Schooled By Rock?

Tim Brennan

Bruce Springsteen once sang "We learned more from a three minute record, baby / Than we ever learned in school." However, I must advise my children that they should not rely on songwriters and popular culture for a solid education. As much as these lyrics and movements may be filled with nuggets of truth, such as "The times they are a-chaaaaiinnngiiiiinnnggg," there are also instances of poor grammar, exaggeration, and outright lying.


To whit (That kind of means "for example," but is a lot shorter. Now that I've explained it, I did not save any keystrokes.), by 1986, Bon Jovi may have "Seen a million faces," but I doubt he "rocked them all." Logic would tell you that some faces he saw actually thought "what a poser dork." It is also likely that tens of thousands of guitarists stood in front of his stage, with arms crossed, and thought "I can play better." He could not have rocked them all. A few boyfriends probably hated the very existence of Mr. Jovi. I'm pretty sure I can find one person whose face Bon has seen, yet has not rocked.


A few years ago, Taio Cruz promised that "we gon' go all night / We gon' light it up / Like it's dynamite." Please do not let this guy set up the tiki torches at your next backyard party. Dynamite would burst loud, strong, and would be over quickly. In a flash, one might say. Any girl who took his promise that he would "go all night like dynamite" ought not be disappointed if his amorous abilities did not last all night. She should have studied the physics of explosive materials more before planning a long enjoyable evening, with Taio. Please insert your personal joke about the shape of a stick of dynamite here. Yes, I used the word "insert." Anyone chuckling like a high school freshman may continue reading. 


Mr. David Guetta would not be chosen as a designer of our military's armor. Titanium is not bulletproof, yet he repeats this false claim ad nauseam. While any solid substance can be bullet resistant in the right thickness, titanium is less resistant than say, kevlar. However "kevlar" doesn't sound right in the chorus. If the consumer protection agency took the lyrics seriously, they would attach a warning that "Titanium boxers may not help you if some rapper wants to pop a cap in your ass." That also reminds me why legal authorities do not take lyrics seriously. Otherwise, there would be a long list of suspects every time a cap in found in a victim's ass.


Or how about grammar? Clearly, Alanis Morissette has no clue what ironic is. What she understands better than Irony includes bad luck, tragedy, forced rhymes, unfortunate timing, and bizarre nightmares (how else do you explain the line, "It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife"? Who keeps ten thousand spoons in their kitchen? Well, she’s kind of a freak, so maybe Alanis does.).


Gratefully, the Beatles got basic math right in that one and one and one do sum up to three. However, their claim of habitation in a yellow submarine and other such lessons suggest they may not have been all there.


Ahh math. Paul Simon titled a song "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover." If this were a course title, then you'd expect to learn 50 break-up tools. However, Simon only gave us, "Slip out the back, Jack," "Make a new plan, Stan," "Hop on the bus, Gus," and "Just drop of the key, Lee." I count only four ways, and Stan's assignment is vague at best. Yet, professor Simon has tenure and can get away with four curt lessons instead of all fifty. The Nails were more truthful in their song "88 Lines About 44 Women." Yet, for all their honesty, the Nails never reached the status of Mr. Simon.


Those are just the lyrics heard correctly. How about the person who thought Jimi Hendrix was bisexual ("Excuse me while I kiss this guy") or John Fogerty was giving directions ("There's a bathroom on the right")?


All of this does not compare to the College of Charleston student I overheard last night around midnight saying, "No way! That's what it is?" he shouted while looking at a YouTube video on a cell phone. "I thought the Harlem Shake was a drink at Burger King."


SMH. That's short for Shake My Head. Again, I have lost the benefit of brevity.


Yes, it's hard to keep up with ever changing pop culture on one hand, and what you need to survive on the other. It's a balancing act. One made more difficult when so many fine bars are so close to a fine school. So I ask, “What can you really learn from a three minute song these days, Mr. Springsteen?” (I don’t expect him to respond. That would be silly. He can, if he wants. I’ve sent him my email address many times. I’m sure he has kept it.)


I overheard this young CofC student’s revelation an hour after being schooled in the subject of rock by Shovels and Rope at the Charleston Music Hall. Three-minute lesson after three-minute lesson. One of my favorite lyrics from this breakout local duo has been "It's not what you got / It's what you make." What a great line. A life lesson. One that Cary Ann and Michael Trent are following every day. You should read Devin Grant's review of the entire show. I'll leave that topic completely to his more than capable skills. You see, this is not an actual review of the show. It is simply a rambling collection of thoughts placed under one headline, sparked by a conversation overheard at a King Street bar. Hence, the ingredients for a blog and not one of those professional reviews found on the printed material that lines my son's bird cage. 


I'll just tell you that you could do a whole lot of good for your intellectual and entertainment growth by getting Shovels and Rope's CDs, listening to them nonstop, and going to their shows any chance you get. I'm pretty sure the CofC student I overheard was not at the same sold-out concert I saw. Had he been, his cultural IQ would have soared. He would have learned a whole lot from a three-minute song. I'd be happy if my kids took to this band the way I took to Springsteen when I was a kid.


PS: I did not credit the "Times they are a-changing" lyric above. If you want to know who sang that line, please write me an e-mail. I'd really like to know who you are.