Saturday, September 17, 2016

Really stupid things about the '60s

As with most of my posts, this one started off as something else: '60s phrases that are still in common useage today. This is unusual, given that by the '50s, most of the lingo from the '30s and '40s was kaput. Nor do we say "Daddy-o" or -. I cannot think of ONE more phrase from the 1950s still in use.

Likewise, the '70s: who remembers catch-phrases from that bland polyester era? All I can think of is "stayin' alive, stayin' alive," and that isn't really a catch-phrase at all.

But I do know that in the '70s, nobody said "23 skidoo". Nobody said "I love my wife, but oh you kid". And most especially, no one said that syllable that everyone used to preface EVERY sentence: "Saaaaaaaaaaay!"

Likewise, "I think you're swell". Or, "Are you sore at me?" Those phrases only exist in late-night movies on TCM.

But it never ceases to surprise me how often expressions from the 1960s still crop up in ordinary conversation, usually among people who didn't live through that memorably confused era. It was, shockingly, 50 years ago, and hanging on to catch-phrases like that never happens - never has before, and never will again. These are, in alphabetical order, as follows:

Boggles the mind
Blows my mind
Bummed out
Do your own thing
Far out
Freak(ed) out
Guilt trip
Laid back
Lay a trip on
(not) my bag
(not) my thing
Oh wow!
Spaced out
Tripped out
Turned off/on
Wiped out

Add your own, but these are the ones I skimmed off the top. Most of them are lame, and seem creaky and anachronistic, even inappropriate, in a setting like 2016 when most people aren't talking much at all any more (not even into their phones - they talk with their thumbs now, which is why we evolved with opposable thumbs to begin with). But still they pop up with alarming regularity, every day.

Having run out of ideas about this, I started thinking about related lame '60s things that somehow never go away.  And oh boy, there are a lot.

Item: 1960s pop songs with unintelligible lyrics. I already covered the Dada-ist mishmash Nikki Hoeky in another post (and I don't want to go there again). In some cases, there is just ONE line you can't decipher, a line that drives you absolutely crazy and leads to one bizarre mondegreen after another.

Like so:

A Hard Day's Night

It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog
It's been a hard day's night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright

You know I work all day to get you money to buy you things
And it's worth it just to hear you say you're going to give me everything
(so what's the next line, what's the next line, what's the next line?)

So why on earth should I moan,
 'cause when I get you alone
You know I feel OK

(etc. etc.)

OK, what did YOU think it was? It was just an unintelligible blob of words to me. I don't know if anyone got it. No one asked, because even then, nobody listened to the words anyway, until Bob Dylan came along.

She Loves You

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
With a love like that
You know you should be glad

You know it's up to you
I think it's only fair
 (next line, next line, next line)

Pride can hurt you too
Apologize to her

Because she loves you
And you know that can't be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad, ooh

That one, I thought, was "frighten her to do", which doesn't make much sense unless you take into account John Lennon's shocking possessiveness with women ("I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than see you with another man").

And then there are a few songs that are just plain stupid, that make NO sense or are so dumb we can't quite believe they made the Hit Parade.

Little Green Bag

Lookin' back on the track for a little green bag,
Got to find just the kind or I'm losin' my mind
Out of sight in the night out of sight in the day,
Lookin' back on the track gonna do it my way.

Lookin' for some happiness
But there is only loneliness to find
Jump to the left, turn to the right
Lookin' upstairs, lookin' behind!

Lookin' back on the track for a little little green bag,
Got to find just the kind or I'm losin' my mind,


(Note: the rest is just endless repetition).

Little Black Egg

I don't care what they say
I'm gonna keep it anyway
I won't let them stretch their necks
To see my little black egg with the little white specks

I found it in a tree
Just the other day
And now it's mine, all mine
They won't take it away

Here comes Mary, here comes Lee
I'll bet what they want to see
I won't let them stretch their necks
To see my little black egg with the little white specks

Oh, goldurn, what can I do?
The little black egg's gonna tell on you
I won't let them stretch their necks
To see my little black egg with the little white specks

The little black egg... [repeat to fade]

The "little black egg". Right. Knowing the '60s, people probably argued all night long in an altered state  of consciousness about "what does it mean?"

Beautiful People

Beautiful people
You live in the same world as I do
But somehow I never noticed
You before today

I'm ashamed to say
Beautiful people
We share the same back door
And it isn't right

We never met before
But then
We may never meet again
If I weren't afraid you'd laugh at me

I would run and take all your hands
And I'd gather everyone together for a day
And when we're gather'd
I'll pass buttons out that say

Beautiful people
Never have to be alone
'Cause there'll always be someone
With the same button on as you

Include him in everything you do.
Beautiful people
You ride the same subway
As I do every morning

That's got to tell you something
We've got so much in common
I go the same direction that you do
So if you take care of me

Maybe I'll take care of you
Beautiful people
You look like friends of mine
And it's about time

That someone said it here and now
I make a vow that some time, somehow
I'll have a meeting
Invite everyone you know

I'll pass out buttons for
The ones who come to show
Beautiful people
Never ever have to be alone

'Cause there'll always be someone
With the same button on as you
Include him in everything you do
He may be sitting right next to you

He may be a beautiful people too
And if you take care of him
Maybe he'll take care of you
'Cause all of the beautiful people do

And you're all beautiful people too

OK now, where do I start? It's just the general sappiness that I object to here. Melanie Safka DID have some good songs, I'm pretty fond of the "brand new rollerskates", Candles in the Rain was OK, and she wrote one - I just found out - called The Nickel Song that I heard Nana Mouskouri do decades ago, and loved. The lines that leap out and assault me are "'Cause there'll always be someone/With the same button on as you". I think of Eldridge Cleaver and "Kill All the White Men".

It's just that general, swampy, I-love-absolutely-everybody sentiment that sticks in my throat. "I'd gather everyone together for a day" for some reason reminds me of the afternoon I was held prisoner by some Jesus freaks in the 1970s. To this day I remember the mindlessness, the void I saw in their eyes, and I wonder whatever happened to them all. "Everyone" could include pimps, serial killers, Neo-Nazis, or . . . am I just too jaded by the horrors of 2016? No! This thing is DISGUSTINGLY naive! It's just. . .sorry, Melanie, I can't buy it. I don't have the same button on as you.

Any Guy

I was bored
I would not compromise
Wanted more
So I looked in your eyes
But it could have been any guy's
It could have been any guy's eyes
But your eyes were there
And they started to stare
But don't think that I care - No.

Now you got
The feeling you're great
'Cause we shared
A few looks
And I made one mistake
But it could have been any one
I was looking for that kind of fun
And you were right there
In love, all is fair
But don't think that I care

Now you got
A new friend I know
So I'm packing my things
And I'm going to go
Please don't make a scene
Don't cry
You can't stop me if you try
I love being free
It's the best way to be
Is she as pretty as me, huh?
Is she as pretty as me, huh?
Is she as pretty as me, huh?
Is she as pretty as me, huh-huh?
Is she as pretty as me, huh.

I included the whole lyric here because the ending is so obnoxious/nonsensical. I first heard Melanie perform this on The Mike Douglas Show, except that I didn't know it was Melanie because unless you read fan magazines, you didn't know what pop stars looked like, and I missed the introduction. It was the "huh, huh" stuff that drove me crazy, and the INTENSE way she did it. Before singing it, she explained to Mike that it was "kind of torchy". I didn't know what that meant.

ADDENDA. Hey, guess what! I found out some stuff here (on Wikipedia, so it MUST be right) that makes SOME sense of these lame lyrics. As with Nikki Hoeky, Little Green Bag might be a mixup in translation:

"Little Green Bag" is a 1969 song written by Dutch musicians Jan Visser and George Baker (born Hans Bouwens), and recorded by the George Baker Selection at the band's own expense. The track was released as the George Baker Selection's debut single by Dutch label, Negram, with the B-side being "Pretty Little Dreamer".

The track's original title was "Little Greenback", in reference to the color of the US dollar. The first line of the lyric, "Lookin' back on the track for a little greenback", has three rhymes (underlined); "green bag" would not be a true rhyme. However, the single was given the erroneous title, "Little Green Bag", which some took to be a "bag of marijuana". The "Little Green Bag" title was then retained for all subsequently released versions of the single as well as the group's 1970 debut album, also titled Little Green Bag. This is an example of a mondegreen.

I realize this explanation is a lot longer than the song. Sorry. But if you want to prove this to yourself, just listen to the recording of The Little Green Bag. It's very plain he isn't saying "green bag" at all, but "greenback". The k sound is very distinct. But we don't hear it that way unless we're expecting to. Makes me wonder about all the other things we accept on faith, because everyone else is doing it, or because we've been told it's the way it is - even though "they" are plainly wrong.

The Little Black Egg

"The Little Black Egg" is a song first performed by Daytona Beach, Florida garage band The Nightcrawlers in 1965. It was a minor hit in both the US and Canada, reaching number 85 on the US Billboard charts in 1967, while doing slightly better in Canada, where it hit number 74. The song has been since covered by multiple artists including Inner City Unit, The Lemonheads, Tarnation and The Cars. It was The Nightcrawlers' only hit, though many have claimed it was the first guitar riff they learned during the mid-'60s. The song was written in 1965 for an Easter concert, in which the band opened for The Beach BoysAllmusic reviewer Matthew Greenwald describes the song as a "slightly bizarre nursery rhyme", with lyrics about a rotten bird's egg. Other explanations claim the song referenced miscegenation in segregated Florida.

Ohhhh. . . kay.  "I found it in a tree, just the other day." Miscegenation. Sorry, guys, it just does not work.

I do remember my friend Carmen's mondegreen on this song, so potent that everyone in the schoolyard went around singing it wrong:

"To see my little black apron with the little white specks."

At least it makes a bit more sense.