I’m not sure where this post has come from but whilst pottering around the house over the weekend I had a sudden flashback to a Manic Street Preachers' gig I attended about a decade ago. Back when I was cool ‘n’ hip ‘n’ energized enough to actually go out in the evening and pay to watch live music being performed.
I was at the bar soaking up the pre-gig atmosphere, feeling a bit like I was too old (already) to be patronizing this kind of gig-going malarkey when my annoyance with my fellow gig-goers reached an all time high.
Now, you don’t need to know much about the Manic Street Preachers – just that that one of their songs (Design For Life) featured the refrain “We don’t talk about love / We only want to get drunk”.
It’s a painful, sorrowful protestation of working class chauvinism – an expression of the tragedy of men whose emotions have been stunted by class ethics and their upbringing. It’s a truly sad song.
And this synopsis is pretty evident from the lyrics, I think.
And yet there were a little gang of meatheads at the bar – tanked up on cheap cider served in plastic tumblers – who were swaying arm-in-arm football terrace style singing the above lyrics like it was a glorious celebration.
“We don’t talk about love / We only want to get drunk!”
The sneer on my face held back an avalanche of bile. I didn’t order a drink. I turned around and left them to it. It spoiled the night for me. And the song. I can’t listen to it now without being reminded of the utter stupidity of those buffoons at the bar. So stupid that they couldn’t even see that they were the ones the tragedy of the song was addressing.
But maybe my problem is one of snobbery? I love words – poetry, lyrics, prose. I’m happy to analyse and mull it all over; make connections, be inspired. For me the words are easily as important – if not more important sometimes – than the music. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good tune, a beautiful melody. But I like it to mean something. I like the lyrics to speak to me, to connect with me.
Not everybody is like that. For some people the lyrics to a song are just a handy way to commit the tune to memory; a way to get a handle on the song’s internal timing so that it can be sung along to. A bit of nut and boltery. A few la-la-la’s strung together to augment the chord changes of the guitars or the synths. The last thing they want to do is to have to think about the issues the song might be exploring. To feel challenged and have their consciences prodded.
I guess everybody is different and I need to accept that. I need to stifle the grimaces when some idiot misinterprets, or worse, dismisses the lyrics of songs that I love. As long as my life is enriched why should I care about theirs? It’s not my responsibility.
But what about you? Do you like the lyrics to be pregnant with meaning or are you happy just be-bopping yourself into oblivion on the disco floor?
Confess. I promise not to judge.