Thursday, 29 April 2010

Music and lyrics

As part of my ongoing curiosity about web-based information sharing, I am considering signing up to Twitter. So today I thought I'd have a little look at some Twitter feeds. I'd heard Evan Davis mention his on the Today programme. I wasn't compelled to sign up by the tweets themselves (although looking again now, just after the final Leaders' Debate, I can see Twitter working the way it should), but I did like his capsule 'bio' ('Yes, this is the bloke on the Radio 4 Today programme, Dragons' Den and the Bottom Line. These are my views, not those of the BBC.'). I was disappointed that Jay-Z's was run by someone else.

The best one was the tireless Catherine Grant's Film Studies For Free feed. It performed what I take to be one of Twitter's main functions; that is, to provide me with a summary of and link to other things of interest - perfect for a magpie like me. So now I've bookmarked a District 9 article which will help me with the editing of a piece on that movie that I'm working on. And I also couldn't resist 'Jewish band serves up kosher Lady Gaga'! This linked to this page, where you can both hear a Jewish American a capella group recreate chart hits but substitute lyrics that speak to Jewish culture. For example, the chorus to 'Poker Face' becomes 'Can’t eat my/Can’t eat my/No you can’t eat from my/Kosher plate/Hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz' (that last part is a Hebrew blessing over bread, and scans perfectly).

I enjoy the eloquent juxtapositions that arise when something new is added to a song. I love 'One song to the tune of another' on Radio 4, and particularly enjoyed Phil Jupitus singing to lyrics of Aqua's 'Barbie Girl' to the tune of Frank Sinatra's 'Theme from New York, New York'. As Chris Evans recently demonstrated on Radio 2, 'Love Me Tender' to the theme tune of The Archers also works surprisingly well, and might cause one to ponder the clash of cultures that would be represented by The King visiting Ambridge.

Culture clash is also what makes 'Amish Paradise' such a highlight in the output of a man who has devoted his life to rewriting lyrics to humorous effect, Weird Al Yankovic. We have the urban, gangster's milieu of Coolio in our heads, but we hear about the lives of members of a religious community who eschew modern technology.

A similar thing is happening in the more recent Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Zach Galifianakis 'version' of Kanye West's 'Can't Tell Me Nothing', only in this case, there's no lyrical substitution, but instead of an impeccably groomed and supremely confident black man in the music video, we have two rather shambolic, hairy, out-of-shape white men out in the country, miming along to the lyrics (sometimes letting fly some spit whilst doing so). We ought to remember that the fact that the original video is set in the desert, thus avoiding much of the conspicuous consumption of many a rap/hip-hop video, and that Kanye West's appearance is pretty 'conservative' overall, mean that the Oldham/Galifianakis video is not a straightforward lambasting of the excessive trappings of hip-hop culture. It's a bit gentler and stranger than that. And, of course, the joke appears to be partly on Oldham and Galifianakis, who appear to be bringing attention to rather than downplaying their physical demerits. (This said, one bit of the video that never fails to crease me up is the moment where we see a tractor in profile, and its front and rear lifting mechanisms are demonstrated. Surely we're meant to think of the ludicrous suspension on the bonnets of cars filled with girls?)

All this has provided me with the context (or, if you prefer, an excuse) to share something that I've been sitting on for a while. I was originally going to let it stand alone, in a blog entitled, 'Bone Marrow and Giblet: A Travesty', but I will now put it here, with thanks to Zborowski, Falconer, and Lawton - and apologies to Knopfler:
A love struck Romeo
Brings the streets a marinade
Laying everybody low
With the meat sauce that he's made
Finds a street light
Steps out of the shade
Says something like
'You and meat babe, how about it?'

Juliet says, 'Hey it's Romeo
You should've brought me a lamb kebab'
He's underneath the window, she's singing
'Voila, some pudding black!
You shouldn't come around here, marinading meatballs like that,
Anyway, what you gonna do about it?'

Juliet, the pies were loaded from the start
And I bit into a tasty piece of heart
And I forget, I forget, the movie song
When you gonna realise I make the best beef bourguignon, Juliet?

Came up on different meats
Boths were meats of shame
Both dirty - but lean
Yes and the dreams were just the same
And I dreamed your dream for you, and now your dream is veal
How could you look at meat as if it was just another one of your meals?

Well you can fall for brains and liver
You can fall for brains alone
You can fall for streaky bacon
And the promise of T-bone
You promised me everything
You promised me chicken wing, yeah
Now you just, oh Romeo yeah, you know I used to have a spleen with him

Juliet, when we made duck, you used to fry
Said I'd love you like steak and kidney pud
I'd love you 'til I die
There's a steak for us
You know - the venison
When you gonna realise it was just that the time was wrong, Gi-i-i-blet?

I can't do the pork, like the pork on the TV
And I can't make biltong, like the way it's meant to be
I can't stew everything, but I'll stew anything for you
I can'd do anything 'cept be in love with you
And all I do is miss you, and the way we used to eat
All I do is cut the meat, with blunt cutlery
All I eat is brisket, and the rib that is prime
Julie I miss your calf's liver all the time...

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