Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ephemera and Miscellany

First, two anecdotes:

1. I was in the grocery store and the Eddie Money song "Take Me Home Tonight" came on. Now, I'm sure this song has its merits, but they're lost on me. But one thing caught my eye. Ear. There's a part of the song I'd never thought about where he sings "Just like Ronnie sang:" and then a female voice chimes in, "Be my little baby." Now this is, of course, a reference to the Ronettes classic "Be My Baby," which many (myslef among them) consider one of the best pop songs of the era. Brian Wilson, in fact, listened to it obsessively, until he became convinced it contained secret messages for him meant to drive him mad. A good song'll do that to ya. So Eddie Money is employing a cute trick, and one that I'm overfond of, which is weaving lines from well-known songs into one's own songs. Quoting, some call it. But what suddenly struck me was that the female voice was none other than that of Ronnie Spector herself. In other words, how cool must it be to be Eddie Money? (Boy, I never thought I'd say that.) Seriously, to put a reference to "Be My Baby" in a song and get Ronnie Spector to sing it? Almost makes me like the song.

2. Later that day I was in the park (it's been unseasonably warm here in New York) and I passed by a father who was saying to his kid, "You hafta finish your pop." It's not just that he said pop, although that particular non-count noun is certainly a rara avis in these parts (Soon I'll post on pop/soda/coke. I have, as we say in Yinglish, what to say on this topic). But it was also the "hafta," raising the /ae/ through the damn roof. Warmed this Chicagoan's heart. I almost went over and talked to him, but then I remembered all the other times I did things like that, and how it was never a good idea.

Now two facts that delight me whenever I think about them:

1. Ever think about the word 'em? As in "Take 'em out of the oven and put 'em on the table." I always assumed it was a contraction of "them." But since when can you drop a "th" from the beginning of a word? In fact, 'em is a relic of an entirely different pronoun, hem. How cool is that? It's a well known fact, but one I love. And though 'em may seem weird, folksy or extremely casual written out, I don't know any native speaker of American English who doesn't say it. Oh yes, of course I have data to back up that claim.

2. There's a song that I used to hear all the time on the radio called "Blinded By The Light," whose claim to fame is that there's a line where the singer seems to sing "douche." He doesn't. The real line, as penned by the songwriter, who happens to be Bruce Springsteen, is "Wrapped up like a deuce/ Another runner in the night." [or rather "Revved up"]

The famous version of the song, the one where the singer seems to sing "douche," is by Manfred Mann, who, years earlier, he had been the drummer in a band called Manfred Mann, who had a hit with the song "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" (originally by the Exciters, who are quite good). Got that - Manfred Mann was in a band called Manfred Mann. Now, in an organized record store (which is right next to my data proving all Americans say 'em), individual musicians are alphabetized, unsurprisingly, by last name, while band names are alphabetized by first letter. Thus Jethro Tull is under J, whereas if Jethro Tull had taken a break from inventing the seed drill in 1701 to go cut an album, it would be under T. So if you're looking for "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," look under "Manfred," but if you want "Blinded By The Light," look under "Mann." Which is right next to "Manfred," usually.

As for Manfred Mann, he's originally from South Africa. Oh yeah, and his real name is Michael Lubowitz.


Queenie said...

nice stories. yes, i always thought it was douche, and the appearance of ronnie is mystifying. reminds me of corey hart getting eric clapton to play on his first album... huh? not that i have any particular affinity for eric clapton, but you know.

i'm curious as to what you might have to say about a line from the bette midler hit (from my friend jason's blog):


Ben said...

Ah yes, Corey Hart -- How long has it been since I have spoken his name? Not nearly long enough. Really, he has an album? With Eric Clapton on it? How 'bout that.

Thanks for pointing me to Jason's question on irrealis -- he raises an interesting and important question. Maybe I'll think about it and post a comment on his blog.

Incidentally, my word verification word is Srupnplb, who I think was the king of Thailand.

Queenie said...

corey hart did in fact have more than one album. clapton played on his first album, which contained his hit "sunglasses at night". it's not really clear how that happened, but word on the streets of montreal (corey hart's hometown!!!) is that his daddy paid a phat wad to arrange it. you remember, that song with the famous lyric "donruss the ray with a guy in shades" or something like that.

the chocolate lady said...

Seen the pop map?

and isn't it "racked up like a deuce"?

Ben said...

Chocolate Lady -

I have indeed seen the pop map; it served as my background screen for a year. It's wonderful, isn't it?

A little research has convinced me that the line is "revved up like a deuce." The ghits for "revved," "wrapped," and "wracked" are inconclusive, but given Springsteen's fondness for motorcycle imagery, "revved" is the option that makes no sense the least. In any case, thanks for showing the way to the truth.


I must confess that I had Corey Hart mixed up with Corey Haim; I guess my brain only has one spot for Canadians named Corey who were popular in the mid-eighties. In fact I'm not sure I'm familiar with his oeuvre, and part of me wants to remedy that, but another part of me wants to have lunch. Lunch it is.