"What did he say?"
"I think he said, 'barrel'"
"No, idiot, that doesn't make any sense! I think he's saying, "baron", yeah play it again."
It was through exercises such as this that we, my siblings and I, transcribed many, many songs in the '60's and early '70's. While one of us held the paper and pencil, another manned the record player. The others were the helpers...helping us determine the words the vocalist was singing. The scribe recorded the agreed upon translation. And so it was that we learned the words of the stories these singers were telling. Sure, in the earlier years, we were working with the records of our parents, Kingston Trio, Brothers Four, Peter, Paul and Mary, Burl Ives and such, but as we progressed to capturing the lyrics of OUR preferred bands, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce and such, well the words seemed a little harder to understand. Some of it had to do, I'm sure, with the volume of the accompanying bands, but I think I came up in the generation of mumbling, screaming vocalists...sometimes those words were REALLY hard to decipher.
I suppose in this modern world, with the world wide web at every youth's fingertips, monotonous exercises in transcribing lyrics of their favorite songs would seem odd. But to us, it was common sense. We all had ears, we knew how to write, we knew how to operate the record player, lifting the arm without scratching the spinning record, and we were CHAMPIONS at "debate."
I don't mind admitting it came as a rather rude surprise decades later, when I consulted the world wide web to get guitar chords for some of my old childhood favorites, to discover that, for instance, the opening line in Ob-la-di-Ob-la-da does NOT say, "Desmond was a baron in the market place." No, the words recorded by those in the know would have me believe that "Desmond had a barrow in the market place." Personally, I prefer to remember Desmond as a baron... what's so exciting about having a barrow, for goodness sake? Still, the world wide web wouldn't lie, so I "suppose" we got that one (and perhaps a few others) wrong....
This weekend as I started my hunt for a record player -- one that I can spin the LP records of my youth, but also, and more importantly, spin the recordings made of the Prince George's County Youth Orchestra in the '70's in which I played the violin... records I have not heard in years, records I'd like to experience again, I was brought back to the living room in Bowie, Maryland, and the pastime that provided the six of us many hours of fun... ok, maybe it was more like, many minutes of fun and many hours of bickering over the words... but still, you know what I mean... I'm glad my children are grown and I do not have to endure their "pastime" as I am sure we must have annoyed our parents with this repetitious, noisy, argument inspiring pastime.