Thursday, January 13, 2011

Synapse to the Beat: Love and Rockets' "Ball of Confusion"

I wasn't yet born in 1970 when Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote "Ball of Confusion", so they couldn't have called me for advice. Pity. I could have helped. Turns out Whitfield and Strong wrote the following:
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Vote for me, and I'll set you free.
Which is ultimately a non-sequitur, a religious line and a political one stuck together. A series of slogans spray-painted over top of each other by different people on the same wall.

I was able to grow up believing those lines were entirely different. I spent years of my life mistakenly believing they were the much superior:
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Both for me, and I'll set you free.
Which might not make much literal sense but is evocative and sinister in an artsy way. It is, in my humble opinion, way superior. Like everyone else, I have my share of Mondegreens. Perhaps more than many, because I never really had any presumption that music lyrics had to make any kind of sense at all. I was just listening to "House of the Rising Sun" right now, the Animals version. I realised that what he says is the very logical:
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy,
And, God, I know I'm one.
I alwyas presumed there was a religious message stuck in there apropos of nothing:
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy,
In God I know I've won.
Of course, why would a song about prostitution and/or gambling (and/or new blue jeans) suddenly go all born again? Well, it wouldn't. But that never mattered to me. Song lyrics were just, well, nonsense that rhymed. I still kind of feel that way. Just sometimes the nonsense... well, it's less nonsense if you actually sit and look at it.

Only one of these two groups included the 'rap on, brother, rap on' line.

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