One of my favorite CDs is by Dr. Hook, titled "Sloppy Seconds". My fears, my loves, my losses, my triumphs here they all are - the story of my life experiences set to music. Our universal connections in a song. Sadness, Hope and Joy - every song is sheer poetry.
The music captures the spirit of the lyrics to perfection; you know the intent of the song even without hearing the text. Rock music at it's best.
"Carry me Carrie" is a song about the casual observation of an old wino, "foot wrapped in an old rag, bottle in a brown bag" yet within seconds brings you to the realization that here is a human being shouting out his raw pain to the world. Carrie is his lost love, whether by death or by choice, we do not know.
You hear his pain and know he is in the grip of emotions so deep, he lost his way, lost touch with the real world. Grief and pain have pushed him to the edge, he cannot go on without her.
"Struggled to his feet, staggered down the street, to the window of a five and dime, he stood and laughed awhile at his reflection and then I heard him shout something about a mountain he could surely climb, if she was only there to point the right direction".
It changes your first thoughts of a nameless, repulsive alcoholic to one of reflection on the impact of a sudden great tragedy in ones life. Compassion without condemnation - understanding, of an almost-taboo subject, the frailty of the human mind, the fleeting or maybe lingering thought of how close to the edge we all are.
What would it take to push you over the edge, will you have the strength to go on in the face of devastating circumstances in your own life? Simple, honest words, the music haunting somehow.
"The last Morning" describes the agony of defeat and the feeling of loneliness in a hostile city environment. A place he chose to live yet now has come to realize it has stripped him of his humanity and eroded his self-confidence. He packs up to leave, "this is a tough cold city here and I guess I just can't cut it here" - "The last morning that I try to shave a face that I don't even recognize".
"I'm so tired of trying to stand against it all alone". The helplessness experienced in living and dealing with harsh, hostile surroundings on a daily basis, mixed with a sense of self-hatred for failing to live up to ones own standards. "Looking at the ceiling wondering where the dream went wrong".
He expresses an intense longing to return home where he knows he will be loved and no longer feel alone.
The refrain "I'm going home" interjects a feeling of relief to have a way out, yet it also conveys an emerging feeling of joy and hope revived. The music is well suited to this piece, changing from a plaintive sound to a smooth, confident sound with "I'm going home".
The story of dreams lost in a city without love or mercy. How good it feels to still have a home to return to. Temporary setback or utter failure, do we give up or carry on?
Just when you were enveloped by doom and gloom, here comes the next song exuberant with the joy of life, celebrating life's successes mixed with a couple of completely outrageous songs about sex, drugs and alternative lifestyles, blatantly outside of the accepted norm.
Take for instance the tongue in cheek, rather well known lyrics to "The Cover of the Rolling Stone". Celebrating their success as Rock-n-Rollers and poking fun at themselves for not really having made it as a band, since they have never been featured on the cover of the Rolling Stone Magazine. "The thrill we've never known" - "we sing about beauty and we sing about truth - at $10, 000 a show." "I'd buy 5 copies for my mother" - "wonna see my smiling face on the cover of the Rolling Stone."
Isn't it funny that no matter how old or how rich we get we still like our mother's approval? You just aren't a success until Mama says so. Hey, this is my review, I can say that.
Consider the daring lyrics of "The freakers ball" which embraces the absurd, starting with "Well, there's gonna by a freakers ball and you know you're invited one and all" - "C'mon on baby grease your lips "- "don't forget to bring your whips we're going to the freakers ball"- "roll up something to take along" - " it feels so good it must be wrong".
The lyrics are a riot, making light of all manner of abhorrent behavior, yet leaving much to the imagination. He sings about pyromaniacs, necropheliacs, leatherfreaks, and masochists. " Everybody is kissing each other, brother and sister, son with mother".
The game of life, the illegal and offensive, seen as a parody of the absurd - " pass that roach please and pour the wine". A song that makes you laugh against your better judgement.
"The Queen of the Silver Dollar" a song that became a hit. Strangely enough no one seems to have paid much attention to the sad story it tells. The lyrics are a surprise, a cavalier tale reminiscent of medieval times. A young woman about to slide into a life of prostitution and the man that is responsible for her moral decline, watching and praying for her soul. She could be any of the ladies working in one of the countless bars anywhere in the world.
"She rules her smoky kingdom and her scepter is her wine glass, the barstool is her throne" - " the jesters flock around her and fight to win her favors, to see which one will take the Queen of the Silver Dollar home". - "She arrives in all her splendor, every night at nine o'clock - on the cross town bus".
A vivid description by the man who lost her, for reasons untold, for him she has remained a queen, but it is with a heavy, guilty heart he watches her. " Her royal gown is a satin dress, that's stained and slightly torn" - " her sparkling jewels are rhinestones and her shoes are scuffed and worn, from the many roads she's traveled".
You gain a glimpse of his tormented soul "and I watch her and I pray, God save the Queen".
Because you see, the song ends with the line, "The Queen of the Silver Dollar is not as hardy as she seems, she was once an ordinary girl with ordinary dreams, but I found her and I won her, and I brought her to this world, yes, I was the one, who made a queen out of a simple country girl".
You wonder where and how this may end, you know he feels the guilt, he knows he is to blame, he caused it, but only she can stop it all. I love the lyricism, but it is without a doubt the music that made this song great - strong, pounding music - Rock-n-Roll with an opera sound.
When I first heard the album over 20 years ago I thought here is the story of my life in bits and pieces, I laughed at the "freakers ball", after all I am a child of the sixties, and I cried over the song "I can't touch the sun". No, that was not one of the songs I described to you. It is the best song of all. Check it out and see what forgotten memories the lyrics and the music awaken within you.
I realize I leaned heavy on the lyrics and even beyond in my personal interpretation, but that is how I experience my music. If you enjoy great lyrics and adult topics, wildly imaginative stories and fine ballads about lost love, lives and opportunities, this is a fine CD and a must have for any fan of classic Rock music.
My world has been rocked and blown apart since the days of first hearing these lyrics and the music. These feelings are now only a distant memory, where once they were raw and pulsating. Many years have passed since I wrote this article as a college paper and it is interesting for me to see how far I am removed from the feelings I once had, but the music still rocks on.
In the end, this is all our lives become - distant memories - echoes.