Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's the perfect dream

Earlier today, I found myself listening to Paul Anka's version of The Cure's 'The Lovecats', on his he's-had-so-much-surgery-you-can't-tell-if-it's-ironic album Rock Swings, and had a small but significant revelation. For nearly a quarter of a century, I'd thought that Robert Smith had been singing "1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 pretty". It was only when Big-haired Bob's tearful groan was replaced by Unfeasible-haired Paul's languorous tenor that I realised the correct line was in fact "wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty".

Don't worry, this isn't going to be yet another post about amusing misunderstandings of rock lyrics, all "'scuse me while I kiss this guy" and so forth. No, the reason I bring this up is that my immediate reaction when I realised my error (after the obligatory nano-moment of scrotum-tightening embarrassment) was that it was Smith's fault for having sloppy diction, and that it was nice to hear someone like Anka, who ensured you could understand all the words.

Oh Christ.

I have become my parents.

Actually, it's rather appropriate that the early rumblings of a midlife crisis (yes, the big 4-0 is the next candle to appear) should come when listening to this particular record. Anka, of course, wrote the English lyrics to 'My Way', which is the song that ghastly people pick on Desert Island Discs when they reach a certain age and want to disclaim responsibility for all their crimes and misdemeanours. (Nice people, like the wonderful Oliver Postgate, pick the infinitely preferable 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien'.)

But with his version of 'The Lovecats' Anka seems to present a more realistic version of old age, rejecting the Vegasoid bravado that we associate with Sinatra and a thousand Sinatra wannabes, desperately grasping for the little joys that he was too busy or scared or stupid to use when he was in his prime. "Into the sea, you and me," he croons, "all these years and no one heard." Which suddenly seems to echo another lyric of missed opportunities, and one that's become just as much a cliche for neurotic adolescents (who, by definition, don't yet understand the full weight of the sadness):

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.


I don't know much about Eliot's taste in music: probably something deeply choral and Churchy. But I've started to think that, had history been more imaginative, he might have quite liked The Cure. Although he'd probably complain that he couldn't understand the words, and that it was too loud, and is that a boy or a girl, you can't tell the difference these days...

12 comments:

Billy said...

Wasn't Oliver great on Desert Island Discs? Best one they've had in ages.

Valerie said...

No, Tim, no! You're not even as old as I am and already you're... LISTENING TO PAUL ANKA. This worries me deeply, really it does. Almost as much as the fact that Anka has apparently covered the Cure, unless you're just making that up to horrify us.

Though I once heard a Muzak version of a Cure song. Is nothing sacred?

Then again I did already know those lyrics (correctly), being a bit of a fan. I was one of those ones who used to listen to "One More Time" with the lights out and the stereo turned up vibratingly high. I always thought one of Smith's strengths was his lyrics.

But I digress. Honestly, Tim -- Paul Anka?

patroclus said...

Anka's version of 'Wonderwall' is a staple in Mr BC's mixtape repertoire also.

The other day I amused myself (and no one else) by trying to list from memory the songs that were on Now That's What I Call Music Vol. 1. I managed to remember two, of which 'The Lovecats' was one. Tim, I'm hoping you will take up the challenge. No Googling!

Tim Footman said...

The man's a gem, Billy. And I love the idea that he's a lousy grandparent.

Could be worse Valerie: could be Pat Boone.

Now 1 might be tough,P - my sister had it, not me. But:
Karma Chameleon & Victims (Culture Club)
Too Shy & Big Apple (Kajagoogoo)
You Can't Hurry Love (Phil Collins)
Temptation (Heaven 17)
Is There Something I Should Know (Duran Duran)
Safety Dance (Men Without Hats)
Down Under (Men At Work)
Tonight I Celebrate My Love For You (Roberta & Peabo)
That's All (Genesis)
Candy Girl (New Edition)
Wouldn't It Be Good (Nik Kershaw)
New Song (Howard Jones)

No, inspiration's deserting me... Someone fill in the gaps...

patroclus said...

Good lord, that's impressive. The only other one I could remember (and I actually owned it!) was 'The Sun and the Rain' by Madness.

Anyone else for a go?

bye bye bellulah said...

Not without googling. I did catch myself crying along to Born to Run on Radio2 today thinking, 'how could anyone listen to those lyrics and not feel a shared bond of vulnerability with all humanity' though. Whoops, where's me Innovations catalogue?

Murph said...

I think the concept of juxtaposing "Men at Work" with "Men without Hats" predates the Health and Safety Industry by several years.

More misheard lyrics please Tim. Stuff like Desmond Dekker's "Ma wife and ma kids they f'koff and a'leave me".

llewtrah said...

Never mind the diction, join me in grunting along to brutal death metal and grindcore.

When I'm listening to more comprehensible music, my friends can't believe I listen to the lyrics. I've always done that. I'm not becoming my parents, I was born old! Aaagh.

llewtrah said...

PS: How about a "mondegreens" post for misheard lyrics?

amyonymous said...

there is an old rolling stones song i was listening to with my 15 year old son the other day and suddenly i realized that the lyrics were not what i had thought for the last 30+ years.

But a few days later, i forgot which song we were listening to .... which really delineates my own senescence.

anyway, i also vote for a misheard lyrics post. we all do love them.

Tim Footman said...

Either a mondegreens thread or a remember-the-track-listing thread. I think the reason I remembered so many is that Paul Morley included all the songs in Words and Music (arguing that the NOW brand was the most important artist of the 1980s, or something).

Oh, bollocks. Mondegreens it is.

Annie Rhiannon said...

Tricky's version of The Love Cats is one of the best covers eva.