Friday, July 05, 2013


Sometimes it's good in life to take a break, sit back, and focus on that which matters the most: Pop music.

I am an unabashed music nerd. It is my hobby, my passion, and I'm pretty sure it's the reason I exist. My life-long love of audio has shaped my friendships and my existence.

And this week, it's shaped my column.

Eight hours ago, I was in my car headed for the office. Like every workday morning, my iPod was blaring away on random shuffle. Some people keep their mp3's meticulously sorted by genre, mood, artist, etc. Not me. I have 12,000 songs loaded into my iPod, and I think it's more fun to just throw them all together into a random hodge-podge. When I press play, I don't know if I'm going to be met by a lush ambient soundscape or slammed with soul-scraping European techno.

Today, however, I was hit with a classic: "Triad" by the Byrds.

It's a song I first discovered one day while absent-mindedly stocking shelves at my old record store job. I was swept away by its dreamy melody and hazy meandering. It's a perfect pastiche of 60s psychedelia and JUST the song I needed to gently ease my mind into another work day. Then, for the first time ever, I paid attention to the words.

For someone who claims to be one of the area's leading listeners of music, it turns out I have a bad habit of zoning out song lyrics altogether. There are tunes out there deeply imbedded in my heart that I couldn't BEGIN to tell you what they're about. I might know the vocal line, sure, but only phonetically. In-a-gadda-da-vida, anyone? Shoot, I can even croak along to "99 Luftballoons" even though it's in German. Sometimes a tune's so good that the artist could be singing about murdering puppies and you'd never realize it.

You do it, too -- admit it. What classic rock fan hasn't screamed along with the radio in their car to, "A modern day warrior, mean mean stride! Today's Tom Sawyer, mean mean pride!" Does ANYONE know what that song's supposed to be about? Rush wrote it, and I'll bet THEY don't even know. Half the song's indescipherable, but it doesn't stop us all from singing along. "Exit the warrior of today's top soil who gets high on YOU and some space invaders get right on through the prison of your YOUTH!" Or something like that. Who cares, it's still awesome, right?

When in doubt, I just assume that the artist is far more poetic, talented, and expressive than I'll ever be, and the true meaning of the song is just too deep for we mere mortals to comprehend. Unless, of course, the song in question is "Gangnam Style," in which case the correct response is to simply shut up and dance.

Analyzing lyrics is for suckers anyways. Sometimes it gets you into more trouble than it's worth. I was a huge fan of medieval fantasy books as a kid, and back in middle school I heard this song on the radio one day. It was a majestic tale of elegantly dressed paladins on a seemingly endless quest to win the hand of the fair maiden. I imagined gallantry and swordplay, dragon-slaying and valor. I went to school the next day and told my nerd friends about this great song of medieval chivalry.

Then I found out that the Moody Blues song in question was "Nights in White Satin" and NOT, in fact, "KNIGHTS in White Satin."

Which brings us to "Triad."

I missed out on the 60s, so I'm not exactly an aficionado when it comes to The Byrds. That said, they're one of those bands that pretty much EVERYBODY respects. They sang jangly, thought-provoking folk songs that didn't just reflect their generation, they helped shape it. You know, "there is a season, turn, turn, turn," and all that. The Byrds were one of the first pop bands to be more thought-provoking than hip-shaking.

So when I heard the lush psychedelia of "Triad," I assumed it was some introspective song about soul-searching and getting along with your neighbor or some such. With a name like "Triad," I figured it might even have some kind of Biblical allegory.

Well, I was right on both counts. It's DEFINITELY about getting along with your neighbors... in the Biblical sense.

It turn turn turns out that what I thought to be an innocent little 60s head trip is, in fact, a relatively lame plea for group nookie.

"You want to know how it will be / Me and her, or you and me / You both stand there, your long hair flowing / Your eyes are alive, your mind still growing / Saying to me what can we do now / That we both love you / I love you too and I don't really see / Why can't we go on as three?"

Yowza. My iPod's made me do a lot of things over the years, but this might be the first time in history that it's actually made me BLUSH on my way to work. Where was Tipper Gore when THIS stuff was on the radio, eh? I don't seem to recall The Byrds showing up on any PRMC hitlist. You'll burn an Ozzy Osbourne album but jangly ol' Roger McGuinn's free to sing about getting his polyamorous jollies any time he fancies? A time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, a time to weep, and when that's all done, apparantly a time to getcha-getcha freak on.

As I continued listening, it just got ickier.

"We love each other, it's plain to see / there's just one answer that comes to be / sister lovers, water brothers / and in time, MAYBE OTHERS." Now, I enjoy when my mind paints a colorful picture of something -- unless that colorful picture is of David Crosby being someone's "water brother." Ew. I'm pretty sure I just got cooties.

Of course, nowadays Britney Spears can ride the same topic matter to the top of the charts and Lil Wayne could out-offend this track in his sleep (which, coincidentally, is how I think he records MOST of his material.) But this isn't the music of the ADD-addled shock-and-awe 2010's where a song like A$AP Rocky's "Problems" can reach the Top 40 chart with no fewer than 81 vulgarities in 4 minutes.

No, this is a song that's now 46 years old. So next time your grandmother tells you that you're going to H-E-double-hockey-sticks for that Marilyn Manson CD in your collection, I know JUST the song to start humming back at her. After all, if listening to a Judas Priest album can turn you into a devil worshipper, then maybe listening to "Triad" at one point turned your grandma into... EWW. DOUBLE COOTIES. Sorry I brought it up.

The worst part about all this is that now "Triad" is stuck in my head on auto-repeat and I've found myself singing along to it randomly all day today. So if you're out grocery shopping tonight and stumble upon a chubby 42-year-old warbling off-key to himself about orgies, I'm not crazy, I promise. I'm just a music nerd.

No comments: