Archive for August, 2010

Music for small ears

As I look through my posts so far on this website, I feel like I’ve written more about music than anything else.  If I had to guess, I’d say the second most common theme might be my kids.  Therefore, it was only a matter of time before I wrote a post about the music to which my kids are listening.  I think I can break it all down into three categories: Classic Kid Songs, Songs That Might Be Classics But I Didn’t Know, and Cool Kid Songs. 

When it comes to Classic Kid Songs, I find that I hear them a little differently than I did as a kid.  Much like with my Lyrical Breakdown posts, there are new meanings or angles in virtually all of them.  For example, I said to my lovely wife a couple of days ago, “Ya know, I’d be pretty pissed off if I were that doctor.”  “What doctor?” she asked (and rightfully so).  “The one who keeps telling that mom that the monkeys shouldn’t be allowed to jump on the bed anymore.  He needs to transfer that client to another physician because she clearly isn’t listening.  Oh look, another head wound from letting your monkeys do exactly what I told you not to let them do five f’n times already.”  She gave me a look that I’m pretty sure meant, “I love/am concerned that you think like that.” 

Along the same lines, I have no idea how someone plays Knick-Knack.  Maybe I missed that day at recess, but it seems to be a pretty versatile game.  It can apparently be played on a shoe, on a knee, with some sticks, etc.  Ok, buckle in for a second because I’m about to blow the door off this one – I just looked at the lyrics on Wikipedia, and I’m more disturbed than ever.  In the order of least-to-most problematic:

3.  There are 20 frickin’ verses to this song?  That was overly ambitious (as evidenced by the horrible rhymes of “thirteen” with “curtain” and “fourteen” with “autumn”).  Let’s try to forget those ever happened.

2. In verse number seven, the old man plays Knick-Knack “up in heaven” or “on the way to heaven,” depending on how you know it.  Either way, has the main character been dead the entire time a la “The Sixth Sense” and we never realized it?  Who’s this creepy kid playing games with a deceased old man for twenty verses?

1. Oh boy, the creepiness goes both ways it appears.  Looking at the lyrics, “This Old Man” should probably be called “This Pervy Ghost.”  I still don’t know what Knick-Knack is, but the old/dead man plays it on the narrator’s thumb (or tongue, as a scarier alternate lyric says), his shoe, and his knee to start the song.  The pedophile’s getting more daring going up to the knee, wouldn’t you say?  Well, in verse five, there’s an alternate lyric of playing this “game” on the speaker’s thigh.  And in verse nine, he’s on the kid’s spine.  I’m just glad that there are no numbers that rhyme with “uvula” or “anus,” because I’m pretty sure the old man would skip to those numbers as quickly as possible.

Crap, I had no intention of spending that long on one particular song.  To summarize, I don’t really get or like that song anymore.  But do you know who loves that song?  The dog.  That dog gets a bone every single verse (before the old man mysteriously “rolls” home – is he an obese pedophile ghost?).  Good dog, now go learn how to report your owner to the authorities. 

I’m going to stop here for now.  I went a little overboard, so I’ll save the second and third categories for a later date.   If I ruined “This Old Man” for you, I don’t apologize in the slightest.  But if I got it stuck in your head for the rest of the day, I do feel a little sorry about that.

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Unapparent apparel

Through my work, I was at a commercial shoot earlier today. That happens from time to time, and though there are some cooler aspects to it, it’s largely a shitload of sitting around and waiting. The crew will take 45 minutes to an hour to set up a shot, and then filming the shot itself will take a whopping five minutes. An hour later, and we’re doing the same thing for another shot that will eventually amount to 30 seconds of air time.

Well, today’s shoot started with something a little different. I was there, hanging out with some of the people involved and doing my thing, when one of the actors arrived. We were going over his various wardrobe choices and finally agreed that we needed something that wasn’t there. The nice woman in charge of that department said she’d run down the street to Target. Before she left, the actor asked, “Do you have shoes for me?” I guess we all had the same confused look on our faces, because he pointed down to his feet and said, “I only brought flip-flops.” Here’s the thing: his role in the spot involves him exercising. It’s his only role, really, and he knew this months ago. Still, the producer and wardrobe lady took it in stride and said, “We’ll get some for you. What size are you?” I was still a little concerned that he wouldn’t bring shoes (or socks for that matter) to the shoot, but my astonishment didn’t last too long…because I was re-astonished. “Oh, and can you get some underwear too?” “Excuse me?” one of them asked. “Yeah, I don’t wear underwear, so I didn’t bring any of those either,” he answered matter-of-factly.

After we mocked him for a while behind his back, I tried playing devil’s advocate: “Ok, maybe we’re being a little harsh here. Sure, it’s an exercise show and he’ll be on the floor wearing shorts, but maybe he expected underwear – and shoes of all sizes – to be supplied.” “Nope!” the wardrobe woman chimed in. “I emailed him last week and again yesterday with a list of everything to bring.” “And you wrote ‘shoes’ in there just to be safe?” I asked. “And underwear too,” she replied.

So there you have it – no excuses for the shoeless, sockless Commando. While that’s not the most interesting thing in the world, it certainly made me smile a few times during my multiple “sitting and waiting” sessions throughout the day.

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Lyrical Breakdown: The Beastie Boys

When “Licensed to Ill” by The Beastie Boys came out in November of 1986, it was revolutionary.  Rap music went from an all-black counter-culture movement depicting lives and scenarios unseen by the masses to a mainstream, popular, and fun type of music led by three New York Jewish kids who encouraged us to party.  (Partying is a God-given right, after all.)  I only remember three things about that next summer: One, I turned 10 years old.  Two, the Lakers won the championship and Pat Riley guaranteed that they’d do it again the following year (which they did – suck it, Celtics and Pistons).  Three, “Licensed to Ill” was on damn near non-stop during my days at Camp Skyview. 

Every single bus ride started with someone putting that cassette tape on.  Everyone sang/rapped along as each song seamlessly bled into the next one.  The only non-Beastie Boys time on the bus was in the brief seconds it took for someone to eject the tape and flip it over to start the next side.  As you can imagine, the songs are still near and dear to my heart.  When “She’s Crafty” (song #3) popped into my head last week, I realized that it would make a good candidate for a Lyrical Breakdown (if I ever sat down and spent the required time writing about it).  I looked up the lyrics on a few different sites, and while there are a few words that I would’ve put down differently, I’ll go with what seems to be the accepted text.  Take it away, MCA, Ad Rock, and Mike D:

Well this girl came up to me – she says she’s new in town
But the crew been said they seen her around
I thought they were right but I didn’t wanna know
The girlie was Def and she wanted to go

Please remember, I was 10 years old at the time.  That said, I wasn’t stupid.  I knew right off the bat that the girlie wasn’t “deaf,” which is a plus because that little misunderstanding would’ve changed the whole song for me.  Also, I knew from the way they said “she wanted to go-oh!” that it implied something of a sexual nature.  When the older, wiser P-Dawg looks at this intro through adult eyes, I have a question: Why didn’t he want to know that about her?  Here’s my reading of these four lines: A chick approached him with a variation of a pick-up line (very aggressive, no?).  His buddies have heard or seen slutty things about her and slyly mention this.  He hopes that they’re wrong because he’s not into the trampy types, but he gets the feeling that she came up to him for one reason and one reason only: to bone down.

I think her name is Lucy but they all call her Loose
I think I thought I seen her on eighth and forty-deuce
The next thing she said, “My place or yours?
Let’s kick some bass behind closed doors!”

Well, here’s the first case of me missing something due to my small number of years at the time.  10 year-old P-Dawg thought, “Yeah, I guess Luce is a nickname of Lucy.  Maybe they just needed a rhyme for ‘deuce.'”  Didn’t occur to me that it was the other spelling and a telling nickname for this whorish young lady.  I did, however, understand that “kicking some bass” was a euphemism for sex.  I was very advanced for my age. 

We got into the cab – the cab driver said
He recognized my girlie from the back of her head
He said a little something about tip to base
So I made him stop the cab to get out of the place
I shouldn’t have looked back man I’ll always regret it
Something’s going on and I’ll probably never get it
She was crying like a baby – stupid dumb
It’s just too bad that girl’s a bum

(chorus) She’s crafty – she’s gets around
She’s crafty – she’s always down
She’s crafty – she’s got a gripe
She’s crafty – and she’s just my type
She’s crafty

Ok, here is the reason behind this whole post: the cab driver scene.  As a 10 year-old and all the way up until my favorite brother and I had a discussion recently, I never really thought about what any of those words meant.  Why would he recognize her from the back of her head?  Maybe he sat behind her in class or something.  Now, not only do I get the sexual meaning behind that, but it makes me wonder how the cabbie would even see the back of his passenger’s head.  I guess he recognized the front of her too but felt like stating his past with her in a more poetic fashion.  But oh, that next line isn’t nearly as poetic.  My bro (and probably the rest of my friends) never really thought about what “tip to base” could be in reference to.  I mean, he’s a cab driver, and there’s a base fee and a tip on top of that, right?  But what has else has a tip and a base and could upset someone by talking about spanning that distance while looking at the back of his ladyfriend’s head?  Hmmm.  I asked my Bratty Kid Sister if she’d ever thought about it, and she said that the dirty way made “more disgusting sense” and was probably the true meaning.  Flash back to the busload of happy 8-14 year-olds loudly singing along with those lines and tell me you don’t feel just a teensy bit uncomfortable.

Along similar lines, I remember thinking “She’s always down” in the chorus was about her being sad.  Now, it’s probably more along the lines of, “She’s ready for the hippity dippity if you are, homes.”  But there’s something else new here for me: “She’s just my type.”  So he’s drawn to this kind of young lady, even though it leads to him ultimately being unhappy.  It’s self-aware to be sure, but also self-destructive and his crew needs to step in earlier to stop the cycle from repeating itself instead of just coyly mentioning the girlie’s whorish tendencies.  Ready for the next verse?  Of course you are.

I spent my last dollar to by a Sabrett
When I seen this girl I could never forget
Now I like nothing better than a pretty girl smile
And I haven’t seen a smile that pretty in a while
The girl came up to me she said she loved the show
Asked her to come home and she couldn’t say no

As young P-Dawg, I eventually realized that he wasn’t saying a slurred version of “cigarette.”  I never took the next logical step to ask what a Sabrett was, and I eventually settled on thinking that it was some kind of a hat.  Nope, it’s a hot dog – I was way off.  Back to the story though: is this a new girl who came up to him after the show?  It sure sounds like it, though the “the” in front of “girl” is confusing.  If it were “a” or “this” or even “some,” it would be clearer.  Here’s the main distinction though: he asks her to come home instead of the other way around.  The first chick was the aggressor, but now he’s the one wanting to kick some bass.  But wait – is this one still his type then?  As a kid, it never occurred to me that this could be a different woman, but that’s where adult me is leaning.  After all, the last time we saw the first girl, she was crying and a bum, so would he really be asking her back to his place just because she said she liked the show they just put on?  I say no.

We got to the crib – there’s Adam and D.
“We didn’t say a word!” – they just stared at me
I said, “I don’t know her, I just met her tonight.”
And Adrock started hiding everything in sight
D pulled me over said, “Hide your gold,
The girl is crafty like ice is cold!”

Yep, it’s gotta be a different girl.  With the first one, they’d seen her around before and knew of her slutty tendencies (slutendencies?).  With this one, it seems like they’re just afraid to have a stranger over there and sense some ulterior and nefarious motives.  (Ulfarious?)  The final line in this section is great for two reasons. First, it taught my generation that analogies can be fun.  Second, a kid named Chris who lived down the street from us when I was young thought it was, “The girl’s a crafty isotope.”  How did he know the word ‘isotope’?  Who knows, but elaborately wrong song lyrics were kinda his thing, as he also gave us the masterful “Smooth Apparatus” by Sade.

The girl is crafty – she knows all the moves
I started playing records – she knew all the grooves
D thought she was a thief – and D was right
But I just figured she’d spend the night

Oh yeah, and they taught us about foreshadowing too.  “D was right…she was a thief!  Get out of there, MCA!  She’s no good for you!”

When I woke up late in the afternoon
She had taken all the things from inside his room
I found myself naked in the middle of the floor
She had taken the bed and the chest of drawers
The mirror, the TV, the new guitar cord
My remote control and my old skateboard
She robbed us blind – she took all we owned
And the boys blamed me for bringing her home
(repeat chorus)

Here is another rather large difference between young me just accepting lyrics without thinking about them and the current me who overanalyzes words to the point that I argue with myself: She took a lot of stuff!  As a kid, I just crammed those lines together into a concise “she-stole-his-stuff” package and never broke down that with which she actually absconded.  1. He’s naked – but he could’ve been naked after all the bass-kicking, back-of-head-looking, and tip-to-base-ing.  2. The bed and the chest of drawers – whoa, how fucked up did he get to not notice someone (or more likely, multiple someones) removing large furniture from his room?  How did his roommates not hear this?  I’ve moved beds and other furniture more times than I can count, and that’s no silent process.  3. The mirror, the TV, the new guitar cord – ok, the TV makes total sense.  That’s what I’d expect her to steal.  Well, that, any cash lying around, maybe some weed, and a cassette tape or two.  A mirror?  Sure, why not.  A guitar cord?  Was the entire guitar not there to take?  She must have a guitar already to take a cord with her.  (And I always thought of it as “guitar chord” until today, even though that doesn’t make any sense when listed as a stolen item).  4. My remote control and my old skateboard – well of course she would take the remote if she’s taking the TV.  She’d be an irresponsible thief if she left that there.  Any why’s he complaining about that?  What good would a TV-less remote do him anyway?  As for the old skateboard, I see two readings on this.  Either it was his trusty skateboard that he’d had a long time (which would bum him out) or it was his last, unused skateboard (as opposed to the new one that she didn’t take).  I’m guessing it’s the former since he doesn’t sound too jazzed about the whole thing.

So she took everything (though there’s no mention of the other two beds being stolen), and MCA ends the verse with a little “They’re mad at ME?” humor.  It might not come across on the screen, but if you know the song, that’s definitely the intonation.  But the song doesn’t end there, my friends.  By adding the chorus again, we’re all reminded that despite all the shit that just went down (speaking of which, she didn’t steal their toilet, so they’ve got that going for them), her craftiness makes her just his type.  I don’t know if his parents didn’t love him enough or what, but that’s pretty fucked up to be drawn to sluts, criminals, and criminal sluts.  (Criminuts?)

So there you go, everyone.  I probably just gave more thought to this song than the 3 Beastie Boys did while writing it combined.  That’s what I bring to the table…assuming it wasn’t also stolen by the ulfarious criminut.

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