I'm not talking about intentional nonsense (Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da), or songs with made up words (Sussudio). I'm talking about songs that sound like they're telling a straight-ahead story with their lyrics, but are nonsense when read aloud. The song I happened to hear that tripped off the subject in my head was by Roxette, the Swedish, big in the 1990s group. And perhaps we can chalk up the word salad to a bad translation. Here is a portion of Joyride, a hit from their second album: "She has a train going downtown, She's got a club on the moon. And she's telling all her secrets in a wonderful balloon. Oh she's the heart of the funfair. She's got me whistling her private tune. And it all begins where it ends, and she's all mine, my magic friend."
WTF, Per and Marie? Is that supposed to mean something? And some of their other songs were just as awkwardly worded.
Now, from the same time period (ish) we come to Savage Garden's I Want You, a fun little peppy number. And I suppose the lyrics are intended to be gibberish. If so, they succeeded: "Anytime I need to see your face I just close my eyes And I am taken to a place where your crystal mind and Magenta feelings take up shelter in the base of my spine Sweet like a chica cherry cola."
But these are minor offenders. Two groups embody the nonsense lyric like no other to my pop-culture knowledge. Sugar Ray ranks second only because they had a more abbreviated career than the all-time champs, who we'll come to in a second. Sugar Ray's first hit was the made-for-radio Fly, a hit that was omni-present in 1997. It's a pleasing pop music confection, and it is utterly indecipherable: "All around the world statues crumble for me, who knows how long I've loved you, everywhere I go people stop and they see, twenty-five years old my mother God rest her soul."
And Sugar Ray never got much clearer than that. From Someday: "Some say better things will come our way, no matter what they try to say, you were always there for me. Some way, when the sun begins to shine, I hear a song from another time and they fade away." Um, yeah.
But the all-time champ-een nonsense lyrics singers are 80s faves Duran Duran. As far as I can tell, they've never sung a hit song that made a lick of sense. Here, their first big hit in the USA was Hungry Like the Wolf. Can you decipher this? "In touch with the ground, I'm on the hunt I'm after you. Smell like I sound, I'm lost in the crowd. And I'm hungry like the wolf. Straddle the line, in discord and rhyme. . ." The whole song reads that way.
But they were just getting started. How about these New Moon on Monday lyrics: "Shake up the picture the lizard mixture, with your dance on the eventide. You got me coming up with answers, all of which I deny. I said it again, could I please rephrase it. Maybe I can catch a ride. . ."
Sure, okay. Or how about The Reflex: "You've gone too far this time. But I'm dancing on the valentine. I tell you somebody's fooling around with my chances on the dangerline. . .The reflex is an only child he's waiting in the park. The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark."
And we can keep going with this. In Union of the Snake, Simon Le Bon makes no more sense than in any of the above: "Telegram force and ready. I knew this was a big mistake. There's a fine line drawing my senses together, and I think it's about to break. If I listen, I can hear them singers, voices in your body coming through on the radio." But I think you get the idea.
UPDATE: As I said, I want to revisit this, because I left out one of the most egregious offenders in this category, a lady named Sheryl Crow. Now, I love me some Sheryl Crow music, and happened to be driving over Santa Monica Boulevard the first time I heard All I Wanna Do. But did you ever try to figure out what she's singing about? In that song, she actually tells a story, if a fragmented one. But in A Change (Would Do You Good), she sings "Ten years living in a paper bag, Feedback baby, he’s a flipped out cat, He’s a platinum canary, drinkin’ Falstaff beer, Mercedes Ruehl, and a rented lear." And it never makes more sense than that.
So then, try If it Makes You Happy on for size: "Put on a poncho, played for mosquitoes, And drank til I was thirsty again, We went searching through thrift store jungles, Found Geronimo's rifle, Marilyn's shampoo, And Benny Goodman's corset and pen."
So with that, we have a new winner! So, I'll wrap, and call it a weekend. Happy Monday, everybody!