Monday, August 14, 2006

You Are The Lyrics Queen, Young And Sweet, Only Seventeen

I heard "Yellow Ledbetter" on my way home from the grocery this evening and, for the bajillionth time, wondered what the hell the gorgeous Eddie Vedder is saying in those five minutes of musical brilliance. When I got home I typed "yellow ledbetter lyrics" into my Google searchbar and had my answer in seconds. Some might laud this as progress, but I think we've lost something by making lyrics so accessible.

I have always been obsessed with lyrics. As a teenager, I fastidiously maintained a three-ring-binder with separate sections for songs and quotes. The quotations I mostly stumbled upon while reading, but the lyrics were tougher to come by. Back in the days before Google and, the only way to learn the lyrics of a song -- aside from liner notes -- was to figure them out for yourself.

For me, this involved sprawling out on the floor, chin resting in one hand and legs suspended in the air above me, a pen in the other hand and my binder turned to a clean page; placing my box (of the boom variety) on the floor next to me; popping a tape -- usually recorded hastily from the radio after a mad dash to the record button when I heard a beloved song begin -- in the tape deck; pressing play; listening carefully; frantically jotting down the words as they were sung; pressing pause between lines to record the lyrics; and rewinding and replaying when the words were fuzzy, pressing my ear up against the speaker to make sure I got it right. Play, pause, play, rewind, play, pause, play.

And somewhere along the way the song became a part of me; it went from being just a song to being my song. I think this is why I still play songs I love over and over again -- I'm internalizing them, getting to know them, making them mine.

A Google lyrics search can't do that for you. A Google lyrics search is like somebody else handing you their song -- it can't ever really be yours because you haven't engaged with it (teaching and learning are a lot like this, but that's a-whole-nother story).

So, even though I found the lyrics to "Yellow Ledbetter," I didn't actually read them. Instead I think I'll pop in the "Jeremy" single (on which "Yellow Ledbetter" is featured) my brother and I bought at an indie record shop in the Ocean Beach section of San Diego when I was in college and he was in middle school, curl up next to the CD player with a pad of paper and a pen, and try to figure it out for myself.

You can have it either way. Click here for instant gratification. Or. . .cozy on up to your computer with some paper and a pen, click 'play' below, and get ready to welcome another great song to your life.


Brian said...

Wait, how did you end up with that disc? I thought I had successfully stolen/hidden it from you.

Megan said...

Apparently I managed to steal it back. And then I put my initials on it, so it's totally mine. Want me to burn you a copy?

Brian said...

You mean on your technically-challenged, stuck-in-the-stone-age computer that you poured a bottle of wine in?

I'll just buy it again, I don't mind giving my money to Pearl Jam.

Megan said...

It wasn't a WHOLE bottle of wine. Just maybe a few glasses. And it was an accident.

You COULD buy it again, but Amazon doesn't hold a candle to that little shop in OB. I loved OB. :(

Maritza said...

How funny that my lyrics to that song and the ones Eddie sings are completely different! Mine are:

Can you see them?
On the one way yeah
and I know and I know
I don't want to stay

there's a bunch of parts where I just say blah blah blah because I have no idea what he says.

Unclejbird said...

Sweet! The Bridge School Benefit. They ARE big Neil Young fans, you know.

Megan said...

Maritza -- I do the same.

J-Bird -- I guess if Eddie likes him I can learn to tolerate him. For the sake of our (mine and Eddie's) relationship or whatever.

Brian said...


I just wish he didn't sound like squealing tires or really, really bad breaks when he's singing in those higher keys.

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