Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pimpin' USA

When I first went into the music store I was looking for the CD version of the first cassette tape I ever got - The Beach Boys Greatest Hits. The Beach Boys were already considered old when I was 11 in 1986, but I was crazy about the song "Surfin' USA" so I passed up the displays for The Bangles and The Fat Boys and picked up the tape. I fell in love with every single song. I didn't know what they were saying half the time, but I was charmed by the lead singer's boyish voice and I imagined that every time he said the word "baby" he was talking to me.

It wasn't until last month when I bought "Beach Boys - Sounds of Summer" that I realize what total pimps those guys were. I was playing the CD in the car with my kids and when "Surfin' Safari" came on I paid close attention to the lyrics to see what parts I could remember. The song starts off like this:

Early in the morning we'll be startin' out

Some honeys will be coming along

Some honeys? Then I remembered other lines, the meanings of which had escaped me as a child. Lines like "Two girls for every boy." They sang a lot about chicks in bikinis and chicks who couldn't resist their cars. Two for each of them.

The comprehension of these lyrics was interesting to me, but not shocking . Not like when I was 20 and, after listening to The Misfits for five years, I got their box set and finally read the lines of the songs that were too slurred to understand. This was more than just shocking. This wasn't like the first time I saw Family Guy and I turned to my husband-then-boyfriend and said, giggling, "Did that dude just say that?" Taking their lyrics at face value, The Mistfits were murderous, S&M, raping, stealing, satanic psychopaths. With good rhythm.

For instance, one of my favorite songs was "Bullet." What attracted me to it was the energy. Ok, what attracted me to every Misfits song was the punk energy. The only words I understood that Glenn Danzig said were, "ride Johnny ride," "texas is the reason that the President's dead," and "Johnathon F. Kennedy." With these clues and my sly intuition I guessed the song was about Kennedy's assaination. And I was right. But there was so much more to that song that I hadn't understood. Like this:

President's bullet ridden body in the street

Ride, Johnny, ride

Kennedy's shattered head hits concrete

Ride, Johnny, ride

Johnny's wife is floundering

Johnny's wife is scared

Run, Jackie, run

Texas is an outrage when your husband is dead

Texas is an outrage when they pick up his head

Texas is the reason that the president's dead

Ya gotta suck, suck, Jackie, suck

It is because of these lines (and a line further into the song that says "my cum'll be your life source") that I will probably never be shocked by my kids' music the way other parents will be. In ten years, while other parents are mortified by my daughter and her other sixteen year old friends listening to songs that have consensual sex in them I will sit there calmly listening to their worries and say, "Well...it could be worse. They could be singing about Jacqueline Kennedy giving Glenn Danzig a blow job." And then they will politely ban me from furture PTA meetings.

But honestly, how much more scandalous can lyrics get? Every generation rebels against their mothers and fathers, but they all use the same material. They reinvent the method of rebellion, they don't own rebellion itself. Murder, revenge, nudity, intestinal gas, sex, rape, theft, atheism, incest, masturbation, drugs, drinking, and so on and so forth have been sung about for a long time now. I know most parents disagree with me when I say that I don't believe that music is to blame for kids' bad behavior or is getting worse. I've always felt that if a kid is stupid enough to copy behavior they read about, hear in a song, or watch on t.v. then...well, they're just stupid. This is the Jackass/Darwin Awards crowd we're talking about here. Plus, I get nervous when people talk about banning music, or writing for that matter. Where would banning stop? As an example of how long the subjects of sex, murder, incest, and bawdy jokes have been in art just read Hamlet. I would bet money that Shakespeare was not shocked by his children's generation.

But anyway, back to crazy music. My kids are only 5,6, and 8 years old, but in ten years or so when I hear lyrics like, "I dig your ass and you dig mine/Let's hook up and be asinine" blaring from their rooms I will remember lines like, "Ya gotta suck, suck, Jackie, suck," and I will have no leg to stand on. Will I tell them to turn off that crap? Hell yes, that's my parental right! But will I be shocked and lecture them about how scandalous music has become? No. It was born low down and dirty.

In the mean time, I will enjoy driving around this summer while the kids and I sing along with The Beach Boys, "I'm gettin' bugged drivin' up and down the same ole strip/I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip/I get around..."

1 comment:

biggearhead said...

I was playing a Beach Boys hits CD in the garage while working on the car the other day, and I turned to my friend and said, "Check this out - the words to Help Me Rhonda? It's like an Ode to the Rebound Girl!" Players to the last man, those Boys.