Aug 252008

As the parent of a newborn child, I’ve been singing a lot of songs to the little bub. During diaper changes, I am fond of “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad,” mostly because it’s long enough to last for the whole process. Except one thing bother me about the song: Nobody works on the railroad “just to pass the time away.” Seems to me that people worked on the railroad for a number of mostly miserable reasons. This reminded me of Fleetwood Mac‘s song, “Dreams”, which hinges on the completely erroneous notion that “thunder only happens when it’s raining.”

Another number that comes to mind is Rhett Miller‘s song, “Four Eyed Girl” (terrible video, but all I can find) in which he claims that NYC deli “Katz’s never closes.” But it isn’t open 24 hours, as anybody who has spent a late night in the East Village would’ve seen it shuttered, shattering dreams of midnight pastrami (uh…).

Here are The Posies with a cover of The Hollies’ tune, “King Midas In Reverse”:

“He’s King Midas with a curse, he’s King Midas in reverse.”

The idea of King Midas was that he thought it would be sweet if everything he touched to gold. “So Midas, king of Lydia, swelled at first with pride when he found he could transform everything he touched to gold: but when he beheld his food grow rigid and his drink harden into golden ice then he understood that this gift was a bane and in his loathing for gold cursed his prayer.” In this song, everything he touches “turns to dust,” the implication being that having your foot and drink turn to dust is worse than having them turn into gold. (Okay, I know it’s more metaphorical than that, but you probably get my point.)

What other tunes can you think of that contain factual or conceptual errors?


  12 Responses to “What Choo Talkin’ ‘Bout Mr. Drummond? Lyrical Inaccuracies”

  1. BigSteve

    Missing, Everything But The Girl —

    I miss you
    Like the deserts miss the rain


  2. I always assumed “King Midas In Reverse” meant it in the sense of “Everything I touch turns to shit,” a more common sentiment that was harder to work into a pop song back then.

    A personal favorite:

    “There were plants and birds and rocks and things.”

    Plants and birds and rocks ARE things.

    And of course, as the late Rich Jeni put it: “You’re in the desert. You obviously don’t have much to do, because you had time to write an entire song. NAME THE FUCKING HORSE!”

  3. general slocum

    Jesus. Where to begin… How lucky are people who need people? Does he really write the songs that make the whole world sing? Is her milkshake really better than mine? Is Jesus “just all right,” or is he “merely all right?” How could bungle in the jungle be all right with him? But these are all just ontological errors. For fact checking, rust would indeed sleep in the total absence of oxygen. Of the several things those boots may have been made for, walking seems less likely than most. And, not an error, but I have been vexed for decades at the inability to answer McCartney’s hanging question and tell him :”What’s wrong with thaaaat?” (He’d like to know.)

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    Townsman Massimo once admitted to being completely freaked out by the impenetrable circular logic of Dr. Hook’s “Sharin’ the Night Together”:

    ‘Cause I like feelin’ like I do and I see in your eyes that you’re likin’ it, I’m likin’ it too… oh, yeah… alright.”

    Wait — is he likin’ the way she’s likin’ the way he’s likin’ the way he’s feelin’, or is he likin’ the way she’s feelin’ the same way he’s feelin’ and likin’ it too… or… (cue SFX of head exploding)

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    I suppose “freaked out” isn’t quite the right choice of words. “Completely baffled” would probably be better — though it doesn’t quite suggest how obsessed Massimo would get, after a couple of beers, trying to decipher that particular tautological black hole/logical vortex.

    Maybe it’s some kind of secret Dark Ritual chant, or, on a happier note, a world-healing mantra for all mankind. I suppose we could all chant and see what happens.

    I need some sleep. I been on the road since 3:30 this morning. Can you tell?

  6. diskojoe

    I commented on this before, but I’ll mention it again, the fact that John Sebastian said that Sun Records came from Nashville, not Memphis in “Nashville Cats”. Shouldn’t this be regarded as a Rock Crime, intentionally misinforming the listening public? Another example that comes to mind would be Eric Burdon describing San Francisco nights as being “warm”.

    Finally, in regards to “King Midas In Reverse”, I always thought that it sounded like a Elvis Costello song circa Imperial Bedroom.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Good call on the “King Midas in Reverse”/Imperial Bedroom thing, Diskojoe. I’d never heard that connection before, but now that comparison will stick.

  8. alexmagic

    It’s not the “in reverse” part I object to, but the “King Midas with a curse” line.

    Not so much a lyrical inaccuracy, but I’ve always wondered about “Should I Stay Or Should I Go.” If we accept the situation at face value – that going will cause trouble, but staying will bring about double that trouble – it seems pretty clear that he should opt to blow instead of cooling it.

  9. Another one, and this is a real pince nez, is the tune, “The wind beneath my wings”. You know, it’s actually the wind OVER the wing that creates lift. I guess Julie Gold doesn’t know about the Bernoulli Effect.

  10. Deep? Or just Cheap? “The love you take is equal to the love you make” Sure it rhymes, but what does that really mean. The sex you have is equal to whatever you take? No. If you accept love, then you’ve created an equal amount? What if you’re just a selfish egoist? Does it work mathematically like matter can never be created or destroyed? Happy to have Her Majesty after that empty koan.

  11. BTW, Cher, here’s a quick hijack of your topic.

    What choo singing bout?

    Really funny translation to help us understand what Joe Cocker is really saying. Cut and paste this.

  12. What about U2’s “pride in the name of love”? “Early morning, April 4…”. but the sad event actually happened at 6pm. Maybe he meant early morning, Dublin time?

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