Thursday, May 11, 2017

Misunderstood Lyrics

From Tom Taylor's NOW Column today, a story about my old boss Jim Smith...

The listener heard indecent lyrics, then wanted to buy the song – Jim Smith was music director of top 40 WLS Chicago in the mid-1970s, and says “My secretary buzzed me to say ‘You'd better take this call. This man thinks we're playing a song about a[n] ‘f-ing bitch.’ Turns out it wasn't a complaint call. The guy wanted to identify the song so he could buy a copy. We quickly determined that it wasn't Elton John's ‘The Bitch Is Back.’ I tried to get more details. ‘It's some man singing it.’ (Uh, yeah, that narrows it down.) He couldn't tell me whether it was fast or slow, nor much of anything else helpful. Gradually, he remembered a little more from the lyrics – ‘Dance, pretty mama,’ and eventually ‘I wanna see that f-ing bitch / Dance, pretty mama, take me by my hand.’ The cadence of those lines helped more than his (in)ability to sing them. I sang it back to him, slurring the words – ‘I'd like to hear some funky Dixieland / Pretty mama, come and take me by the hand.’ Yep, that was it. ‘Black Water’ by the Doobie Brothers. I explained that ‘funky Dixieland’ was what they were singing. He went away happy. I laughed about it with just about everyone on the staff. But I neglected to ask him whether he had an Arbitron diary.”