A couple weeks ago Beth and I sat at the bar at a little place across the street called Kasey’s. It’s one of a handful of Hackney’s surrogates we patronize—on nights when it’s not too crowded (and loud).
A catchy song was playing—can’t remember if it was the jukebox or the bartender’s playlist—I think the latter. It has a really hooky, funky, bluesy beat and a whiff of Motown. I initially thought the vocalist was female but I learned later it’s actually a guy with a solid falsetto, alternating with a female backup. I also learned the name of the band was Portugal. the Man, out of Portland, Oregon. I also learned the title: “Feel It Still.”
As we listened, Beth and I tried to make out the lyrics, particularly the first words of the chorus. I couldn’t make anything of it. Beth came up with her final guess:
Ooh, ooh, I’m a devil with a kickstand.
I knew most assuredly this was wrong. If you’ve been around Beth long enough, you know she has a way with words. Many ways, actually. She’s a great writer, as you know. But what you might not know is that, in conversation, she has a Norm Crosby way of mixing up familiar sayings and famous people’s names. She’ll say something like, “Patti Capone is a fantastic Broadway performer.” It’ll be just close enough that it’ll take a few seconds and you get this little pain in your head and you say, “Wait a minute, you mean…”. And then you stop, but it’s so close to the real thing that you have to squint and mentally dig and finally, “Patti LuPone, right?”
“Yeah, her,” Beth would say, impatiently, suggesting that I should know what she meant.
Anyway, back to “Feel it Still”—the actual lyric is:
Ooh, ooh I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
You can check out a live performance here.
I kinda like devil with a kickstand better, and it’s fun to imagine the music video that lyric would’ve produced. In that vein, I always go all Weird Al Yankovic when I hear Santana’s “Black Magic Woman”—I reflexively sing, She’s a black Magic Marker, and then build inane lyrics around it. I just can’t help myself.
In fairness to Beth, I think lots of us routinely get song lyrics comically wrong. The first time I saw the title “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” in print, without ever having heard the song, I assumed it was about a beauty pageant winner.
Back in high school, my best friend Jimmy had a special propensity for getting lyrics wrong and singing them out loud, enthusiastically, as we drove around with the car radio on.
Hence, during Elton John’s hay days of radio hits, you could hear Jimmy belting out, “On the bridge, on the bridge, oh the bridge is back.”