Thought experiment. If you got up early one morning, killed somebody, and then went back to bed until the next day when you then started running to get out of the country, could you honestly say that you made a good effort to escape justice? Wouldn’t sitting around in bed for 24 hours be the opposite of making a good effort? That’s my position, but evidently Johnny Cash didn’t think so. From Cocaine Blues:
Early one morning while making the rounds, I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down. I went right home and I went to bed. I tucked that loving .44 beneath my head.
Got up next morning and I grabbed that gun, took a shot of cocaine and away I run. Made a good run, but I run too slow…
Slow indeed. 24 hours lying around slow. Okay. But let’s not call it a “good run.” It’s a terrible run. With an extra day to get away, maybe Johnny wouldn’t have been overtaken down in Juarez, Mexico.
Such is the world of song lyrics. Colorful, fun even, but at times they make absolutely no sense. Besides the absurdity of waiting a day before fleeing the arm of the law, if you snort cocaine and immediately go to bed, you really ought to talk to your dealer. You’re not getting value.
Yet we accept nonsensical song lyrics because the music is fun. It gets our hands clapping or our legs dancing. The lyrics are secondary, even an afterthought. I love Johnny Cash on one level (especially Cocaine Blues) – he’s not an American legend for nothing – but the analytical part of me reels from the dissonance and the contradictions.
Wait! I hear people inside my head saying, song lyrics are just something somebody punched out while strumming some guitar chords and aren’t meant to make sense. Get off your high horse already and get with the program!
Okay. I get it. And I’ll get on with it, get with the program, ride the nonsensical lyric train off the edge of the world with a smile. Because I like the music. But before I go:
She smiled at me on the subway. She was with another man. But I won't lose no sleep on that ‘cause I've got a plan. You're beautiful. You're beautiful. You're beautiful, it's true. I saw your face in a crowded place, and I don't know what to do.
James Blunt has a “plan” but he doesn’t know “what to do.” Sigh.
And, by the way, when I said I’ll ride the train because I like the music, I didn’t mean James Blunt. This particular song of his takes an impressive number seven on Rolling Stone's list of the 10 most annoying songs of all time. I might put it higher on the list, but that’s a story for another day.