The Line That’s Missing

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(Pictured: Mary Chapin Carpenter onstage in 2018.)

I was so young when I first heard Elton John’s “Your Song” that it was years before I realized the terrible majesty of  “If I was a sculptor / <chuckle> But then again, no.” Bernie Taupin would eventually be famed for poetical inventions that ranged from Dali-esque surrealism to complete gibberish, but even he couldn’t come up with something better in place of that line.

But then again (see what I did there), there’s admirable honesty in admitting you’re beaten and that you need to get the song out the door and onto the album. In her song “Stones in the Road,” Mary Chapin Carpenter sings:

And now we drink our coffee on the run
We climb that ladder rung by rung
We are the daughters and the sons
And here’s the line that’s missing

That kind of thing seems qualitatively different from Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” where the lack of a suitable line is actually a suitable line:

Well we got no class
And we got no principals
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

If you know other examples of throwaway lines like these, please share them with the entire class.

On Another Matter: I have not tweeted a lot of worthwhile reading material lately. Maybe it’s a function of the way Twitter is circling the drain, or maybe my attention span is shot. But here are a few things:

—This past Saturday was the 100th birthday of Charles Schulz, and even on Twitter the observance seemed strangely muted. Pop culture has moved on from the simple daily comic strip, apparently. But Peanuts was always more than that. I have written here before about how annoyed I get whenever people reduce Peanuts to “happiness is a warm puppy” and other greeting card platitudes. Schulz was a damaged genius, and his strip was often deep and dark—and one’s enjoyment of it can only increase with that realization. One of Schulz’s more problematical characters—to us in the 21st century, at least—is Pig Pen. This examination of Pig Pen and his meaning is the best thing I’ve read lately.

—I have bought the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas at least three times: on vinyl, CD, and remastered CD. Now there’s a new edition, from recently rediscovered master tapes. I am not sure I need seven takes of the children’s choir working through “Christmas Time Is Here,” but the original album is as much a vibe as it is a discrete musical work, and more of the vibe can’t be a bad thing. The rediscovered tapes have also yielded the original soundtrack of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which is quite a find. The “soundtrack album” released in 2018 included all of the sound effects as well as the music, so a “clean” version of the music represents a major upgrade.

—I confess that my brain started to shut down partway through this piece on the demise of the key change in hit songs, but it remains fabulous nerd stuff.

—If you have yet to see the Weird Al movie on the Roku Channel, you should make time for it. (You can watch it even if you are not a regular Roku user.) Al recently appeared on Fresh Air; you can listen to the interview or read excerpts of it here.

—I was never an audiophile; I cared more about what I was listening to than what I was listening on. But I share my generation’s respect for those big, sexy-looking stereo systems we grew up on, and I am not at all surprised that those big, sexy-looking stereo systems are coming back in style.

—The 1947 World Series was the first ever broadcast on television. Here’s the story of how it happened and the effects of it.

—Bob Dylan has written a new book, The Philosophy of Modern Song, in which he Bob Dylans as hard as he’s ever Bob Dylaned, apparently.

That takes us back about a month in Twitter-time. I am curious to see what the world will be like one month of Twitter-time from now, and whether I will still be on Twitter to see it.

5 thoughts on “The Line That’s Missing

  1. Damn straight on Mr. Schulz. I am a psychologist, and I refer to him when discussing bullied children with their parents, in that he’s the man who became famous and perhaps wealthy “showing how nasty children can be to each other.” I use the reference to describe the pervasiveness of the problem, in that virtually everyone can relate, and to offer sympathies on the often shitty world we inhabit.

  2. mikehagerty

    I can understand why all but die-hard fans would give it a miss, but they’re wrong. The Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California is absolutely worth your time, giving a much better insight into the dreams and the demons that made Peanuts so multi-dimensional:

    https://schulzmuseum.org/

  3. I’ve been waiting for someone to chime in “Second verse / Same as the first,” but since no one else is doing the honors, I’ll do it.

    Cosigned on the excellence of the Schulz Museum, although I cannot claim to be an unbiased evaluator.

  4. porky

    I always liked The Turtles’ “Elenore” (“you’re my pride and joy et cetera”), but I guess that doesn’t technically qualify as a blank.

    I’ve read about songs that used nonsense “placeholder” lyrics until the final lyrics would be completed and then ended up using the placeholder instead. McCartney’s “Scrambled Eggs” aka “Yesterday” obviously scrapped the placeholder.

    The beauty of the “School’s Out” lyric is that “principals” could be spelled the other way, thus having a different meaning. But schools usually only had one principal and weren’t pleural (these days however I believe there are layers of them, vice, associate etc).

  5. Gary Omaha

    >> the demise of the key change in hit songs<<
    As someone who has always loved key changes/modulation in songs, I was concerned with this article and others based on it. Call me pedestrian or a lesser mortal for liking key changes, but I do. Then again, the majority of my music listening is to tunes created when key changing was popular, so I guess What, Me Worry?

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