Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lyrics (Over)Analysis – Dreadlock Holiday by 10cc

This reggae song with the line “I don’t like cricket, oh no, I love it” has immortalized this song as a cricket song. It has appeared in compilations of songs about cricket such as “Stumped! Songs We Love About Cricket” and is an obligatory entry in best cricket songs list. In particular this song has been associated with West Indies cricket where in the past this song has been used in montages of West Indies cricket players highlights. Unfortunately this is one of those moments where you take one line out of context and  suddenly decide to make the entire song to mean about it similar to how people treat One by U2 as a sweet love song or The One I Love by REM as a love song dedication.  There’s something ironic that a bunch of white English musician playing reggae music about getting mugged in Jamaica (that some people have even argued to be potentially racist) has now been twisted to be the ultimate celebration of cricket in West Indies.

Verse 1
“I was walkin' down the street
Concentratin' on truckin' right
I heard a dark voice beside of me
And I looked round in a state of fright”

So the song sets up the theme of the protagonist walking in the street of Jamaica however the protagonist hears a dark voice (aka a black person) which scared him

“I saw four faces one mad
A brother from the gutter
They looked me up and down a bit
And turned to each other”

So he surrounded by 4 gangster (as those four faces are “from the gutter”) and they look at the protagonist and try to size him up. Also note how he referred to those criminals as his “brother” which is part of the joke of the song

Chorus 1
“I say
I don't like cricket oh no
I love it
I don't like cricket no no
I love it”

The whole parody of this song is that we have a white person trying to prevent being mugged by the criminals by pretending to be a “brother” of those by stating they share the same interest. So when the protagonist is singing “I don’t like cricket, I love it” he is basically saying to those criminals”Don’t mug me, I love you Jamaican people. See I love cricket just as much as you do” . That if he shared the same interest as the gangster (remembers that he doesn’t know the gangster love cricket but just assumed it) they won’t rob him. Essentially the equivalent would be if Asian gangs tried to mug a tourist and the tourist responding “I love table tennis and kung fu, please don’t mug me”.  Some people may accuse this of being racist but to me it’s clearly tongue in cheek and it’s clear that the song is mocking the protagonist.

Funny enough this part of the song reminds me of a story my father once told me that he was mugged once in Vietnam and he tried to get his stuff (which were actually plans to escape from communist Vietnam) returned to him by approaching the criminal gang and pretended that he was from a gang in another city of Vietnam and appealed to the “honor amongst thieves” mentality and that they are essentially “brothers” that have to look after each other. He was actually successful and manages to get his stuff returned from the thieves. So it turns out it is possible to charm gangster if you are smart and charismatic enough. However I doubt a person who clearly looks like a British tourist and saying stereotypical platitudes would be successful attempting this.

“Don't you walk thru' my words
You got to show some respect
Don't you walk thru' my words
'Cause you ain't heard me out yet.”

This is probably the most controversial part of the song where we have Gouldman and Stewart singing in a faux Jamaican accent which has been accused of racism. For one thing imitating and mocking accent is very common and people have no problem mocking English, American, French, German, Spanish etc accents so I don’t personally have a problem with that even if I understand other people do. However even ignoring that issue this line usually is interpreted to be imitating the black gangster telling the protagonist to show some respect and that Gouldman and Stewart were mocking black people.

However I like to interpret that these lines to be actually from the protagonist talking tough to the gangster in a faux Jamaican accent demanding the gangster to hear him out and to give him respect. After all the whole theme of this song is mocking a tourist using stereotypes in a bad attempt to develop rapport with the gangster. When people cringe and were offended when they heard Gouldman and Stewart singing in a bad Jamaican accent, maybe they should think that is the point and they are bringing this phenomenon to a caricature levels. That the protagonist of the song is imitating the Jamaican accent attempting to be their “brothers” and acting macho in telling them off and demanding respect. This interpretation also works structurally as this is part of the chorus of the song and in the same section as “I don’t like cricket, I love it” which was clearly from the protagonist point of view so there is no reason why it should shift perspective when it is continuing the same section of the song.

Verse 2
“Well he looked down at my silver chain
He said I'll give you one dollar
I said You've got to be jokin' man
It was a present from me Mother
He said I like it I want it
I'll take it off your hands
And you'll be sorry you crossed me
You'd better understand that you're alone
A long way from home”

This continues the story where the gangster is humoring the protagonist (probably amused by his faux accent) and wants to “buy” the silver chain the protagonist is wearing for a single dollar. However the protagonist refuses due to the sentimental value of the silver chain. The gangster then goes serious and tells him that he is a tourist long way from home and he better accept his demands or he will cut off his hands so I guess the tourist isn't his "brother".

Chorus 2
“And I say
I don't like reggae no no
I love it
I don't like reggae oh no
I love it
Don't you cramp me style
Don't you queer me pitch
Don't you walk thru my words
'Cause you ain't heard me out yet”

In an amusing situation knowing that the “loving cricket” line didn’t work and that the gangster still consider him to be a tourist instead of a “brother”. The protagonist tries to change tactics and now switch to another stereotype of Jamaican culture and saying he love reggae in an attempt to bond with the gangster. He then put on his faux accent and now is mixing with “Jamaican” lingo such as “cramping my style” and acting tough with him.

Verse 3
“I hurried back to the swimming pool
Sinkin' pina colada
I heard a dark voice beside me say
Would you like something harder
She said I've got it you want it
My harvest is the best
And if you try it you'll like it
And wallow in a dreadlock holiday”

So the protagonist runs away from the gangster after the failed attempt to bond with them back to the hotel. He goes and drinks some pina colada until he heard a girl trying to sell him some weed (as it is “harder” then alcohol and she promotes that her “harvest is the best”).

Chorus 3
“And I say
Don't like Jamaica oh no
I love her
Don't like Jamaica oh no
I love her oh yea
Don't you walk through her words
You got to show some respect
Don't you walk thru her words
'Cause you ain't heard her out yet”

The protagonist hilariously declares how much he loves Jamaica and his reasoning is because this is the country where marijuana is legal and people can openly obtain and purchase it. That it only takes a bit of weed to overcome the trauma of attempted mugging by a gangster. He puts on his faux accent defending her from criticism from people who judge her for being a drug dealer.

Chorus 4
“I don't like cricket oh no
I love it (Dreadlock holiday)
I don't like reggae oh no
I love it (Dreadlock holiday)
I don't like Jamaica oh no
I love her (Dreadlock holiday)’

The final chorus summarises the whole song where it reveals the protagonist superficial appreciation of Jamaican culture. He “loves” Jamaica and feels kinship with the Jamaican people simply because he loves cricket and he loves reggae and he loves weed.

Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of this song because I’m not a fan of reggae music but I find the lyrics hilarious even if I can understand why some people may be offended by it.  For people who are offended, just think what would happen if you see a person in real life behaving like the character in this story? Are you sure you wouldn’t laugh? It's just a funny story. Hell this is no different to some of the humour from David Brent in The Office (Sidney Poitier).

The idea that someone could snip out a single line of the song “I don’t like cricket oh no, I love it” from this really politically incorrect song and be reinterpreted into a song that celebrates cricket in the Caribbean just adds to the hilarity.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lyrics (Over)Analysis – Growing On Me By The Darkness

Despite Justin Hawkins claim that this song is about "A sweet lady woman that you will never fully fathom or understand, but you love her so much that after a while it doesn't matter." In my opinion this song is about genital herpes or another sexually transmitted infection. Simply just read the lyrics and can you really seriously say STI isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. I guess he should have been clearer about his lyrics if he really wanted this song to mean something else.

Verse 1
 “I can't get rid of you’
Genital herpes caused by the Herpes Simplex virus is a viral infection that there is no cure for. Whilst antiviral treatment is available to reduce the symptoms and sometimes even make the person asymptomatic. However due to viral latency he will always have the disease and he could still spread it to another person and there’s always a chance that a symptomatic outbreak can occur in the future especially if the person becomes immunocompromised.

“I don't know what to do”
The protagonist is feeling powerless that could potentially be depression which is often the natural psychological reaction of having a chronic disease.

“I don't even know who is growing on who”
The protagonist also doesn’t know who was the source of the infection. Was it he the one that spread it to her or the other way around or perhaps the source infection came from another partner. After all tracing the source of STI is a tricky business that often involves detail sexual history. However disease such as herpes simplex are common enough and less severe STI that it is a non-notifiable disease and this type of contact tracing (identification and diagnosis of persons who may have come into contact with an infected person) is seldomly done with herpes simplex.

“'Cos everywhere I go you're there
Can't get you out of my hair”
The idea that the protagonist is always having her around because a part of her is always with him in the terms of genital warts. The person is frustrated that there he has difficulties with treatment removing genital wars from his pubic hair region.

“Can't pretend that I don't care - it's not fair”
This seems to be in the Anger phase of the Kübler-Ross model or more popularly known five stages of grief model blaming the unfairness of the situation.

 “I'm being punished for all my offences”
Continuing the anger phase of grief where he is blaming himself for the disease due to his sexual promiscuity.

“I wanna touch you but I'm afraid of the consequences”
This is the personification of the disease calling the disease “you”, He once to scratch the genital herpes but is afraid that this will cause greater inflammation around the area.

“I wanna banish you from whence you came
But you're part of me now
And I've only got myself to blame”
He once to get rid of the disease but the virus is permanently part of him and he is blaming himself for it.

“You're really growing on me”
Continuation of the personification of the virus. The virus from his partner is growing on him.

“(Or am I growing on you?)”
The backing vocals however put some doubt that perhaps it is him being the source of the virus and it’s growing on her.

“Any fool can see”
Any person who is foolish enough to want to have sex with him (a bit of self loathing) can see what is growing on him

Verse 2
“Sleeping in an empty bed”
The protagonist is abstaining from sex

“Can't get you off my head”
He keeps on dwelling on the disease and thinking about it.

“I won't have a life until you're dead
Yes, you heard what I said”
He is withdrawing in social isolation due to chronic illness and won’t have a (sex) life until the infection is cured.

“I wanna shake you off but you just won't go”
He wants this infection to go away but it is not going to as there is no cure and it’s possible that the infection is treatment resistance and the blisters and sores won’t go away

“And you're all over me but I don't want anyone to know”
It’s possible that the blisters and sores are spreading to other areas of his body. Touching the blisters and sores (so he seems like he didn’t follow his own advice of not touching “you”) can transfer the herpes virus to another location of the body. This could therefore be present in an area that is visible explaining his social isolation in previous lines because he doesn’t want anyone to see it.

“That you're attached to me, that's how you've grown”
The virus has entered into his cells in his body and is now replicating (see viral life cycle).

“Won't you leave me, leave me alone”
He wants the virus to go away.

The song than repeats the chorus where he wonders whether his sexual partner was the source of his infection or was it him that spread it to her and the song ends.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - Country House By Blur. Is this song a parody of Ray Davies?

George Starostin described “'Country House' is more Ray Davies than anything a la Ray Davies,” however I do think there is a little more to the song than just a Ray Davies rip off.

This song is essentially about a certain phenomenon in psychology where people who are unhappy mistakenly attribute it to the location they are in and that if you were somewhere else you’re problems and your sadness will be gone. In the end it’s just bringing your problems to another locations.

The lyrics of Country House describes a rich successful fella who is unhappy with the busy city life escapes to the rural simplistic of the country. However despite moving to the country, the main character still had to take pills and racking up analyst bills and is still unhappy with his life without knowing why despite changing the environment around him. The character mistaken his unhappiness due to his location rather than the real problem which was his own mind.

So what this has to do with Ray Davies?

Well in my opinion this song is a parody of the romanticism and nostalgia that Ray Davies shown in Village Green Preservation Society album that is pretty much the anthem of the romanticism of rural simplicity and enjoying the quiet life.

Hell isn’t the whole line "Says she's come to no harm on an animal farm in the country" referring to the girl in the "Animal Farm" song in the Village Green Preservation Society album "Little girl, come play beneath my window, Though she's far from home, She is free from harm, And she need not fear, She is by my side, And the sky is wide, So let the sun shine bright, On animal farm, My animal home" We also know that Ray Davies has a song called “House In The Country” as well (which is generally about the protagonist envying a rich person with a house in the country)

I’m thinking that this song is a satire of Ray Davies who is a fairly rich and successful fella and whose lyrics can sometimes be described as professional cynic (at least his later career work). He is tired of the overly bureaucracy of modern life (paying the price of living life at the legal limit) and the idea of him being sick with the “rat race” of the music industry (as demonstrated in the entire Lola album). Ray also complains how the pressure of modern life preying on him can lead to problems of anxiety ("caught in the centuries anxiety") and hell even eating disorders ("he's getting thin" a reference to Skin and Bones perhaps?). Then Ray Davies escapes to the life of rural simplicity which he clearly idealized and romanticised throughout his career. However the message of Country House is that this isn’t going to solve your problems or make you happier with the world around you. This song is essentially mocking the entire lyric philosophy of The Kinks.

I think this song is essentially Albarn deconstructing the philosophy of his favorite artist (he admits that Ray Davies is his favourite songwriter).

I know officially this song was inspired by the record label manager David Balfe who escaped to the country but I can't help think that the "Village Green Preservation Society" album didn't influenced him to took this stance with him as well.

Ethical Analysis of Star Trek TOS “City On The Edge Of Forever" and Babylon 5 "Voices In The Dark"

To me one of the greatest episodes in Star Trek history was the “City On The Edge Of Forever” where Kirk was place in a situation where he had to let his lover Edith Keeler die to ensure that Germany didn’t win World War II.

However, I always believed that the episode would have been even better if there was a recognition of a third option. The idea that Kirk tries to persuade Edith Keeler that her views was too idealistic and that sometimes society has to use some of its resources for weaponry (even if it means less for the welfare of their own people) to ensure that freedom is protected and that greater evils such as Hitler’s regime be destroyed. That peace sometimes means surrender (to quote Babylon 5). Kirk could have done what Shepard done in Mass Effect in trying to convert Kaidan to the renegade type thinking (although in this case just moderate some of Edith’s paragon belief).

Now of course that pathway is dangerous and that there is no guaranteed that it will work and that even if it does work, it may change the timeline to something entirely different for Kirk and their crew. This brings up the idea that making the right choice is a difficult one. Some people would argue this would be an ultimate test of a person morality. Is the person willing to do the morally just action at risk of massive negative consequence

Now it’s perfectly reasonable for Kirk to take the safer option which is to let Edith die as that guarantees that Nazi wouldn’t have won WWII and the other option would have let a lot to chance. That in case like this, the end justify the mean and that it’s perfectly ok for Kirk to be a bad Samaritan and let Edith die knowing full well he could have prevented it.

However I still think the episode could have been slightly better (very slightly by the way as it is a minor criticism) by just recognising there is a third choice but have Spock advise against it by claiming that Kirk is speaking with his heart (and his dick) and Kirk in the end agreeing with him or have Kirk attempting to persuade Keeler but failed. After all how could Kirk really love her if he didn't try his hardest to save her life without sacrificing the present day?

So how does this relate to Babylon 5?
I’ll just recap my opinion of Babylon 5. It is a fantastic show. One of the many reasons why I like this show is that intentionally or unintentionally (or subconsciously) is a critique of the Trek universe. I honestly got an impression just from watching this show that this was written by a disgruntled TOS fan who was pissed off with the direction The Next Generation was taking when Gene Roddenberry did a George Lucas and took 100% creative control of the show to disastrous results (for the two seasons at least).

Just be reading some of the comments JMS made on the Lurker’s guide website, JMS made some statements like “Maybe in the ST universe, Picard can turn on the charm and just talk people out of things. That doesn't happen here, not easily at any rate. It was turn back or kill them. Those were the choices.” JMS also has clearly mentioned in the past that he is TOS fan as well.

It was clear that there were elements of dissatisfaction of some of Gene’s utopian fantasy. From the incorporation of religion (JMS had a major problem of Trek ignoring modern day religion even though he is an atheist) in the show to have a clearly capitalistic universe, to a deconstruction of the prime directive and also against the philosophy of “Peace at all cost”, that the organisations the heroes work in were perfect, the idea that diplomacy is the answer to all of the problems, quotes like “It’s gonna take a lot more than a hundred years to evolve a better human,” in response to suggestion of disappointment that mankind hasn’t manage to outgrown violence, by having conflict with the crew, not making the crew perfect and telling the audience what is right but making the audience decide whether the heroes made the right decision or not and the fact that Babylon 5 was clearly not anti-military.

“Voices In The Dark” was the final release of the Babylon 5 series which it contains two short story but I’ll focus on the last one in which I felt JMS decided (or unintentionally) took on Trek’s most sacred cow “City on the Edge Of Forever”.

In this episode, Galen forewarns the main hero of the show President Sheridan that 30 years in the future, a Prince Dius Vintari will eventually become the leader of the Centauri and will wage war on the humans that will decimate earth. He tells Sheridan that he should go and kill him now to prevent this even though right now he is only just a teenager (although he clearly has imperialistic views and is very believable that eventually he will become a mass murder).

Sheridan was against it initially but Galen tells Sheridan that “Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan were just small boys playing with toys and growing slowly into monster. If either of those candles has been extinguish from an early age. How many of lives would have been spared. No one took that opportunity as no one knew but you do. The fate of billion of lives is in your hand”

Sheridan was about to assassinate him but then he realised that he couldn’t do it (as Dius was still a somewhat an innocent person) and that there must be another way. He decides to take him under his wing and let him live with his family hoping that this will change Dius outlook on life and changed destiny.

Galen argued at the end that Sheridan choice to spare Dius is a harder option to change the future and that killing Dius was simpler. “We can’t be sure, only with his death can we be sure”

However Sheridan argued that he will take his chances and that if he failed to change him then he will take care of the issue (by killing him) “only when and if I decide there’s no other way”

Honestly, I was pretty stunned about this episode because it completely summarises my own critique of “City On The Edge of Forever”. It was absolutely bizarre as I felt like JMS completely read my mind. Perhaps great men think alike huh :)

It’s funny that Babylon 5 which is often considered the more pragmatic counterpart to the utopian Star Trek and yet it finished of the whole series with a more optimistic message of taking the harder but morally just road instead of taking the easier pragmatic option in contrast to “City on the Edge of Forever” and also “In The Pale Moonlight” as well.

My last point would be pointing out that the original script by Harlan Ellison of City On The Edge Of Forever addresses my major problem with that episode.  The original script had Edith Keeler instead of being an anti-war pacifist, she was just a person spreading a general atmosphere of peace and love and that led to the downfall of the United States as it didn’t create an environment for war. The reason why Kirk didn’t try to argue with her because how can you argue someone to not be a peaceful loving person? You would end up corrupting the person and turn her into someone else that he wouldn’t have fallen in love with and been extremely motivated to save her in the first place. In the revise script, Keeler had a naïve political view that directly doomed United States but in the original script she was a good person who just unintentionally doomed the country. Therefore it was only the rewrite by Gene Roddenberry that introduced the 3rd option as a potential flaw to the episode. As Harlan Ellison is the creative consultant of Babylon 5 who completely opposed the rewrites, it’s possible that this could actually be sneaky dig at Gene Roddenberry influence in City On The Edge Of Forever in introducing this problem to the episode.

Now I admit the idea of the philosophical debate that this time travel dilemma (whether it’s ok to let an innocent person die to prevent a disasterous future) is even older then Star Trek itself and that it’s quite possible that JMS wrote this episode without Trek on his mind. However I can’t help feel that at the very least, this was a subconscious critique or alternative ending to the Trek’s classic.