I'm a big fan of words. Lyrics, to be precise. It certainly helps to have a tune to carry them, but when a song has a verse or two that catches me as clever, I am almost instantly enamored. It is for this reason, for example, that I have forgiven Lou Reed for rhyming "head" with "head" in Walk On The Wild Side. The rest of the story and images are stunning enough to let that little lapse of coupling slide. I am still not sure if I can find room to do the same for Bono's "early morning, April 4" in Pride (In The Name Of Love). Martin Luther King was shot in the afternoon of April 4. It's a factual inaccuracy. Otherwise, a stirring tribute to the fallen idol of millions gets marked down on my score card because of it.
Maybe there was something about time zones and Dublin that led to that little snafu, but these are the kind of things that occasionally keep me from full joy. Then there is this other school of lyrics: the ones that I have known most of my life, but have only begun to consider them now as an adult as something other than clever wordplay. And example of this would be R. B. Greave's Take A Letter Maria. When I was seven, and caught up in that hook, it never occurred to me that this guy wasn't just leaving his wife, but he was taking the opportunity of being cuckolded to hit on his secretary. Is that the kind of behavior we want to award with a gold record?
Then there's this idjit singing about Pina Coladas and personal ads. It sounds cute enough, but what sort of guy would start fishing around for another girl just because this one has grown too predictable? When it turns out that the two of them had the same idea it's like some Tinder version of Gift of the Magi, they both have a good laugh and carry on as if this were the way that adults carry on relationships? Maybe we can blame 1980, but remind me not to look up Rupert Holmes when it comes time to recommend a couples' counselor.
Of course, Rupert appears to have a sterling character when you compare him to Paul Simon. The clever part of Simon and Garfunkel had us all singing along with fifty ways to leave a committed relationship. It's a regular rhyming dictionary of infidelity. Make a new plan, Stan. Hop on the bus, Gus. Paul introduces the barrage of catchy suggestions as the advice from the woman with whom he is currently involved in a non-monogamous tryst. Even though she tells him there must be fifty ways, she only mentions six, and as the couple drifts off to sleep, the character asks to be consoled just one more time with this list. Generations have grown up with this catchy tune in their head, just waiting for the moment when the advice seems appropriate. Drop off the key, Lee. That's all there is to it. Which would be great except this is coming from a guy who still hasn't quite been able to shake his singing partner in the last fifty years.
I'd like to hear that song.