Tuesday 12 May 2009

Song lyrics that make no sense

Oh, hello, I didn't see you come in. During the course of life as an E14 writer, you find yourself exposed to many examples of different types of media. Some are shining examples of their craft, some not so much. Others, while enjoyable, have certain elements that may seem strange and scary to people like me. This article is on the subject of the latter, songs that I will happily listen to without quite understanding what the singer is talking about.

Leonard Cohen - First We Take Manhattan

Alright, so let's begin with the 1988 Leonard Cohen hit from the album "I'm Your Man", "First We Take Manhattan". This song has been quite heavy on my rotation and my iTunes most played list for two key reasons:

1) It features on the soundtrack to the film adaptation of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel "Watchmen" (although it's not included on the official film soundtrack, and My Chemical Romance's cover of "Desolation Row" was? Where's the justice?)

2) It's bollocking awesome.

Yes, it's an awesome song, hear it for yourself:

You may have noticed the lyric to which I am referring, as it repeats throughout the song fairly often. The gist of the song is clear enough, with Cohen's protagonist considering themselves a revolutionary determined to change the world. However, his plan to take over the world seems a little short-sighted in that it consists of the following:

Yes, Leonard's plan for world domination is to take Manhattan, followed immediately by Berlin. However, Cohen neglects to mention the plan AFTER Manhattan and Berlin fall to his (presumably well-organised) private militia. Well, having said that, how organised a private militia, when concocting a plan for domination, ignores ALMOST EVERY CAPITAL CITY ON EARTH?

I happen to have a map of Leonard Cohen's battle plan. Regardez:

The song, however, is not just confusing in its main message, as exploring other lines will tell us. The earliest verse of the song is fairly straightforward and doesn't really confuse too much.

"They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom,
For trying to change the system from within."

Makes sense to me, they caught him with a chipped Playstation 2, and made him watch "Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps" repeats for twenty years. Interesting that they had twenty years of repeats in 1988, but then the people he's referring to could have been executive producers on that series. We can never know for sure, that's how I see it.

"I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin."

Unless the birthmark looks like this, it's certain that he had other inspiration:

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure he's actually talking about the BANDS 'Manhattan Transfer' (who he knows so well that he can safely drop the second word) and 'Berlin'.

    Manhattan Transfer are, of course, famous for their song 'Chanson D'Amour', which, while superficially seeming to be about love, actually contains a more sinister message. The refrain in the song 'RA-TA-TA-TA-TA' is OBVIOUSLY a reference to the noises their machine guns are going to make when they defend their turf (see, I'm 'street', mofo!) from Leonard Cohen's invading forces.

    Berlin, of course, did the song 'Take My Breath Away' for the movie 'Top Gun'. The very title of this song seems to indicate that they are so tired of life that they actually WELCOME Cohen's military coup. Having seen their haircuts, I can understand why. They'd be first against the wall if I was as well connected as Mr. Cohen and able to launch a similar offensive.

    Anyway, I hope that clears things up.