Monday, November 20, 2006

The Rotor of the Night

Here’s the problem with catchy commercials—I remember the ad but have no clue about the product.

In a current campaign—I think for a cell phone service, because isn’t every non-pharmaceutical ad for a cell phone service—a couple of guys download a Clash song onto their phone and then proceed to mangle the lyrics, substituting “Lock the cashbox” for “Rock the Casbah.”

This would be pretty funny if:
A) The song lyric wasn’t also the song title. And while the guys in the ad come across as incredibly stupid, they’re not comatose.
B) “Friends” hadn’t already done a much funnier version, with Phoebe crooning “Hold me closer Tony Danza” to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” I’ll never listen to that song the same way again. And…
C) We all know that if you’re going to pick a song whose lyrics have defied comprehension for decades, there’s only one choice. You know what I’m talking about. “Blinded by the Light.”

I confess, not only has this song mystified me since I was a tyke, but I had the band wrong too. All these years I’ve been cursing E.L.O. for slurring the chorus, but it turns out that “Blinded” was originally written and recorded by garbler extraordinaire Bruce Springsteen. The Boss’ version flopped, then Manfred Mann got hold of it and turned the song into a hit. (Mann is much easier to decipher in “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”)

There’s an entire web site devoted to mistaken lyrics for this song. We all know what we think Manfred’s saying, we just don’t like to talk about it. Because it seems to be about feminine hygiene. My personal interpretation:

“Blinded by the light
Wrapped up like a douche
In the rotor of the night.”

I always pictured Mann (actually, E.L.O.) coming across a tampon in a dark alley and penning a song about it. Now I know better. What he’s really saying:

“Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night.”

I don’t know, I kind of like my lyrics better, and I’ve been singing them so long, I can’t see the point in changing now. So while it’s tempting to also look up the actual words to Pearl Jam’s “Evenflow,” I prefer to hang onto the delusion that it’s a pretty song about butterflies.

Hold me closer Tony Danza.


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