Posted by: Kate | September 12, 2008

Ruined Songs

I had to drive to the state hospital and back this morning for a couple of Involuntary Emergency Admission (i.e., I was the bad guy who locked people up against their will, because, in both cases this time, I refused to return a parent to the home where they had actively tried to suicide while the children were still in residence – aren’t I just the meanest ever?).  On the one hand, it’s an annoying aspect of my job, because it takes a minimum of three hours out of my day, adds mileage to the car, and is often pointless because many patients decide to waive their hearing, but I don’t find that out until I arrive.

On the other, it’s a valid part of the process, and protects you poor innocent people from me just being in a bad mood and locking you up for the fun of it.  And even further in its favor, through most of the drive, I am out of cell phone network.  I’m forced to just drive and listen to music; it’s almost as good as enforced naptime, without me spending the rest of the day groggy and cranky.

So, today, I’m driving across New Hampshire, listening to my iPod because I just don’t have the heart for the news and pop radio, and have it on full-random mode.  And two songs came up, back-to-back, which I realized are horrible songs.   Why on earth do I have such nasty pieces of music on my iPod?

The first is “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” by Meat Loaf.  I have fond memories of this song, because back in the days when Willem and I would go to bars and spend evenings out that didn’t involve children’s menus or babysitters, this was one of the few songs I could convince him to dance to.  Otherwise, dragging him onto the dance floor was akin to stuffing a live giant squid into a baggie: it was met with great resistance, sometimes it got messy, and by the time you succeeded, you were so tired you kind of wished you’d just let him be.

So the song came on, and I initially smiled, because it reminded me of my then-boyfriend and nights out and fun.

And then I listened to the lyrics.  They are horrible. All about how this guy is waiting for someone to die, because he is so miserable with his now-wife, whom he only agreed to marry as a means to have sex in a car.

My psychologist-brain cannot even begin to sort out how many ways this is both unhealthy and wrong.

In an attempt to protect my own sanity, I skipped to the next song: “Escape,” by Rupert Holmes.  A slightly less memory-infused song, though I do associate it with the same bar scene; I think one of the DJs played it as a last-call song.

Once again, I paid attention to the lyrics, and was appalled.  This one is about a guy who is so bored in his long-term, stable relationship that he looks to the personal ads in a deliberate, conscious effort to begin an affair, and then when he shows up at the designated meeting place he finds out that his long-term, stable partner was the one who placed the ad in the first place, presumably because she was bored, as well.

How fucking passive-aggressive and noncommunicative can two people be??

Ugh.  Clearly, I am not receptive to tales of unhealthy relationships put to music.  Willem thinks it’s weird for me to suddenly hate these songs that I used to like, because (I think) he thinks I should just enjoy the pleasant memories and ignore the actual, you know, lyrics.  I think I was in my own unhealthy relationship in college and perhaps a little reality now is a better idea.



  1. Honestly I am chuckling right now- I will never pay attention to the songs I listen to, I hate change. Searching for new favorite songs just doesn’t seem like something I would love to do…granted some of y favorites by The Refreshments are unhealthy and I laugh through nearly the entire song.

  2. escape! i love that song. i used to play the RECORD over and over again and sing to it in our dining room/kitchen. lol i know the lyrics and it is sad that both the people are looking to cheat on their other but then i think it’s more about them realizing that they were perfect for each other and just needed to be reminded. even it it was with a cheesy personal ad. 🙂

  3. For me Paradise by the Dashboard Light was so much fun to sing, but I never internalized the lyrics as an example of something cool. It just satisfied my own yearning to be an actress, as that song has 2 terrific roles. If anything the song reinforced my own commitment to NEVER get knocked up by accident, and helped me formulate my two-and-sometimes-three-methods-of-birth-control-at-all-times strategy.

    I can still love a song without loving the lyrics. Heck, half the time I get the lyrics wrong. Some ring truer to my psyche than others, but often if I like the melody and the chorus I’m in.

    Another great example – Third Eye Blind’s Semi Charmed Life. Horrible lyrics, but I love the song. And Stephan Jenkins almost made my List.

    That said, now that I’m a parent I’m sure I’ll be listening to lyrics more, and I will be very unhappy if my son develops a penchant for Gangsta rap.

  4. I too, can enjoy a song without paying attention to the lyrics (although I am a hypocrit in that I would probably freak if my son liked songs that were mysogynous or otherwise inappropriate.)

    It reminds me of American Bandstand. “I like it, Dick, I give it a 10 for the beat.” 🙂

  5. HA! “Escape” is one of my mother’s all-time favorite songs (though she calls it “The Pina Colada Song”). I remember listening to it all the time when I was a kid. Then, a few years ago, I heard it again after probably a decade since the last time I’d heard it. I listened closely to the lyrics, and was completely horrified that my mother loved that song so much. The lyrics are terrible!

    Then again, this is the same woman who, when I was a small child, often wore a t-shirt with the words “Afternoon Delight” emblazoned in glittery letters across her chest. My mother is otherwise a very proper Christian woman – she just has questionable music taste.

  6. I’m a lyric freak always listen to them (when I can understand them) We were going to play Amazing Grace at my father’s funeral, he always liked it but we didn’t go for the ‘saved a wretch like me’ because he was far from a wretch so we just had a random piper instead . . no words!

  7. I remember a couple weeks ago, some program on NPR was talking about popular music used in political campaigns, and whether or not those PR folks really READ the lyrics before choosing them. One recent example they used was Rudy Giuliani using The Clash’s “Rudie Can’t Fail”, but the lyrics pretty much imply that “Rudie” is the subject of the band’s mockery!

    I’m a lyrics junkie. Sometimes I actually listen to songs I don’t really LIKE, just because the lyrics are clever.

  8. LOL – Hey Kate…

    Well… I’m one of those annoying people who happens to know all the words to almost every song… or at least the ones I like. I can’t like a song, if I don’ know what it’s about or what it is saying…. So, I wonder what that says about me?

    Anyway – I had to laugh at your horrible discovery… but, I thought it was funny how we reacted so differently to them.

    I mean, I always heard the story and knew the words – from the time the songs were popular, and I was young…

    The first one by Meatloaf – (which I love and know all the words to, yes.. LOL) – *I* think is more about being young and horny… and, that passion of first love… and the eternal struggle of boys and girls. Boys – trying to get lucky. Girls – trying to get that committment…. Sad… but, true for most teenagers… and, then, in the end… they are both miserable… or at least in a big fight.

    I actually thought the end was hysterical… a nice twist to the rest of the song… and, maybe, a bit to realistic in many relationships? Maybe that’s the part that bothers you since you deal with that so much?

    The other, song – now, that was never one of my favorites… but, I heard the story of it loud and clear the first time I heard it. What struck me, was how in the song… the couple sort of laughs at finding each other there… as if it was a good thing… a wake up call?? I never got that. In real life, I’m sorry… I’m pretty sure neither of them would be too happy.. and I doubt it would boost their marriage back into lovey-dovey mode. ?? Then again, that is an old song…. and, peace and love (and mowie wowie) was in the air…


    I actually always thought they were both funny… even though I knew all the words. Hmmmm??… I wonder what that says about me… LOL

    Hey… good to “see” ya again… =)

  9. Oh, I know exactly what you mean, but for such songs that evoke such memories, I tend to overlook the lyrics. If I could get rid of the lyrics to the zillions songs I sing along to in the car I’d free up a tremendous amount of processing space in my brain! I really listened to Escape recently and found myself disturbed about it for a moment, but in the end, it’s just fun for me. And Meatloaf – guilty pleasure.

  10. […] raises the potential of other inappropriate songs to play as hold music.  Paradise by the Dashboard Light at a birth control clinic?  It’s the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine) when […]

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