I was thinking today how although the melody is a very important factor in creating a chart topping smash, the lyrics are also crucial. Take a look at a few hits and you realise that merely changing a couple of words can be the difference between a platinum disc and abject failure.
How, for example would this classic have fared if the composer had chosen slightly different lyrics:
Come on over to my place. Come on! WeÂ’re fucking a monkey!
Would it have proved so popular amongst the record buying public, or would the subtly different subject matter have put people off? Probably the latter is my best guess. Would Wimpy have chosen to use the song in the advertising campaign that has led to the burger chain being the success it is today? I doubt it. Even though they would have changed the offending words to Â“WeÂ’re having a WimpyÂ”, I think people would still associate the song with monkey fucking and would have a negative connotation in most normal peopleÂ’s minds. And to be honest I doubt the song would have been popular enough to have been heard by a thieving advertising executive anyway. History would have been very different. The Wimpy restaurant would probably have died out, all for the sake of, what? Nine or ten letters? The whimsy of a song writer. Thank goodness he went down the more readily identifiable route of a party, rather than thinking I would like to write a song about group monkey rape. It wouldnÂ’t matter how catchy the tune was. I donÂ’t think anyone would want to even hum it for fear of being judged a despoiler of primate orifices.
Similarly what if a certain band had chosen to change just a few lyrics to the song that would define them and it had run thus:
Hey Hey, we fuck monkeys
Some people think fucking monkeys is wrong
But weÂ’re too busy fucking monkeys
Then (in the few moments when we are spent and waiting for our erections to return) writing about it in this song
Only a few words different. But I think the cheery antics of Davy, Micky, Mike and Pete might have taken on a very different aspect if the public had had to sit through that theme tune every week. Even if the song were accompanied by images of the cheeky foursome dressed up in comical costumes and doing a funny walk on some sand, I think the mental image of the four men, naked, surrounding a frightened and shivering primate about to have their way with it would be too much to bear. Even in the unlikely event that the activity was consensual (which opens up all kinds of moral quandaries Â– how would a monkey consent to such an activity. Unless it was one of those monkeys that has been taught to communicate certain phrases through sign language, but I donÂ’t think there were any of those in the sixties and if there were I donÂ’t think there was a sign for, Â“I agree to be fucked by all of the Monkees. That is what I want.Â” And what if the monkey wanted to be fucked by three of the Monkees, but not by Mike Nesmith who was frankly a bit weird and usually covered in prototype Tippex fluid? I donÂ’t think many people would condone the activity in any case. Can a monkey really understand what it is consenting to?) I think the show Â“The MonkeesÂ” would have been taken off air immediately and none of the Monkees would have gone on to enjoy the solo success they had on the back of the project. Which essentially means the TV show Â“Metal MickyÂ” would never have been made. It doesnÂ’t bear thinking about.
Similarly what if John Lennon had chosen to just change a couple of words to his hit song and the lyrics had been Â“EverybodyÂ’s got something to hide, inside of my monkey.Â” Admittedly it would have been more subtle than the rather heavy-handed attempts of the others, but nonetheless I donÂ’t think the public would have been ready for it. Especially if he followed it up with Â“Imagine fucking monkeys was socially acceptable, itÂ’s easy if you tryÂ…Â” Someone would have been so furious they would probably have tried to shoot him or something.
I point all this out just to show to people how important lyrics are in a song and how subtle and tiny changes can totally alter a tuneÂ’s success and not because I am angry because I have written several albums worth of songs about monkey sex (both consensual and rape) that have brilliant melodies, but which the short-sighted record bosses refuse to produce. I actually think it would be interesting to see if the public is ready. This is the 21st century. I could change the lyrics to be about something more innocuous, but if all the examples above had changed their lyrics we have already seen how history would be different.
Maybe my songs will be discovered in a shoe box in 300 years time, like that Bach thing theyÂ’ve just discovered
, and then the brave new monkey raping society they have then will appreciate what I was saying. Maybe theyÂ’ll find it a bit old hat and obvious. Â“WhatÂ’s the big deal, monkey rape is fine in our eyes, youÂ’ll have to come up with something worse to offend us.Â”
I just canÂ’t win.
ItÂ’s a terrible world where you write something like that and then feel pleased about yourself, donÂ’t you think?