Afternoon After the Day Before Music: John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey”

It’s true that in my innocent early teens I took this song as a dire warning about the havoc leftovers can wreak on an unsuspecting digestive system. In my defense, if you listen to the lyrics, they do nothing to dispel that interpretation.

Has anyone else any similarly embarrassing revelations about their early impressions of songs that turned out to be somewhat naive?

Posted by YAFB on 11/25/11 at 02:34 PM • Permalink

Categories: I Don't Know Much About Art, But I Know What I LikeMusicMusic VideosSkull HampersYouTubidity

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I’m sure somebody had to explain “Turning Japanese” to me at some point.

Really interesting question. (Like Oblo, someone in college explained “turning Japanese” to me. Still trying to figure the entendre behind “Walk Like an Egyptian.”)

While I got allegory at an early age, I’ll fess up and say I didn’t understand what the basic meaning of “rock & roll” was all about. Being a kid and all.

I remember the high school newspaper article that deconstructed “Come On Baby Light My Fire.” I didn’t think it was about fellow scouts trying to get the marshmallows roasting, but I thought it was more or less along the lines of “Honey? Would you mind delineating the Eleusinean Mysteries?” Honestly, to this day I believe that may have been part of Jim Morrison’s meaning.

In college I remember having a discussion with a friend of mine about Brain Damage and Eclipse, two songs that I would listen to over and over at the time. My friend said that he thought the lyrics were just nonsense, I was lost grasping for an interpretation. What I remember saying was that when I listened to the two songs, I get the feeling that it’s okay not to see things as other people do. Recently I saw a documentary on the making of Dark Side in which Roger Waters said that it was partly about Syd Barrett, but also about the sense of being different.

I did feel somewhat vindicated by that.

I thought Louie Louie was about sex.

Um, I’m 53 and I never knew what I’m Turning Japanese was about so now you made me use my Google-fu.  Oh, now I get it; no wonder everyone was dancing to that song.

In my defense, I was a really hard working college student (big course load and lots of hours at a job), and the fact that I was in a town with only 3 radio stations at the time (though one covered a lot of ground by being both country and western) has something to do with it.

Although I think he and his band were terrific, Steve Miller’s lyrics, including the famous “pompatus of love” were often hilariously weird

I can confess/boast the ur-error: It took me until the age of 60 to realize that the verb “love” in pop music meant “fuck.”  “I love how you love me” meant, “I love how you fuck me.”

I mean I sort-of “knew” it all along (I didn’t think it meant, “I love the way you have of being in love with me”), but it took six decades—five of which were spent saturated in rock, blues, pop, etc.—for me to grasp that there was a simple, familiar verb behind all that “love.” 

Embarrassing, yes, but also subtly thrilling, in retrospect.

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