The difference between songs and jazz is lyrics. (Look it up. Presently contained in the new edition of ‘Stop Being Such A Nerd’).
What someone says while the musicians go about there business is the true connection between art and us. Its not always genius. Sometimes its plain spoken and simply stated. Sometimes its a bravado laced trumpeting of ones worth to the world. Sometimes its like an ex lover crying into the phone…but not your ex lover…not your phone.
Song lyrics have been key in the development of what I genuinely became as I grew older. Not simply a songwriter, but a sloganeering, overly sensitive, egotistical monster. Where most would seek support of friends and family, I stuck to the words, the friends I would never meet, older folks whittling down the larger lessons into a decent pop length format. I wrote my first song in 4th grade to a girl I would never have the courage to approach.
‘This girl I know
I really really love her so
But I dont think she even knows
How much I love her
This girl I know…’
…and it then went into a VERY ‘Live and Let Die’ orchestral bridge…cause that was on the radio at that time and I liked it. I remember writing it on a piece of notebook paper in class…and then scribbling additional lines onto scraps of paper I found on that walk home. It was the beginning of a ‘never a blank page when I need one’ search and curse.
I never gave it to her. I assumed she would think it was trite. Which it was.
I had the good fortune to be introduced to music via my love of comics. I was a deep comic collector….never in ploy bags, I legitimately couldn’t get enough of the stuff. And one Sunday night at about the age of 12 and 3/4, I heard The King Biscuit Flour Hour with Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult.
Dio was a comic book character. He WAS a wizard, a seer, a warrior. He sold the songs, the sound with fantasy and dragon laden lyrics that fit like a glove to my developing fantastic sensibilities. I was hooked. I sold my entire comic collection at 13 for a ticket to see Alice Cooper.
And I was off. Heavy Metal became 70’s Hard Rock. My friends and I were all deep and aggressive about what we listened to and how it was better than what YOU were listening too. A very close boys club. Even the girls. Then deeper into the 70’s with the Allman Brothers and the introduction of decent pot.
Meanwhile….I privately kept my OTHER music collection away from everyone. I would abuse anything not ‘rockin’ in public….but privately, I discovered Elvis Costello’s ‘My Aim Is True’. Though at that time, I would have swore I never heard him.
Elvis put it into perspective for me and started me down this mad chase Im still running. What he said lyrically was more personal, more crippling, more frightening than all the metal bands, with there promising of a hundred upcoming apocalypses. Elvis said this:
‘Oswald and his sister are doing it again
They’ve got the finest home movies that you have ever seen
They’ve got a thousand variations, every service with a smile
They’re gonna take a little break, and they’ll be back after a while
Well, I hear that South America is coming into style…’
And my entire existence was titillated. What exactly was he talking about? His sister??? What were the movies? Can I see them? It is lyrically a frightening song. It talks about absolute disconnection. And as a teen, disconnected by the sheer nature of being a teen, this left a much deeper scar that the ‘Im gonna drink and the fight the devil with a sword’ type of lyrics I knew. It was a statement on apathy. It wasnt about danger ‘Less Than Zero’…its just dangerous.
‘Turn up the TV, no one listening will suspect
Even your mother won’t detect it, no your father won’t know
They think that I’ve got no respect but everything means less than zero’
It made me feel a little more heard. A part of something I dint know existed. It was the lyrical effect of the twin guitar attack of classic Iron Maiden, with its swooping fighter pilot drama. But this was just core level disgust.
It was Elvis making a statement that he was clearly part of the problem, not the solution.
And it made me want to be part of the problem too.