Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Story in the Song

Thanks to Roomie’s music choice during the car ride in to work today, I have been singing Meat Loaf all morning. More specifically “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” a song that brings to mind Sweet 16 parties where boys stood on one side of the dance floor, girls stood on the other and the whole group took part in a giant duet. Anyone else remember doing that? Don’t be shy about it. At the very least, I know I wasn’t alone on that dance floor, so there have to be some people out there who have taken part in similar teen musical moments.

More than just bringing back those awkward high school dance memories, this song had me thinking about music that tells a complete story. The story of the young couple in “Paradise” might not have had a particularly happy ending, but the listener knows how they got there. And you have to respect someone who takes their word that seriously.

All songs have a story behind them, but some have fuller narratives than others. They’re like little mini books you can sing along to. And they’re awesome.

Here are a few others that come to mind:

The Mary Ellen Carter
This song was written by Stan Rogers, but I saw Liam Clancy perform it when I was studying in Ireland, so I generally think of him when I hear it. It’s about a crew’s effort to salvage a wrecked ship. The song starts with the ships sinking, moving on the men’s decision and those standing in their way. It even has a moral to be applied to things other than ship salvaging. Which is nice. Mostly ‘cause I’ve never salvaged a ship. (But just give me time.)

“Goodbye Earl”
The friendship of Mary Ann and Wanda is laid out in detail here, from their high school days to their ultimate choice to open a produce stand together. And you know, the little homicide incident in the middle. Well, regardless, these ladies get their happy ending, and listeners get a beginning, a middle and an end.

“Leader of the Pack”
Ah, the Shangri Las - The voices behind melodramatic hits like “Walking in the Sand” and “I Can Never Go Home Anymore.” Still, I think this track may be their most well know. It tells the tragic story of young lovers from the opposite side of the tracks. Of course, my biggest question after listening to it was always, why did the other two girls not seem to have any knowledge that the motorcycle riding gentleman caller in question had already met his dreadful end? Particularly if “at school, they all stop and stare”? For two ladies so interested in the relationship, they were a little behind the times. Perhaps they were new to the whole art of gossip.

How about you? What narrative songs come to mind?

Also, in other news…. Squirrel Menace Update: Don’t tell me Rocky didn’t know exactly what he was doing.

1 comment:

  1. The Lighthouse's Tale by Nickel Creek. A depressing song about a lighthouse who used to be happy with his lighthouse keeper friend and then later his lighthouse keeper friend's lover but then one day she goes out to see, and then her ship is smashed and her dead body washes up on shore. The lighthouse keeper buries her and then flings himself off the lighthouse and the lighthouse is just hanging out all empty and sad. :(