Monday, September 18, 2006

Lyrics Analysis (Nothin' But A Good Time)

Today we shine the spotlight on Poison's "Nothin' But A Good Time" off the venerable Open Up and Say...Ahh! album. As you might expect, I've got an issue with several lyrics here. For starters, let's take a look at the last line of the first verse, as delivered by Poison front man Bret Michaels...

I'm always workin', slavin' every day
Gotta get a break from that same old same old
I need a chance just to get away
If you could hear me think this is what I'd say

OK. Couple problems, Bret. I think you mean "if you could read my mind." Not "if you could hear me think." Because here's the thing. The sound of someone thinking is different from the actual thought. The sound of thinking might be you tapping your chin. Or scratching your head. Or the actual sound, if you could measure it, of stuff (neurons, maybe?) firing inside your brain. The particular thing you're thinking about (in this case that you "ain't looking for nothin' but a good time") is something else altogether.

But, in any event, if I were a mind reader...if I could, in fact, know what you're thinking...you wouldn't need to say it. I'd already know it. You might say something like "if you could read my mind, this is what it would say." But you tell us anyway. So what's the point?

Moving on. Here's the start of the second verse...

They say I spend my money on women and wine
But I couldn't tell ya where I spent last night

My question? What does one have to do with the other? What does where you spent last night have to do with how you spend the majority of your money? It's like saying, "they say my favorite color is purple but last night I ate a hamburger." Makes no sense. The goal, as far as I can tell, is to establish Bret Michaels as some kind of a badass. Like he's so f'n crazy he wastes all his money on booze and broads and he doesn't even know where he slept last night. Yeah, fine. Whatever. But then why's he buying wine? Wouldn't beer or hard alcohol be more appropriate? How hardcore can you be if you're spending all your money on pinot noir?

Finally, I take issue with this half-spoken, half-sung lyric at the end...

You see I raise a toast to all of us
Who are breakin' our backs every day
If wantin' the good life is such a crime
Lord, then put me away, yea
Here's to ya

You want to raise a glass to the working man, Bret? Fine. That's your business. Let's not go lumping yourself in there with them though. I mean, come on.

19 comments:

Hadley said...

This is the best thing on our site. It's freaking unbelievable.

Machon said...

Awesome, couple things to add:

1. If you spend all your money on women and wine, wouldn't that be a good place to start your investigation of where you spent last night. Now I am no Hardy Boy but maybe you were hammered at some club with a bunch of groupies?

2. Clarke hit on in at the end, but he is no "workin' slavin' every day". In fact, within the next sentence or two you tell us you spend all your money on women and wine. People who are slavin' all day know where they spent last night. They are at home, in bed sleeping, because they got to get their asses up at 6:30 am to make it to their back breaking job on time.

3. Who says wanting a good life is a crime? It's not, actually it is a productive force of motivation for many Americans (and Malaysians) every day. Although, I would say that your idea of the good life most likely is a crime, and yes.. the lord should probably put you away.

Jose Reyes said...

If you spend your money on women and wine, and drink enough wine, you sure as hell won't remmber where you spent last night.

In this case, I wouldn't be thinking of "wine" as some frou frou drink. Drinking "Wine" is one of the established methods of drunkeness of great blues men. Howlin' Wolf spends his time drinkin whiskey drinking wine.

Gonna tell me Howlin Wolf is a pussy?

Had he written "umbrella drinks" I'd buy what you are selling.

The critique of this couplet is just going after the man because you have an agenda, but it's neither a sound analysis of the text nor does it pay attention to traditions of american drinking anthems

Clarke said...

Valid points, Jose. Valid points.

Bear in mind that I don't drink so maybe my critique of wine was off target.

I don't think my reading of the text is that far off base though.

If you have enough wine you won't remember where you spent last night. This is true. It's also true of having enough aspirin, Jolt cola or frying pans to the face. My point it that "they" are saying he spends his money on A & B. He's saying he doesn't know where his physical being ended up the night before. He's either got to get the "but" out of there (which implies he's about to contradict what "they" are saying) or he's got to add an "it" after "spent" in the second line to refer back to the money. It's not gramatically sound.

Clarke said...

What's more...I have no agenda with Bret Michaels. I definitely think there's a good chance he's a pussy. But I have no agenda. I've got at least 4 Poison songs on my ipod at the moment and Fallen Angel is always in heavy rotation.

Jose Reyes said...

2 issues.

I think there is an implied recognizied causality between wine and forgetfulness -- your pans to the face comment, is a red herring, in my opinion, as there is a noted tradtion in song and writing of lionized american drunkards, while there are very few romanticized victims of kitchen violence.

I further submit that he has spent so much money on wine and women that he has to rely on the words of others to inform him of his own deeds

i.e.

I hear I got really housed and went home with seven blonds last night,

BUT

you'll have to ask my wingman, because I aam such a bad man, that I drank so much I can't remember.

He doesn't want just a good time, he wants one so good he needs someone to experience it wotth him to provide him with a chronicle of the events he will not remember!

Now that's cool!

Jose Reyes said...

every rose has its thorn is one of the most poignant songs ever written, IMO

Machon said...

Why does he constantly use the word "Ya" instead of you. Is that bad ass too?


Anyway, this is getting off topic. The fact is if he is nailing women left and right, getting drunk daily, than why question the fact you can't remember where you said. That is your life style.

It's just A+B=C. Got Drunk (A) + Nailed Groupies (B)= Not Remembering the Previous Night (C)

Clarke said...

I understand the basic point but it's a poorly constructed lyric in my opinion. If he wants to validate the notion that he spends all his money on women and wine it should be joined with "and" or "well"; not "but." "But" implies that "they" are wrong or, at least, unqualified to know.

Jose Reyes said...

I think the "but" means that he is unquallified to know, so he is taking it on faith. -- not that they are unquallified to know.

I think this is our fundamental dispute.

It's not so much that he wants to validate it, but further illustrate just how carefree he is -- he only hears about certain parts of his life -- they're that badass

Hadley said...

There is a major hole in Jose's analysis of wine and having nothing but a good time. Wine, as he portrays, definitely does have a place in blues as a drink of choice. But dig a little deeper: it has a place in BLUES. Bret wants nothing but a GOOD time. Blues is many many amazing things, but it must not be correlated with NOTHING BUT A GOOD TIME. We all know that alcohol is a downer from 7th grade health class. In my expertise, wine is most likely to cause tears and heartache in it's worst form.

In addition, wine in the late 80s in the the music and especially the hair band community was certainly not prominent. Jack Daniels. See Van Halen. Tubs of beer. Beasties covered that. Wine at that time did not correlate with your average Poison fan. If you went to the Look What The Cat Dragged In Tour, I can say with great certainty that there may have been people drinking wine coolers, but not wine. No way. This wasn't a Sideways world.

Bad ass is very simple in rock n roll. One bourbon. One scotch. One beer. That's par for the course.

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