The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Dumb Songs of Classic Rock

Posted on | May 21, 2014 | 189 Comments

When I’m in the car, I like to listen to the “Classic Hits” radio station — basically, rock-and-roll from the 1970s, which was the pinnacle, as far as I’m concerned. Amid all the great music from that great era, however, there are some songs that make you scratch your head in mystification: “How did that lame crap ever become a hit?”

But hey, it was the ’70s and we were all high, y’know.

Nobody had more lame-crap hits than Steve Miller Band, and don’t get me wrong: I liked Steve Miller back in the day, and still enjoy listening to his hits, but from the standpoint of songcraft, the guy sucked. The closest he ever got to writing lyrics that made any sense at all was “Take the Money and Run,” but that song is a celebration of murder and robbery, so it kind of proves the point.

Here’s the way I figure Steve Miller operated as a songwriter: He would come up with a nifty little guitar riff, and then a catch-phrase to be repeated in the chorus. Once he had the guitar riff and the chorus, he would be like, “Yeah, OK, gotta write some verses now.”

This is where the whole thing always went to hell. You can go through the song catalog of the Steve Miller Band and good luck finding more than one or two songs where the lyrics of the verses have a damn thing to do with the chorus — or with anything else, really.

Even in his biggest hit, “The Joker,” the lyrics are total nonsense, and don’t even get me started on “Jungle Love.” The guy obviously wasn’t even trying to write lyrics. He just sang whatever the hell came into his head — any words that rhymed would do — and nobody seemed to care, because the albums kept selling.

While it’s hard to say that there was ever a worse song than “Jungle Love,” however, the prototypical stupid Steve Miller Band hit, which actually made it to No. 1 in 1976, was “Rock’n Me”:

Well I’ve been lookin’ real hard
And I’m tryin’ to find a job
But it just keeps gettin’ tougher every day
But I got to do my part cause I know in my heart
I got to please my sweet baby, yeah

Well, I ain’t superstitious
And I don’t get suspicious
But my woman is a friend of mine
And I know that it’s true that all the things that I do
Will come back to me in my sweet time

So keep on rockin’ me baby
Keep on a rockin’ me baby
Keep on a rockin’ me baby
Keep on a rockin’ me baby

I went from Phoenix, Arizona
All the way to Tacoma
Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.
Northern California where the girls are warm
So I could be with my sweet baby, yeah

Keep on a rockin’ me baby . . .

Et cetera. I mean, c’mon: “Northern California where the girls are warm”? What the hell does that even mean, Steve? But from such ridiculous nothingness, the man crafted a career!

And just in case you’re wondering, the B-side of the single of “Rock’n Me” was a song entitled, “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma.”

 

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Comments

  • http://lnsmitheeblog.blogspot.com LN_Smithee

    Especially considering that the hit American Pie movies and their endless sequels use his trademark. At the end of the credits, it’s there — “American Pie” is used by the studio with Don McLean’s permission.

  • http://lnsmitheeblog.blogspot.com LN_Smithee

    Paul McCartney only occasionally runs into a meaningful song that isn’t about his love for his wife (“Ebony And Ivory” being among them). His last bunch of singles have been, IMHO, pablum, typified by 2007’s “Dance Tonight,” which ironically sounds like a losing entry in a McCartney write-alike contest.

  • http://lnsmitheeblog.blogspot.com LN_Smithee

    He dropped the S-bomb in “Eat The Rich” as well.

    Their attitudes may taste like sh!t
    but go real good with wine

  • http://lnsmitheeblog.blogspot.com LN_Smithee

    It makes me laugh when I hear people who would laugh at Ronald Reagan misunderstanding “Born In the USA” as a patriotic song doing the same with The Guess Who’s “American Woman.” Hey, at least Springsteen’s American. The Guess Who are from Canada.

  • Kirby McCain

    Night Flight, Kashmir? After the fourth album Page stepped aside in many ways. Jones was the trained musician and with Page’s drug problem it was Jones stepping up with the tunes.

  • Kirby McCain

    The Offspring, that’s a band.

  • Kirby McCain

    True. Mother’s Little Helper, I think back and everybody’s mom was popping pills.

  • Kirby McCain

    So we’re talking about lyrics n how about the Confessor. Certainly had something to do with Walsh ‘ s coming to terms with his own failings.

  • Kirby McCain

    The Sandman

  • Kirby McCain

    The Sandman

  • Kirby McCain

    The Original Prankster had an f bomb didn’t it? And The Kids Aren’t Alright, talk about misheard lyrics. I heard crack heads whores when they are saying cracked and torn. But I’m old.

  • trangbang68

    yeah but their songs are about something not mindless pop drivel

  • trangbang68

    Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had the tritest, most inane lyrics of all. “almost cut my hair happened just the other day…it increases my paranoia like looking in the mirror and seeing a po-lice car…”Or how about “wooden ships on the water, very free…” or “though your brother’s bound and gagged and they chained him to a chair, won’t you please come to Chicago..we can change the world..rearrange the world…” Every one of their songs is a steaming pile of unmitigated hippie lunacy.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    I always assumed that was too deep into “urban legend” territory to be worth the bother.

    Hmmm. Seems like there ought to be a youtube of it by now.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Oops, Wombat caught my mistake. Geez. I do blur BTO with TGW, because of the shared Bachmann lineage. Randy wrote a lot of the tunes in both bands.

    You’d think that having played that tune in several bands I’d have remembered that. Or maybe not.

    But The Guess Who, despite being an all-time great band, always had something in the lyrics that just sucked.

    I managed to ban American Woman from being played at any any of our venues because we had a huge following among Vietnam vets and their families. I finally thought Bus Rider was going to avoid the TIP phenomenon, but they had to throw in the last line: “I’m so awful G-d glad I’m not in your shoes, bus rider.” Great tune. Ends with a typical FU to the folks who bought their records.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Yeah, I deserve to have my ration of grog cut.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    The Letter was one seriously chopped tune. It should have been at least three minutes long.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    I always liked: “She lives in Mojave in a Winnebago; His name was Bobby, he looked like a potato”

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Looks like I have a memory hole in my memory bank.

  • Wombat_socho

    Oh, I agree. Still, the band name is amusing.

  • Wombat_socho

    Agreed. I stopped listening to them right around the time I turned 30.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Whoa there, Festus!

    The *Presence* album is dominated by Page’s guitars, as is the fifth album, *Houses
    Of The Holy*, and, yes, *Physical Graffiti*.

    Zeppelin was always a band effort, where all members were creative contributors. The style of music they played was a guitar-dominated genre, which explains why it dominates.

    BTW: The first member Jimmy hired was John Paul Jones, because they had worked together as studio musicians and Jones had arranged parts of the last Yardbirds album, *Little Games*.

    Respectfully,
    Robert Cardinal Belvedere,
    The Church Of The Immaculate Jimmy Page

  • Art Deco

    RSM’s still pissed that he didn’t write Jet Airliner.

  • Finrod Felagund

    I haven’t had a chance to confirm this, but apparently when Turner Classic Movies shows The Wizard Of Oz, they put DSotM on the second audio channel.

    Also there’s this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Side_of_the_Rainbow

  • Finrod Felagund

    When I was at Purdue, the local Taco Bell had a cd jukebox that had the Offspring album Smash in it. However, there was one song you couldn’t play from it: Bad Habit, doubtless due to the string of obscenities that comes forth at one point.

  • Garym

    Same. I actually turn the radio off, when one of their songs comes on.

  • Garym

    With todays pop music, you’ll be drunk after the first verse.

  • Kirby McCain

    I’ve always been a big Page fan but after that fourth album the band began to graduate from the Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Heart Breaker niche into something truly inspired. Page has even said he regrets the drug use and that it diminished his role in the band. Having said all that and looking at the comment below, “What’s that man moving cross the stage?”

  • Dianna Deeley

    I confess, it works. Very surreal.

  • http://lnsmitheeblog.blogspot.com LN_Smithee

    You might never make it all the way through Salt N’ Pepa’s “Push It” without falling on the floor.

  • Dianna Deeley

    Oh, jeez, I remember that!

    How about The Night Chicago Died?

  • http://itsaboutliberty.com/index.php MNHawk

    When I bought the album, back in the day, because I liked the song Heart Like a Wheel, I thought Side 2 was on an endless loop! :-) I think the song is just a couple of riffs repeated over and over forever.

  • http://www.leftbankofthecharles.com/ Charles

    The man is playing with words, so bisexual may be too literal – willing to enter a threesome with a minimum of persuasion is perhaps a better translation.

    I think he’s also riffing on the Beach Boys lyric about the northern girls keeping their boyfriends warm at night.

  • http://lnsmitheeblog.blogspot.com LN_Smithee

    The latter sounds more likely than anything else.

  • Garym

    Everybody was kung fu fightin …..

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Pretty amazing concept. “Coincidence” is a deeper term than most people give credit.

    I also found several youtube versions of the combination. It was far less impressive than I expected. Any typical soundtrack today is much more impactful. Curiously enough, this Dark Side of the Rainbow concept might be a catalyst for making the audio more intense.

  • Art Deco

    I was wrong. Steve Miller is 70. Gets six figures for major performances and is aging well, as can be seen here.

    http://jaydeanhcr.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/2489623.jpg

    Robert Stacy McCain is 54, gets squat for his gigs and can be seen here:

    http://www.splcenter.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/rsmccain11708.jpg

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  • Nan

    I watched the video not long ago and laughed at the slo-mo kung fu dancing.