Monday, November 14, 2011

The Language of Love: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich: "Zabadak"

And now we turn from earnest psychedelic pop to...earnest pop? Seeing how last time they were trying to instigate nothing more than erotic chaos, to a Greek beat no less, here there is percussion galore and an attack on...lyrics themselves?

This NME #2 is predictably sweeping and loopy and everything you'd want/expect from these guys, the sort of song that could get played, no problem, on the new Radio One. It's an awkward thing in songs always to point out (in words, of course) that lyrics/words have less meaning than feelings, that love itself is more important as a feeling than as something expressed. Love, as a band we'll be getting to again soon, is all anyone needs, and words just get in the way...

...and this of course opens up a whole bucket of worms as to how important language is in songs in general as opposed to the feeling the song is trying to promote - that ultimate goal, Love. Do lyrics in songs matter as much as they should? Do they matter at all, ultimately? Are they dispensable? Are they a necessary but unwelcome part of a song? Lyric writers have the annoying position of working for hours on songs, only to have the public mishear them, misunderstand them or just plain ignore them altogether, which can be irritating if the lyric writer is actually trying to get something across*. (There are people I know who only listen to music because of the lyrical content, and others who tend to see it as superfluous because music is their main thing, not words.)

Using words to explain that ultimately words aren't as important as you might think is very Friendly Forebear, and Ken Howard & Alan Blaikley must have realized this when writing it - as T.S. Eliot's puts it, "I gotta use words when I talk to you." Even in trying to escape from language and make it sound like a bunch of nonsense, there has to be some kernel of meaning or the listener is going to wonder why you bothered to say anything anyway. (Even, God bless them, The Trashmen were saying something with "Surfin' Bird" although it's never going to be seen as poetry.) Even if you go by the Bangsian notion that rock 'n' roll is nothing but a huge indestructible joke that will go on forever because it's at bottom it's all about THE PARTY, there is still that basic message to relate, in one way or another.

So when songwriters reflect on the relative unimportance of what they are writing, there is another wall casually knocked down; one between the listener and writer, who here is saying that the feeling of love - love as big as an ocean - dwarfs anything he could write, and maybe that's '67 hyperbole but also, just maybe, it's true. Words can do a lot, but they can also only do so much, and the indescribable is sensibly left that way, to a lot of percussion and grinning and general good vibes. This is Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich's "All You Need Is Love"; but it's also saying that as a song it (in a way) is meaningless, next to the epic feeling that it's patiently pointing towards...

Next up: one last swim through balladsville, before the end...

*There are lyricists who love to write and others who leave it at the last minute, as for them it's a chore, not a pleasure (Jarvis Cocker and Rod Temperton are two I can name right off the bat). I wonder how many songs have been written where the words are seen as homework, something to just get done and over with.

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