With Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature it is now apparently OK to consider adult-oriented music as poetry. In any case some lyrics do touch us all however sophisticated we may claim to be. The best lyrics – and dare I say the best poems – are sufficiently ambiguous and suggestive for us to project our own feelings and experiences – in this case for me a sense of wasted opportunities in life despite one’s best efforts – onto them. Here’s one of my favourite songs: R.E.M’s ‘Country Feedback’, an appropriate song for a cold, wet evening like today’s.
Photo credit: Dr.Conati Roberto De Martino
It’s the poison that in measures brings illuminating vision;
It’s the knowing with a wink that we expect in Southern women;
It’s the wolf that knows which root to dig to save itself;
It’s the octopus that crawled back to the sea.
Instinct. Gut feeling… feelings.
I was central, I had control,
I lost my head.
I need this, I need this.
It’s crazy what you could’ve had,
It’s crazy what you could’ve had.
I need this, I need this.
 lyrics – the words of a song
 may claim to be – might think we are
 dare I say – is it too audacious to suggest also that…?
 poison – venom, toxin
 in measures – in reduced quantities
 knowing – understanding, intuition
 wink – act of closing momentarily one eye as a gesture of complicity
 root – the part of a plant that is normally underground
 to dig (dig-dug-dug) – excavate, expose
 octopus – big intelligent marine cephalopod mollusc that has eight legs
 to crawl back – return
 gut feeling – intuition
 these spoken lines in fact come from the R.E.M. song Chorus and the Ring (2001) but were added to the live version of Country Feedback
 scorched – superficially burned
 maddening – infuriating, very frustrating
 to be on a loop – be programmed to repeat itself again and again
 don’t fit us right – are not the correct size for us
 to blame – responsible, culpable
 it’s all the same – it makes no difference
 bone – element of skeletal/osseous material; perhaps a concession to keep sb. occupied (i.e. like a bone for a dog)
 curled tight – held firmly in place, in ringlets
 positions – postures, opinions, (possibly) sexual postures
 ducked out in a row – organized in a line/sequences like toy ducks at a shooting range (but with connotations of “to duck out” = evade responsibility)
 to wear sb. out (wear-wore-worn) – exhaust sb.
 to have been through fake-a-breakdown – have simulated a nervous breakdown (= mental collapse)
 self-hurt – self-harm, intentionally causing lesions to oneself (typically as a way to elicit compassion)
 EST – Erhard Seminars Training, a system of self-improvement
 psychic – medium, clairvoyant, sb. who can supposedly contact the spirit world
 fuck all – (emphatic) absolutely nothing, there was no improvement
 paperweight – heavy object used to stop pieces of paper from being dispersed; (metaphorically) sth. that focuses ideas and keeps you rational
 junk garage – garage used for storing possessions that you don’t use rather than for housing your car; (metaphorically) an accumulation of useless things
 winter rain – (pathetic fallacy) compounded problems. This is often misheard and reinterpeted as “a wedding ring”!
 honeypot – container for honey (= sweet substance produced by bees); (metaphorically) sth. that attracts avaricious people
 crazy – (in this case) it’s nonsensical and profoundly frustrating
 have been tagged – are under surveillance, (in this case) are under suspicion
 hotline – emergency telephone service such as the Samaritans
 wanted ad – small classified advertisement in a newspaper
 it’s crazy what you could have had – it’s devastating to think what might have been (= what you could have got from life)