If you love me, you’ll give me a dollar, baby

Today, for the first time ever, I paid attention to the lyrics to the verses of Ray Columbus and the Invaders‘ 1964 hit “She’s a Mod“.

The song is about a guy who fancies a girl and he’s somehow promised to buy her some clothes, but she’s going through all these different fashion styles which is – whoa, there – costing the fellow a pretty penny.

The final verse laments:

Because I wanted her love
I said I’d buy her new clothes.
She took advantage of my trust.
Now I’m broke and completely bust.

The girlfriend finally settles on the mod look, and I think the guy is cheerfully singing this in the chorus because – rejoice – he won’t have to buy her any more clothes!

But as I read these lyrics, I recognised a familiar theme. In N.W.A.‘s 1989 song “I Ain’t Tha 1” Ice Cube warns:

And they’ll get you for your money, son.
Next thing you know you’re getting their hair and they nails done

As a lesson to less savvy men, Ice Cube cautions fellows that women are just after money, and then they’ll make excuses to not have sex with you. His advice is to keep them at a safe distance, just use them for sex, and don’t give them none of yo’ cash.

It’s as if Ice Cube went through a similar situation to Ray, but instead of being happy with his moddishly attired honey, she instead dumped him when the money ran out, leaving him heart-broken and determined to never let it happen again.

So what does a more contemporary take on this theme sound like? Destiny’s Child got there in 2000 with “Independent Woman Pt 1“:

Question: Tell me what you think about me.
I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings.

The shoes on my feet – I’ve bought it.
The clothes I’m wearing – I’ve bought it.

So, the well-adjusted modern woman isn’t going to constantly bother her fellow for money to buy nice things – she can buy her own nice stuff with her own money. She’s a bit unsure of how this will affect the traditional male-female relationship, but she’s also quote proud of her financial independence.

Thinking about all this, maybe I’m a really modern woman or something, but the idea of a man giving me money to get my hair cut or buy some clothes, well, it seems really dirty. Beer, yes; frocks, no.

So now all I need to do is write a pop song and/or gangsta rap about my money policy, and I’ll surely be on to a winner.

Excuse me while I kiss this guy

I just was listening to Dr Dre’s 1992 gangsta rap masterpiece, “The Chronic”. Now, I’ve listened to it a number of times and thought I knew it pretty well. Heh.

So along came track four, “The Day the Niggaz Took Over”. There’s a line in it that goes, “Got myself an Uzi, and my brother a 9.” Except that prior to this evening – for well over a decade – I thought the line went, “Got myself an Uzi, and my brother a nun.”

Really. Really, truly. I thought that’s how it went.

It doesn’t make sense. Why would the brother of a ruthless criminal gangsta villain have a nun and not a 9mm gun? If the Niggaz were going to take over, it would make sense to arm themselves, not nun themselves.

God, it’s going to take a lot of effort to not automatically associate nuns with gangstas any more.

Feel My Serpentine

When I was 14 my English teacher was pretty cool. She was probably only a couple of years out of teachers college, young, hip and had a kind of punk hair style.

She decided that instead of getting us to analyse poems instead we’d be allowed to bring along our favourite songs and analyse those.

This sort of thing can cause problems – a couple of years later when my brother was doing the same thing he took along an NWA tape and the teacher started playing “Fuck the Police” until she heard the lyrics and quickly stopped it.

There’s also the problem that many songs 14-year-olds are into don’t have many meaningful lyrics. I remember reading the lyrics to various popular songs in Smash Hits. Many times there’d be things like this:

Ride on time (x8)
Wo-oah
(Ad lib to fade)

But after sorting through the selection of tapes that my classmates had brought along, my teacher decided on one that she thought would work. It was “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses. A track off their recently released album “Appetite for Destruction,” it was a favourite amongst the metallers in my class.

She put the tape on and we listened to the first verse:

Welcome to the jungle
We’ve got fun ‘n’ games
We got everything you want
Honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find
Whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey
We got your disease

The first question she asked was if we knew what the jungle was. There was a bit of discussion, someone suggested that the jungle represented society, and most people agreed with this. Then someone else suggested that maybe it was drugs, and the class was more or less split between society and drugs. It was time for the chorus:

In the jungle
Welcome to the jungle
Watch it bring you to your knees, knees
I wanna watch you bleed

It was decided that this meant that society and/or drugs, which had previously wanted to be nice to you, now wanted to be nasty and see you suffer. Things were still a bit vague, so we moved onto the next verse:

Welcome to the jungle
We take it day by day
If you want it you’re gonna bleed
But it’s the price you pay
And you’re a very sexy girl
That’s very hard to please
You can taste the bright lights
But you won’t get them for free

It seemed that this verse was directed towards a female. This could that symbolise that the jungle/drugs/society was a male and the thing it was talking to was a female, or it could be a specific man and woman, like Axl Rose and his girlfriend.

Things got a bit awkward when it came to analysing the line “you’re a very sexy girl”. The jungle/society/drugs was obviously judging her outward appearance. But things got more hectic with the next chorus:

In the jungle
Welcome to the jungle
Feel my, my, my serpentine
I, I wanna hear you scream

It was that line, “feel my serpentine”. What was a serpentine? There was that river in London, and it could also mean something like a snake. But he wanted her to feel it, he wanted her to feel his snake-like thing. He wanted her to feel his… er, time for another verse.

Welcome to the jungle
It gets worse here everyday
You learn to live like an animal
In the jungle where we play
If you got a hunger for what you see
You’ll take it eventually
You can have anything you want
But you better not take it from me

The mention of living like an animal (a serpentine?) was impressive as it took the jungle metaphor one step further. But unlike a real jungle that might be ok to live in, this one got worse every day. It was interesting that the jungle was enticing the possible female, but also letting her know that she couldn’t have anything from it.

And when you’re high you never
Ever want to come down

This worked strongly in favour of the jungle-as-drugs supporters, but the jungle-as-society crew pointed out that high didn’t have to mean high on drugs. High society, perhaps?

You know where you are
You’re in the jungle baby
You’re gonna die

This could mean that the female person/metaphor had overdosed on drugs/society. But if it was drugs, why would drugs want a person to die? Wouldn’t the drugs want a person to stick around so they could take more drugs? Or would that only be a drug dealer. Wait, maybe the jungle was a drug dealer? The chorus was repeated again, then the song ended with:

In the jungle
Welcome to the jungle
Watch it bring you to your
It’s gonna bring you down-HA!

Ok, so there’s this person who might be a woman or it might be something that is being symbolised as a woman and she’s being talked to by the jungle who might be drugs or society or possibly a drug dealer, and is probably male. The jungle wants her to have a good time, but says she’s going to die. He also thinks she is sexy and wants her to feel his serpentine.

By the time the bell rang I’m not sure we were really sure what the song was about. But the important thing is that the ability to analyse pop song lyrics has stuck with me. When I’m sitting around watching music videos and there’s that boy band singing, “you’re making it hard for me,” I know exactly what they mean.

Ironic

“It’s like rain… on your wedding day
It’s a free ride… when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice… that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought… it figures”

Ah, my word yes. Ever since Ms Alanis Morrisette sang those words in her song “Ironic” of her 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill” my mind has been wondering what others have wondered.

Why is a song that is supposedly about irony lacking in actual examples of irony?

I have two theories on this. The first is that Alanis doesn’t know what irony is. She kind of understands the concept, but can’t think of any examples that really fit. “Rain on your wedding day” isn’t irony. It’s misfortune. But she’s in good company. Winona Ryder’s character in the 1994 film “Reality Bites” missed out on getting a job because she couldn’t define irony.

My second theory is that Alanis knows damn well what irony is, and has deliberately not included any examples of irony in the song. Of course this would appear to be a rather ironic thing to do. More ironic than those 10,000 spoons.

So where does this leave us, in these post modern pre-millennium days?

I think we ought to turn to the dictionary. The English language is a living, evolving language. New words come into existence and old words are redefined.

I think there needs to be a new word: alanis. “Alanis” is there to describe those situations when things go wrong, and the situation may appear ironic, but is actually just bad luck. For example, “I had only had my brand new pants for a day, when they ripped – what an alanis thing to happen!”

I have found myself using this on a more frequent basis, and endeavour to to use once a day until it has been assimilated into the English language.

Make the effort to use “alanis” every day, and you too can experience that feeling of aloof gen-x coolness. Kind of alanis, really.