Today, Let’s Get Lyrical have been asking, what are your favourite lyrics that tell a story?
As it happens, I sort of collect songs like this. Unfortunately, very few of them seem to be from the 70s, but I’d like to mention a few.
Frinstance, who could fail to love The Drunken Driver by Ferlin Husky? It tells the tale of a man who RUNS OVER HIS OWN CHILDREN in a drunken episode, and it’s all Ferlin can do not to cry as he recounts the story. Unfortunately, this was recorded all the way back in 1954.
I also love Our Last Summer by ABBA – or I did until I saw Mamma Mia, at any rate. I found it hard to reconcile my crush on Colin Firth with his antics in that particular montage – he seemed to be doing his best to destroy the affection I’d had for the track since I was nine. Anyway, I like it because it encapsulates a story of summer romance without getting either mawkish or bitter. But I can’t write about that one, cause it came out in 1980.
In 1996, Peggy Scott-Adams released Bill, an anguished tale about a woman finding out that her husband is gay – “I was ready for Mary, Susan, Helen and Jane… When all the time it was Bill who was sleeping with my man.” It gets worse too – Bill is god uncle to their son! It’s like an episode of Jerry Springer in song format.
The following year, a superhero ska band called the Aquabats wrote an altogether more lighthearted ditty, Captain Hampton and the Midget Pirates. This follows the adventures of young Jim, who goes to sea to fight the fierce Midget Pirates of Willygoat, who are heading towards the Sandwich Isles to pillage the giant Ham Farm. “And unlike normal midgets, who are bright and clever and fun to be around, these Midget Pirates with their beady little eyes and sharp teeth bore down on us like fierce sharks in a feeding frenzy of blood!” Everything you could want from a pirate adventure and more.
Oh, and then there’s The Rake’s Song, by The Decemberists, which tells the story of a rake who marries too young and kills his children so he can get his life back. A murder ballad for 2009 – I love it. And don’t even get me started on Charlemagne: By The Sword and the Cross, a concept album released only last year in which Christopher Lee tells the entire history of Charlemagne in the form of a symphonic metal opera. This includes immortal rhymes like “he has taken offense / and its too late to make amends!” and is entirely amazing.
But wait! I know a seventies song that tells a story! It’s not a particularly happy one, but even so…
“I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday… Parking by the lake, and there was not another car in sight. I never had a girl looking any better than you did, and all the kids at school were wishing they were me that night!
Our bodies were so close and tight – it never felt so good, it never felt so right. We were glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife, and I felt like I had to hold on tight!”
“Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night,” Patti said throatily.
“I can see paradise, by the dashboard light!” Marvin replied.
“Ain’t no doubt about it, we were doubly blessed. ‘Cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed,” Patti would tell her friends, years later. “Ain’t no doubt about it, baby got to go and shout it! Ain’t no doubt about it, we were doubly blessed. ‘Cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed.”
Encouraged by this response, Marvin ventured, “baby doncha hear my heart? You got it drowning out the radio! I’ve been waiting so long for you to come along and have some fun. And I gotta let you know, no you’re never gonna regret it – so open up your eyes, I got a big surprise, it’ll feel all right, I wanna make your motor run!”
“You got to do what you can,” Patti agreed, “let Mother Nature do the rest. Ain’t no doubt about it we were doubly blessed. ‘Cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely-“
“We’re gonna go all the way tonight,” he interrupted, “we’re gonna go all the way tonight, tonight! We’re gonna go all the way tonight we’re gonna go all the way tonight’s the night…”
At this point they were interrupted by a radio broadcast, discussing an important baseball game.
“OK, here we go,” the announcer began. “We got a real pressure cooker going here. Two down, nobody on, no score, bottom of the ninth. There’s the windup, and there it is, a line shot up the middle – look at him go! This boy can really fly!
He’s rounding first and really turning it on now, he’s not letting up at all, he’s gonna try for second; the ball is bobbled out in center, and here comes the throw – and what a throw! He’s gonna slide in head first, here he comes, he’s out! No, wait, safe – safe at second base, this kid really makes things happen out there.
Batter steps up to the plate, here’s the pitch-he’s going, and what a jump he’s got, he’s trying for third, here’s the throw, it’s in the dirt-safe at third! Holy cow, stolen base! He’s taking a pretty big lead out there, almost daring him to try and pick him off. The pitcher glances over, winds up, and it’s bunted, bunted down the third base line, the suicide squeeze is on! Here he comes. squeeze play, it’s gonna be close! Here’s the throw… Here’s the play at the plate… Holy cow, I think he’s gonna make it!”
“Stop right there!” Patti squeaked all of a sudden, “I gotta know right now! Before we go any further! Do you love me? Will you love me forever? Do you need me? Will you never leave me? Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life? Will you take me away, will you make me your wife?”
When Marvin failed to respond, she said again, more urgently this time, “do you love me!? Will you love me forever!? Do you need me? Will you never leave me? Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life? Will you take me away , will you make me your wife?! I gotta know RIGHT NOW, before we go any further, do you love me? Will you love me forever!?”
Marvin thought about it for a while, but was reluctant to answer.
“Let me sleep on it,” he suggested at last, “baby, baby let me sleep on it? Let me sleep on it and, I’ll give you an answer in the morning.”
This was not enough, though.
“I gotta know right now,” Patti insisted, “do you love me? Will you love me forever?”
Marvin remained reticent.
“What’s it gonna be boy?” she asked again. “Come on! I can wait all night. What’s it gonna be boy? Yes, or no?”
This hectoring was overwhelming, but she could see it working, so she continued, “what’s it gonna be boy? YES, OR, NO??”
“Let me sleep on it?” he tried again.
“Will you love me forever?”
“Let me sleep on it?”
“Will you love me forever?!”
And at that point, Marvin snapped.
“I couldn’t take it any longer,” he was to explain to his mates down the pub in years to come, “Lord I was crazed, and then the feeling came upon me like a tidal wave – I started swearing to my god and on my mother’s grave that I would love her to the end of time. I swore that I would love her to the end of time!”
So now they’re praying for the end of time to hurry up and arrive.
“‘Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you, I don’t think that I can really survive,” Patti has been heard to scream, as Marvin shouts,
“I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow, but God only knows what I can do right now! I’m praying for the end of time, it’s all that I can do! Praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you!”
This of course was long ago, and it was far away, and it was so much better than it is today. Still, at least they aren’t another divorce statistic…