Bad lyrics really aren’t a new thing

By Jeff Linville -

There some universal truths I’ve learned about humans in my 45 years.

Most people believe they are good drivers, despite evidence to the contrary.

Most people say they support the Constitution and Bill of Rights — except when someone’s beliefs run counter to their own. Then they are ready to start chopping amendments off the centuries-old documents.

And most people think the music of their youth is better than the music that comes after it. People from the big band era disliked Elvis and the roots of rock and roll. The sock hop generation resisted disco, and those Bee Gees fans hated hair bands of the ’80s.

Of course, all of those people seemed to be united in their dislike of today’s pop and hip hop music. But then again, all of those people are 40 and older, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that we don’t “get” today’s noise.

I wrote in a column a year ago that I couldn’t get my daughter interested in learning guitar until I got a bass. She took over the four-string, especially once we got a copy of the guitar video game Rocksmith.

One day we took the bass and the entire Xbox system to my parents’ house so the grandparents could see her progress.

The easiest song to learn on the bass was a Def Leppard song called “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”

Halfway through the song my dad pointed out what ridiculous lyrics the ‘80s rock track had.

Songs from his day were written better.

So then the next song was an older Rolling Stones song, “Paint It Black.” Midway through that one, Dad admitted that these lyrics were pretty stupid, too.

On my way to work Tuesday I heard the Beatles singing:

All you need is love

All you need is love

Love is all you need

It took three lines to get that point across? Lennon/McCartney is considered one of the best song-writing duos of all time, but for every “Yesterday” you get a “Love Me Do.” And don’t even get me started on the kindergarten sing-along style of “Yellow Submarine.”

I remember an episode of “Laverne & Shirley” where Laverne’s dad is complaining about the state of music in that era.

Frank asks Carmine to quote the chorus of a popular song of the day. Carmine starts singing, “My baby does the hanky-panky.” Okay, the next line? Carmine gives a less-enthusiastic, “My baby does the hanky-panky.” And the third line? Carmine mumbles, “My baby does the hanky-panky.” That is courtesy of Tommy James and the Shondells in 1966.

When I was growing up in the ‘70s, we had such silliness as “A Groovy Kind of Love” and the ultra-repetitive Kiss “Rock and Roll All Night.”

I read an interview where Robert Plant admitted that some of the Led Zeppelin lyrics were flowery nonsense written to impress young women.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now

It’s just a spring clean for the May queen


Compared to that, there was a kind of simple honesty to the glam-rock bands of the 80s with “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Nothin’ But a Good Time” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

The early ‘90s brought a rejection of that hedonistic lifestyle with a social consciousness not seen since the hippie days of the Vietnam era. Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” and Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” come to mind.

But as my cousin Tracy said: people listen to music to have fun, not slit their wrists.

So while grunge was playing out in one genre, pop music carried on the silly with things like “Baby Got Back,” “Ice Ice Baby” and Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5.”

The 2000s brought us the Black Eyed Peas with such unforgettable lines as, “My hump my hump my hump my lovely lady lumps.” Another derriere-related track was Destiny’s Child with “Bootylicious.”

If we know anything from the history of music, we can be assured of these points:

1. There will always be musicians who indulge in alcohol and/or drugs and die too young. Think Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bon Scott, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Amy Winehouse.

2. There will always be boy bands that capture the hearts of teen girls. Like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Jackson 5, New Edition, New Kids on the Block, Boys II Men, the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Hanson, the Jonas Brothers and One Direction.

3. There will always be lyrics that make adults want to shove forks into their ear drums.

As awful as I think today’s music sounds to me, 20 years from now a bunch of 35-year-olds are going to be talking about the good old days of Ariana Grande, twenty one pilots and The Chainsmokers.

God help us all.

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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