A few weeks ago, I read that The Rolling Stones were removing their song “Brown Sugar” from their playlist due to its lyrics.
I had never really known what the song was about, because I thought the lyrics were, “Oh brown sugar, how come you dance so good, oooohh brown sugar, just like a young girl should.” I admit that I never thought much about that song.
After reading the real lyrics, I couldn’t believe it. I researched the song and I understand it was about bringing awareness about the history of slavery, and in many ways, I was too young at the time the song was released to understand the deeper meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I like The Rolling Stones, but their first album I bought was “Some Girls.”
I went into the archives of my mind and started to think about some of the songs I would sing along to, and “fill in the blanks” so to say. Back when I was growing up, we’d have to listen to the song and try to ascertain what was being said. My friend Tina and I would play 45s on the record player. She would sing, and I would try to write the words down.
One time we were trying to get all the words for the song “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” by B.J. Thomas and we thought he sang, “Just like the Don of speed were too big for his bed.” We were in my mom’s living room and using our hairbrushes as microphones singing, “Don of speed” and my mother looked at us and said, “Girls it’s not Don of speed, it’s the guy whose feet.”
Well, Tina and I giggled because not only was my mom right, but she also had hearing loss in her left ear, so we were perplexed as to how the heck she knew that.
Which brings me to my next lyric challenge, and mom is the star player. Back in the 1970s in our Buick Estate station wagon, mom was at the helm driving. The radio was on an AM station and then the song “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by War came on. I was listening and singing along and then I looked over at my mother and she was singing too…. only she was singing, “I can’t be depressed, I can’t be depressed.”
She told me she loved that song, that it was so positive, and I said, “Mom, they’re singing, ‘Why can’t we be friends,’ not ‘I can’t be depressed.’”
She looked at me somewhat bewildered and then I giggled and told her, “But don’t worry, sing the song the way you want!”
I recalled seeing an interview many years ago when SEAL had become famous. The interviewer asked why he didn’t have his lyrics on his album, and he replied he thought that whatever his fans thought he was saying and what they were singing was fine. It was more about interpretation, I guess.
The song “Bye, Bye Love” by The Cars, is one of my favorites and my friends and I would sing, “It’s an orangey sky, always it’s some other guy, it’s just another alibi, bye, bye love, bye, bye love.” But who knew we were singing it wrong? The lyrics are “it’s just a broken lullaby” not “just another alibi” and there was an unwritten code on many SoCal radio stations that always after the song, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” was played, “Bye, Bye Love” immediately followed.
But the coup de gras is this: While watching the 2019 Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony and Def Leppard was being inducted, they went on stage and sang, “Love Bites,” and suddenly as I was listening and lost in the moment of that song, the lead singer sang, “I don’t want to touch you too much baby, cuz making love to you might drive me crazy.”
I realized that for over 20 years I had been singing: “I don’t want to tempt you too much baby.”
So, I reached out to one of my lyrically musically inclined besties and I asked him, “Hey did you know that Def Leppard’s lyrics in their song ‘Love Bites’ says, ‘I don’t want to touch you too much baby,’ instead of what I thought for years was, ‘I don’t want to tempt you too much baby’?”
He said, “No, I never knew that.” Then I wondered, why did I think that, once again reminded that: The ability to look up the lyrics had not yet been available.
And that I, being a girl, it was a natural thing to think the guy was the one calling the shots and as archaic as that sounds, recall I’m an ’80s girl and I would read way too much into the simplest of lyrics.
Which reminds me that I could have never dated when cell phones and texting were a part of life. I was the land-line kind of gal, and whoever wanted to talk with me over the phone had to call the house phone. Yep, one of two phones in our home. One in my mom’s room, one in the kitchen.
You wonder why I could never have dated during the time of texting? Well, I’m too literal and, being a writer, I would probably expand on the simplest of texts. For example: “Hey Jen, what are you doing tonight?” I would read it as someone asking me out and therefore respond. “Hanging out with you.” Only to then receive the next text, “Well I have a date and was wondering if you could proofread my English paper.”
My musically inclined bestie was my go-to guy for concerts and boy we saw so many together back in the day, he ended up marrying a lovely gal and she too became a bestie. In fact, back in the late 1970s Foghat was among his favorite groups. Yep, he wore a baseball hat that said, “FOG.” Imagine my surprise when one day about seven years ago I was traveling up north and was at LAX going through security and Roger Earl was next to me. We started talking and I told him one of my best friends loved Foghat.
When we got past security, he stopped and said, “What’s your friend’s name?” I told him and gave him a piece of paper from my purse, and he autographed it for my friend. He then took a selfie with me and on the other half of the paper wrote: “To Jennifer, All the Best, ‘Slow Ride,’ Roger Earl.” I gave my friend the autograph. I framed my autograph along with the photo of Roger and me against the backdrop of the LP “Foghat Live.”
While driving home after a work holiday dinner, I had a car full of co-workers and “Slow Ride” came on and I started to tell the story of meeting Roger Earl. One of the ladies asked what “Slow Ride” meant. So, I started to tell her and as the song was playing, I would emphasize certain parts of the lyrics. If you’re wondering had I imbibed at the dinner, nope I was the designated driver, sober as can be. It was one of those moments where I knew every single lyric without fail.
Needless to say, it was quite the ride home, not too “slow,” not too “fast,” just going the speed limit whilst regaling my co-workers with yet another Jen story.
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.