Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stop the Catbox?

EVERYBODY LAUGHS AT THAT commercial . And that's because it poses the question that has perplexed young and old alike for over 24 years:

What the hell were the Clash singing?

I was eight when that song came out. I only knew the word "Casbah" because my big sister told me that was the word. (She couldn't say what a casbah was, though.) I knew "kosher" because I had Jewish friends, and I could make out a few other really obvious parts, like "on the radiator grill" or "degenerate the faithful." But as for the rest, between Mick's mush-mouthy, British-accented delivery and my unsophisticated grasp of Middle East politics, I was pretty lost.

So what did I think they were saying?

Now the kid he told the boogie bear
Ya got to let the robber drown
He oiled down the desert wind
Has '
im shakin’ to the town
He shaky drove his Cadillac
He went a cruisin’ down the real
The prison guard's a standin’
On the radiator grill


Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
Rock the Casbah
Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
Rock the Casbah

I ordered up the profit
You better prove your sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that crazy Casbah sound
They better when they brought out
The electric cattle drum
They look and get to thinkin’
that he’s goin’ ta break his thumb
Soon as the Cheri cleared the square
Babe began to wail


I'm over at the temple
Oh, they really packed the rim
Think I say it’s cool
To take this child teen thing
But as the wind changed direction
And the temple ground’s on fire
The ground got a will
Oh that crazy Casbah chiiiiiiiiild


The king called up his jet fighters
He said you’d better run your planes
Drop your bombs between the minarets
Now the Casbah way
As soon as the Cheri goes surfin’ outta there
The jet pilots tune to the captain radio blare
Soon as the Cheri gets outta their hair
The jet pilots wail

Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
He thinks it’s not kosher
From the mental retardation
You know he really hates it

(Now here are the real lyrics.) By the way ... A live version of this song featuring Mick Jones and someone named Rachid Taha, singing in Arabic. Cool.

FROM THE CLASH to ... America? Why the hell not?

America's “You Can Do Magic” is a perfectly crafted pop song in the smooth vein of late '70s/early ‘80s yacht rock.

Now, for some strange reason, something told me last week to record a “ghetto bounce” R&B version of this song, just for fun. Last Sunday I slapped together a demo, complete with six parts of vocal harmony. It actually doesn't sound that bad. I'm wondering why someone hasn't already thought of doing this. Maybe someone like that Usher-sounding kid -- what's his name? -- should try it. It's a hell of a lot better song than "She's Like the Wind."

And whaddya know? I go on YouTube and this song has been resurrected thanks to some Harry Potter fan who’s put this song to captured video of evil warlock Snape.

While we’re talking about great songs of 1982, how about F-Mac’s “Hold Me”?

I loved everything about this song: its dreamy otherworldliness, its piano tinkling, its driving beat, its plucky guitars and percussion, the echo that makes the guitar solo sound like it was played in a canyon, the five-note scale (which is Oriental, but at the time actually made me think of American Indians), and the way McVie, Buckingham, Nicks et al. came off like an unruly, unpolished children’s choir rather than a precision-engineered pop group. I love musicians who are obviously having a lot of fun, and FM were certainly having fun in this song, or at least made it sound so.

But for me, the videos tend to spoil these images -- especially America's original video for "Magic." I'm kinda like Jade, one of the kids I work with in an after-school program, who prefers books without pictures. Just like Jade, I would rather make the pictures in my head.

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