Song Lyric Sunday — Bluegrass

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme, Jim Adams has given us “bluegrass” songs. Jim explains that Bluegrass is a style of country music that arose in Appalachia in the 1940s and it is typically played on acoustic instruments. I’m not a fan of country music nor of bluegrass. But I loved the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” I even posted about that movie here for last year’s A to Z Challenge. So this week I’m going to focus on a song that was featured in that movie, “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow.” Below is a scene from the movie that introduced the song:

This song was first published in 1913 by the blind folk singer Richard Burnett. It was popularized by the Stanley Brothers, who recorded the song in the 1950s. Many other artists have covered the song, including Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Ginger Baker’s Air Force with vocals by Denny Laine.

As I mentioned, the song was featured in the 2000 movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” which was based on the epic poem The Odyssey. The lyrics, “I am a man of constant sorrow / I’ve seen trouble all my days,” refers to Odysseus and all the troubles he had on his journey home. In the film, the song is sung by The Soggy Bottom Boys, a group made up for the movie with George Clooney as one of the members. The real voice was that of Dan Tyminski from the band Union Station, with backing vocals from Harley Allen and Pat Enright.

The version of the song recorded for the movie received a CMA Award for “Single of the Year” in 2001 and a Grammy for “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals” in 2002. The song was also named Song of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2001.

Here are the lyrics to “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrows.”

I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all my days
I bid farewell to old Kentucky
The state where I was borned and raised
(The state where he was borned and raised)

For six long years I've been in trouble
No pleasure here on earth I find
For in this world I'm bound to ramble
I have no friends to help me now
(He has no friends to help him now)


It's fare thee well my old lover
I never expect to see you again
For I'm bound to ride that northern railroad
Perhaps I'll die upon this train
(Perhaps he'll die upon this train)

You can bury me in some deep valley
For many years where I may lay
Then you may learn to love another
While I am sleeping in my grave
(While he is sleeping in his grave)

Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger
My face you never will see no more
But there is one promise that is given
I'll meet you on God's golden shore
(He'll meet you on God's golden shore)

Here is the Stanley Brothers version:

Song Lyric Sunday — Surfin’ USA

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme, Jim Adams has given us “surf rock.” I suppose I could have gone with The Beach Boys or Jan & Dean, but I decided to go with something more off-beat. I chose a song by The Trashmen called “Surfin’ Bird.”

The song “Surfin’ Bird” is actually a medley made up of the choruses of two R&B classics by the ’60s doo-wop group, The Rivingtons: “The Bird Is the Word” and “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow.” The brainchild of Trashmen drummer Steve Wahrer, the song was a quirky and consumable hit, boldly combining surf music with novelty R&B. The Rivingtons were awarded writing credit for the song, since it was based on their compositions.

The Trashmen was a garage band from Minneapolis, which isn’t exactly surfing territory. But the quartet soaked up the sunshine and sounds of California when they took a road trip there in the spring of 1963. Returning home, they incorporated the surf sound into their shows when they played local gigs, and eventually worked up “Surfin’ Bird.”

The single was released shortly before the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, so it took longer than usual to climb the chart. It reached its U.S. chart peak at number 4 on January 25, 1964.

Interesting factoid: You may have noticed in the video above that there is only one band member shown. That was lead singer and drummer Steve Wahrer. The video was shot during the January 4, 1964 episode of American Bandstand. Before introducing the band, Dick Clark called “Surfin’ Bird” one of the most “strange and unusual” songs of 1963. But Wahrer performed the song solo, doing a chicken-like dance as he gamely lip-synched along. Wahrer’s three bandmates didn’t join him because the band’s management wouldn’t pay to fly them to Philadelphia where the show was taped.

Here are the lyrics to “Surfin’ Bird.”

A-well-a everybody's heard about the bird
B-b-b-bird, b-birdd's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, bird is the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, well-a bird is the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, well-a bird is the word
A-well, a bird, bird, b-bird is the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, well-a bird is the word
A-well, a bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a don't you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word

A-well-a-bird, bird, b-bird's the word, a-well-a

A-well-a everybody's heard about the bird
Bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a don't you know about the bird?
Well, everybody's talking about the bird!

A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, surfing bird, brr, brr, ah, ah
Ah, bap-a-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pap

Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-ma-ma, ma-ma-mow
Ma-ma-ma-ma, ma-ma-mow
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow

A-well-a don't you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word

A-well, a bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a mow, mow, pa-pa, ma-ma-mow, pa-pa
Ma-ma-mow, ma-ma, mow, pa-pa

Song Lyric Sunday — Paisley Underground

This week’s theme for Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday is Paisley Underground, yet another genre of music I have no familiarity with, at least by that designation. So, once again, everything I know about Paisley Underground music is what I learned on Google. According to an article in the Guardian, “Back in the early 80s, Los Angeles saw a sudden spurt of young bands all influenced by the psychedelia of the late 60s, and all taking different elements of it. The result was bands that all sounded different, but all of a piece – from the intense, droning, tough Velvetsy rock of the Dream Syndicate, to the sunshiney Beatles pop of the Bangles, to the Byrds-indebted Long Ryders.

As I looked at the different groups that are categorized as Paisley Underground, the only one I’d ever even heard of was The Bangles. And of their recordings, the only one that sounded even vaguely familiar was “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

“Walk Like an Egyptian” was recorded by the The Bangles. It was released in 1986 as the third single from the album Different Light. It was the band’s first number one single, and became Billboard’s number-one song of 1987. The song was written by Liam Sternberg, who said he got the idea when he was on a ferry boat and saw people struggling to keep their balance. The way they held out their arms and jerked around reminded Sternberg of the depiction of human figures in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings. Their movements made it look like they were doing Egyptian poses, and if the boat moved suddenly, they would all topple over.

“Walk Like An Egyptian” gave The Bangles a new level of notoriety, but not the kind they wanted. Formed in 1981, they wrote their own songs and were a big part of the Los Angeles Paisley Underground movement. The band quickly became recognized for their ‘60s sound with lots of clever, well-constructed songs written by their guitarists, Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson.

But then “Walk Like an Egyptian,” a goofy romp written by an outsider that the band didn’t think would get released as a single because it was “too weird,” was released, shot to the top of the charts, and became a sensation. And the group’s rock pedigree took a hit. Suddenly they were known for this quasi-novelty song instead of their own compositions.

Here are the lyrics to “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

All the old paintings on the tombs
They do the sand dance don't you know
If they move too quick (oh whey oh)
They're falling down like a domino

All the bazaar men by the Nile
They got the money on a bet
Gold crocodiles (oh whey oh)
They snap their teeth on your cigarette

Foreign types with the hookah pipes say
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian

Blond waitresses take their trays
They spin around and they cross the floor
They've got the moves (oh whey oh)
You drop your drink and they give you more

All the school kids so sick of books
They like the punk and the metal band
When the buzzer rings (oh whey oh)
They're walking like an Egyptian

All the kids in the marketplace say
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian

Slide your feet up the street bend your back
Shift your arm then you pull it back
Life is hard you know (oh whey oh)
So strike a pose on a Cadillac

If you want to find all the cops
They're hanging out in the donut shop
They sing and dance (oh whey oh)
Spin the clubs cruise down the block

All the Japanese with their yen
The party boys call the Kremlin
And the Chinese know (oh whey oh)
They walk the line like Egyptian

All the cops in the donut shop say
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian
Walk like an Egyptian

Song Lyric Sunday — Two Car Garage

This week’s theme for Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday is garage rock. Garage rock is a genre of rock that started in the late 50s and early 60s. As Jim pointed out, garage rock has a unique sound that is characterized by piano riffs that were sometimes distorted through a fuzzbox, as well as aggressive lyrics with growling vocals. The garage rock song I’m going with is “Dirty Water” by the Standells, which is now considered a classic of the garage rock genre.

“Dirty Water” was a song by the American garage rock band The Standells, written by their producer Ed Cobb. First issued in late 1965, the song reached number 11 on the Billboard singles charts in June 1966. It was the band’s first major hit single.

Cobb wrote “Dirty Water” on a visit to Boston that turned ugly. He was with a girl when two guys tried to mug them, but they ran away. Cobb said, “So when I got back to the hotel, I wrote the song.”

Standell’s drummer, Dick Dodd, who was once on The Mickey Mouse Club, handled lead vocals on this track. His spoken lines and interjections (“I’m gonna tell you a story…” “Have you heard about the Strangler?”) he made up in the studio.

The guy in the song, whose home is in Boston, is happy to live in this gritty city among the “muggers and thieves.” The line, “Frustrated women have to be in by 12 o’clock” refers to the curfew observed by Boston University co-eds at the time.

While the song was a pretty big hit when it was released in 1966, it didn’t gain its mystique until 50 years later, when the Boston professional sports teams adopted it. The Boston Red Sox baseball team was the first to use it, playing it after home wins in 1997. The Celtics basketball team and Bruins hockey team followed suit, making it the song most associated with Boston sports, and thus the city as a whole.

Interestingly, “Dirty Water” has become a Boston anthem and a source of pride for the city, but it was written and performed by guys from Los Angeles, who didn’t have any good tidings toward the city of Boston.

Here are the lyrics to “Dirty Water.”

I'm gonna tell you a story
I'm gonna tell you about my town
I'm gonna tell you a big fat story, baby
Aw, it's all about my town

Yeah, down by the river
Down by the banks of the river Charles
(Aw, that's what's happenin' baby)
That's where you'll find me
Along with lovers, muggers, and thieves
(Aw, but they're cool people)

Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston, you're my home
(Oh, you're the number one place)

Frustrated women (I mean they're frustrated)
Have to be in by twelve o'clock (oh, that's a shame)
But I'm wishin' and a-hopin', oh
That just once those doors weren't locked
(I like to save time for my baby to walk around)

Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston, you're my home (oh, yeah)

Because I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston, you're my home (oh, yeah)

Well, I love that dirty water (I love it, baby)
I love that dirty water (I love Boston)
I love that dirty water (Have you heard about the strangler?)
I love that dirty water (I'm the man, I'm the man)
I love that dirty water (Ow)
I love that dirty water (Come on, come on)

Song Lyric Sunday — Are You Talking To Me, Punk?

This week’s theme for Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday is punk songs. I’ve never been a fan of punk rock, so this is definitely taking me out of my comfort zone. According to Wikipedia, punk bands rejected the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock music. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often shouted political, anti-establishment lyrics.

One of the bands associated with punk is The Clash. I looked up songs by The Clash, and the only one I recognized was “Rock the Casbah.” I don’t know if that is, indeed, a punk song, but that’s what I’m going with.

“Rock the Casbah” was a song by the English punk rock band The Clash, released in 1982. It was released as the second single from their fifth album, Combat Rock. It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S., and was the band’s only top 10 single there.

The song was composed by the band’s drummer, Topper Headon, based on a piano part that he had been toying with. Finding himself in the studio without his three bandmates, Headon progressively taped the drum, piano and bass parts, recording the bulk of the song’s musical instrumentation himself. Interestingly, Headon had been fired from the group because of drug problems by the time the song became an enormous hit in the U.S.

Headon’s original lyrics were a filthy ode to his girlfriend. Band member Joe Strummer characterized the lyrics as “really pornographic.” Strummer then rewrote the lyrics to make the song about a Middle Eastern king and the king’s efforts to enforce and justify a ban on rock music. It also focused on protests against the ban by holding rock concerts in temples and squares (“rocking the casbah”). This culminates in the king ordering his military’s fighter jets to bomb the protestors. But after taking off, the pilots ignore the king’s orders and instead play rock music on their cockpit radios, joining the protest and implying the loss of the king’s power. The lyrics were loosely based on an actual ban on Western music, including rock music, enforced in Iran since the Iranian Revolution.

When this song became a hit, Strummer considered leaving The Clash. He couldn’t justify singing rebellious songs when the band was rich and successful. In their early years, when they were struggling, their music was sincere, but he felt they were becoming a joke. The band did break up in 1985.

The U.S. military used this song as a rallying cry when they invaded Iraq in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. Strummer was irate over the song being one of the most requested on American radio because of the misunderstanding that it was anti-Iraq in sentiment.

Here are the lyrics to “Rock the Casbah.”

Now the king told the boogie men
"You have to let that raga drop"
The oil down the desert way
Has been shaken to the top
The Sheik he drove his Cadillac
He went a-cruisin' down the ville
The Muezzin was a-standin'
On the radiator grille, ow

Shareef don't like it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah
The Shareef don't like it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah

By order of the Prophet
We ban that boogie sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that crazy Casbah sound
But the Bedouin they brought out an electric camel drum
The local guitar picker got his guitar pickin' thumb
As soon as the Shareef had cleared the square
They began to wail

Shareef don't like it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don't like it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah

Now, over at the temple
Oh, they really pack 'em in
The in-crowd say it's cool
To dig this chanting thing
But as the wind changed direction
And the temple band took five
The crowd caught a whiff
Of that crazy Casbah jive

Shareef don't like it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don't like it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah

The king called up his jet fighters
He said, "You better earn your pay
Drop your bombs between the minarets
Down the Casbah way"
As soon as the Shareef was chauffeured outta there
The jet pilots tuned to the cockpit radio blare
Soon as the Shareef was outta their hair
The jet pilots wail

Shareef don't like it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don't like it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah

Shareef don't like it, he thinks it's not kosher
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don't like it, fundamentally can't take it
Rockin' the Casbah, Rock the Casbah

Shareef don't like it, you know he really hates it
Rockin' the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don't like it, really, really hates it