.) Fortunately, most of us don’t marry our old songs. The same can’t be said for old boyfriends and girlfriends, but let’s move on…

Here’s an example: When I was young, it seemed that “The Logical Song” was so wonderful. (See what I did there?) It was so deep with its message of imposed conformity. Now I realize it was broad, oversimplified and rather childish. But a conformist would say that.

On the other hand, there are songs that you may have dismissed at the time but have come to realize have meaning beyond superficial impressions.

For instance, when I was in high school, my gang of friends thought “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” by The Police was silly nonsense. That’s because we didn’t listen to the words about the futility of communication. All we knew was that it was certainly no “Jack and Diane.”

At college, no party was complete without Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.” Our failure to realize the irony of this song as we got drunk and punched holes in dorm room ceilings was as pathetic as our attempts to impress girls with bloodied knuckles and beer retention.

So, here’s the CONTEST! (So pretty! Can I touch it?) Tell me about a song whose meaning/importance/profundity/humour was completely lost on you at first. Include a link to a video or audio in the comment if humanly possibly (or if you’re a dog, if caninely possible).

I’ll pick a winner at random because life is random, ne c’est pas? The winner will receive a coveted copy of The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, which includes a selection by me me me. I’m in there. Me. (Lame.)

bestoftendency_cover_FINAL_PR

Contest ends when I feel like it.

So, tell me, kids, do you like the rock and the roll?

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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64 Responses to This contest’s not so stupid after all

  1. It took me ten years to understand that the lyrics of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” were not actually ironic. Which, I guess, is the irony. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8v9yUVgrmPY&feature=kp

  2. I do like the Rock and/or Roll…

    Phew – I thought we’d have to admit to a song that were are now embarrassed to have ever listened to (like Come On Eileen…shudder)…

    When I first heard Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’ it completely passed me by that this song had a significance to my life – it wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I realized how profoundly spot-on this song was…

    And then the one day you find
    Ten years have got behind you
    No one told you when to run
    You missed the starting gun

    that is the story of my life – I’ve always been waiting for someone to tell me that I was an adult and get things started.

    And there you have it ~

  3. Nic says:

    I was OBSESSED with the one-hit wonder “Freak Like Me” by Adina Howard when I was about 7 years old. Needless to say, at the time I had no idea what it was about. I thought it was maybe about embracing one’s weirdness, and had no idea that the message was actually something more like, “Let’s have raunchy sex in ‘da hood!” Ah, youth. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iirDzMk5ysI

  4. Lynn says:

    So many fabulous songs from the 70’s to chose from! I still have no idea what the lyrics to this song are really about! All I know is that, to this day, when it comes on, I feel the need to get up & dance around shouting ba de ah!!! Thanks for this, made my day:)

  5. List of X says:

    I don’t know if this qualifies as a contest entry, but for years, l’ve listened to EVERY song in English with only a vaguest idea of what the song was about. Only when I learned English enough I found out that some of my favorite Beatles songs don’t really have much meaning in then.
    But I haven’t learned French, so I still don’t know what most of Joe Dassin’s songs are about (I assume that as a Quebecois you’d know the name).

  6. I’m going to go with Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin).” I just didn’t get it, back in the day. Now the words “Stiff all in the collar/Fluffy in the face” are loaded with meaning.

  7. Ned's Blog says:

    When I first heard “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day I thought to myself, “That explains why I don’t have a girlfriend!” So I bought the 45. In retrospect, THAT was the actual reason I didn’t have a girlfriend until was 20, when cassettes became hip and I could no longer drag out “Undercover Angel” from my 45s and scare off another potential love interest. Yet, in another twist of fate when I turned 40 (no, that’s not the twist), I met my wife and really DID see the “…Angel in her sweet lovin’ eyes.” Which proves what I knew all along: Even dorks get lucky.

    Here’s the link…

  8. Lily says:

    Ehm this contest idea involving music is vaguely familiar…
    I think one of the worst songs that I held near and dear to my heart was Come on Eileen. Like, I even had that song on my wedding list. I don’t know why I love it because it’s really awful, but I can’t help it.

    So many overalls, not enough shirts.
    Also, I like all of the songs that you mentioned!

  9. denmother says:

    I never fully appreciated Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator” until I actually started working in an office and had to send and receive faxes:
    “I kinda hope we get stuck
    Nobody gets out alive
    She said ‘I’ll show you how to fax
    In the mailroom, honey
    And have you home by five'”
    Anyone who can get Steven Tyler interested in faxing, and faxing so well that he can keep to office hours, now that’s powerful stuff.
    And hey, no knocking February, Ross. It’s love month at the Cougar Den. Drop by on Feb. 14 to like-in with the rest of the blogging world! Faxes optional.

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  11. pinklightsabre says:

    I didn’t see any rules about multiple entries, so I’m going to vote many times, which is customary in the states. These entries align with the profundity category:

    1. Jane’s Addiction – Then She Did…

    This was kind of the Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti for me, when it came out. Like, you could tell they were at their prime, but the sun was going down. I can’t think of many other bands that were so good and then got so bad, so fast. I played this to death in the early 90s then freaked out last year when I read on Wiki that the song is about the singer’s mom who committed suicide when he was 4. There, that’s my first entry.

    2. The Smiths – Suffer Little Children

    I listened to this tape over and over in 1988 in a basement apartment in Erie, Pennsylvania. No Internet, no liner notes, just a blank tape. Last year, I learned it’s based on the Moors murders — ghastly slayings in the UK that affected Morrissey and Marr, and moved them to actually name their band after the people responsible for naming the killers in the slayings (“the Smiths”), leading to their convictions. And interesting story, about how one of the victim’s relatives first heard the song in a pub and then went after Morrissey, accusing him of commercialising the tragedy, forcing Morrissey to reconcile it with the guy, and so on.

    3. Elton John – Someone Saved My Life Tonight

    OK, so I was exposed to EJ in the 70s as a kid and didn’t get all the nuance (as if there is…) I learned a few weeks ago from my mom that this song is about him allegedly being in a relationship with a woman that wasn’t going to work out for obvious reasons, and so I think that Someone who saved his life was probably a guy. Happy ending, xxoo.

    4. Brian Eno – King’s Lead Hat

    Speaking of dude-love, I think there was this thing going on with Eno and David Byrne. I say that from an artistic POV. I learned the name of this song is actually an anagram for Talking Heads, if you move the letters around, like the end of the film Rosemary’s Baby. And the song certainly sounds like Eno aping Byrne.

    5. REM – It’s The End of the World As We Know It

    Funny, at the frat parties in college we had no idea this song was about the passageway between being small and getting big – and being OK with that.

    I’ve spent too much time on this and my kids are bored. Now that I’m taking a break from blogging I’m going to hole up in your comment boxes like a worm and siphon attention away from you, if I can. And it’s funny you should say that about the Supertramp song because I actually connected with that in a new and real way last year when I started thinking about getting assimilated by corporate life, and isn’t it funny that when we’re young the questions run so deep.

  12. ksbeth says:

    afternoon delight. yeah, that’s right.

  13. Starship’s We Built This City. I heard “on rock and roll” as “on Rock End Road” and thought they were just saying the name of the main street in town. WILD & SEXY songwriting right there! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1b8AhIsSYQ

  14. Unfortunately, I grew up country when country wasn’t cool. (See what I did there?) As a kid, I absolutely loved the song “Jose Cuervo.” I thought Jose really was the singer’s friend. I thought she was drinking with him. I’m pretty sure I sang along with this song quite heartily. Tequila? What’s that? I led a sheltered life. Heck, I STILL lead a sheltered life.

  15. monicahlv says:

    I seemed to have had a thing for prostitute songs when I was younger. I guess I was just a little precocious. The two that stick out for me are “Lady Marmalade” by Labelle (the original from 1974 when I was 10). Even though we were studying French in grade school, I had no idea what “voulez vous coucher avec moi” meant because we mostly learned things like ‘where is the library?–où est la bibliothèque?’ or ‘who is it?–qui est-ce?’ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF2otwl4ros] and “I’ve never been to me” by Charlene ( it had to be the original from 1976 because I remember hating it when it was re-released in 1982) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZgIk2b68gQ]

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Wait, the Charlene song is about a prostitute? I just thought it was about a woman who made bad choices. Well, I guess prostitution is a bad choice, but still!

      • monicahlv says:

        Well maybe not exactly a prostitute but certainly a “kept woman” if you know what I mean. I am sure she was getting paid if she “moved like Harlow through Monte Carlo” and “sipped Champagne on a yacht” and was “undressed by kings.”

  16. I was JUST thinking about how horrible February is when I read this. It’s kismet!

    You were published in McSweeney’s!??! That’s fantastic! Congrats and respect. I’ve been a McSweeney’s supporter since issue #3. Each and every issue a beautiful design. It’s gotten kind of thick, though. I struggle to find time to read the whole of every issue.

    Gosh, it’s so hard to pick what to mention. There’s so much to be ashamed of. Shame is an important part of who I am. Here’s a pick WAY out in left field.

    My favorite Christmas song growing up was I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Love it. Made me all warm and glowy inside. Later in life, I came to realize that he ain’t going home AT ALL. It’s only in his dreams. The whole thing is a case of wish fulfillment. That’s not a happy song. It’s full of longing and loss. Merry Christmas, indeed.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Holy shit. I never thought of it that way. You’re right! “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” also quite Eeyor.

      Don’t get too excited: McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, not the magazine. Hanging out with Eggers and all that.

      Have you read A Hologram for the King? I think you’re my age, so I suspect you would like it.

      • I haven’t read Hologram… but will consider it on your recommendation. I have a complicated relationship with Eggers. He’s certainly a brilliant writer but his goody-two-shoes, smarty-pants, hipster persona started to grate against my nerve endings so I kind of bailed out on his work.

        • rossmurray1 says:

          I don’t know much about Eggers, really, other than what he produces and promotes. If his persona/brand has managed to successfully promote lesser known writers/artists, I’m for that.
          Hologram is not at all pretentious, by the way. It’s a spare, quick read, but I found it quite moving in a sad-middle-aged-guy way.

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  18. cat9984 says:

    When I heard “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, I thought it was about a stalker boyfriend. Apparently, it is about the American government snooping on its citizens. Imagine that.

  19. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    In the beginning, when I’d hear Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”, I’d feel like getting up and doing a little happy dance. I love the tune. And then, one day at work, with my earphones on, I heard the lyrics. Still love the song, but it is disturbing as heck.

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