Thursday, June 25, 2015

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 25: A Song With Utterly Mysterious Lyrics

There was a brief moment of time, after the demise of albums with liner-notes and before the Internet, when it really was possible to be genuinely stymied by a song's lyrics. Now, of course, it's easy to find the words to any song, no matter how muddled or garbled they may have been delivered in their recorded version.  I kind of miss the days when we could argue about what a singer was really saying, though (thankfully) the availability and easy accessibility of correct song lyrics has done little to diminish people's hilarious mangling of the same.

See: "Rocket Man"

There remains a number of songs, of course, with lyrics that are "utterly mysterious" in that other, more meaningful, sense: songs that were probably written while tripping or hungover or heartbroken beyond the point of communicability. Or songs that are just magnificently, creatively and incomprehensibly weird.  (See: "What Does The Fox Say?"). Those seem like too-easy picks for today, since the majority of them, I suspect, were intended to stymie the understanding. So I'm taking different approach.


Fair warning: I will be hedging a bit with today's prompt. I'm not picking a song that I think anyone would say is "utterly mysterious."  In fact, I'm picking a song that is, for the most part, not at all mysterious, arguably so formulaic even as to be impossible not to understand.  It's a song about two of the most familiar and well-worn tropes in country music-- mamas and cowboys-- and it deploys those tropes almost exactly consistently with all of the rules determining the long tradition from which they were born.

Almost. And there's the rub.

You see, in this otherwise totally non-mysterious song, there it is embedded a single utterly mysterious lyric that is so strange, so bizarre, so creepy even, that it somehow manages to retroactively cast a veil of obscurity over the whole thing.  When you first hear it, you think: I couldn't have heard that right. And when you realize that you did hear it right, you think: I no longer understand the world. 

Here is my pick for today, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson's classic "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys."  Keep your ears open at 1:10-1:24 for the first two lines of the second verse:



Cowboys like smoky old pool-rooms and clear mountain mornings.  Yeah, okay, that sounds right. Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night. Wait, hold up a sec there Waylon. WHAT THE HOLY WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY???!!!

I honestly don't even know how to intelligently comment upon the truly, utterly mysterious conjunction of puppies, children and prostitutes.  Nor do I know how to decipher their parallel, in the hearts of cowboys, with smoky old pool-rooms and clear mountain mornings.  I have always loved this song, I still love it, but there has never been a time when I haven't heard, in my head, one of those screeching-to-a-halt DJ scratches just at the moment of this lyric in this song.

So yeah, mamas, don't let your babies. Just don't.

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