As earlier pieces have noted, including this page on the Lyrics Menu, I spend a lot of time listening to, and thinking about, the words to pop songs. That’s why there’s a category for them on this Blog, but I think about lyrics far more than the 20 pieces published here so far would suggest. In 25 months’ worth of posts that works out at one piece every five or six weeks.
Sometimes my day-to-day reflections are about how much I dislike the words to a specific song, or how the lyrics don’t fit into the melody, especially when the wrong syllable is emphasized in a word just to make it fit. Earlier this week two consecutive songs that were played on my radio station of choice tried to shoe-horn too many syllables per line into their melodies, and one of them used the word “human” with the emphasis on the second syllable. I can’t remember what they were. I was driving at the time and couldn’t make a note of it, but this Blog is more about things that I like rather than daily annoyances (yes, it really is) so, rather than try and recall which lyrics irritated me, here’s a reflection about the song “Bobby’s Girl”, which always brings a smile to my face. In late 1962 it reached #3 in both the US (sung by Marcie Blane) and in the UK (in a version by Susan Maughan). You can hear the latter here. I first heard it sometime in the 1970s.
The song was played just after 7.30am this morning on BBC Radio 2 and prompted me to call my 11-year-old daughter into the kitchen so she could listen along, and to point out my favourite part of the lyrics. The message of the song isn’t great. It’s about girl who is asked what she would like to be, “now that you’re not a kid anymore”. The backing vocals repeat: “You’re not a kid anymore”. Her response: “I know just what to say / I answer right away / There’s just one thing I’ve been wishing for”. Her ambition doesn’t stretch very far. Does she want to be the first woman on the moon? A doctor, lawyer or diplomat? No, she wants to be Bobby’s Girl. “That’s the most important thing to me,” she tells us. And, if she were, “what a grateful thankful girl” she would be. As the song was playing I advised my own daughter to set her sights a whole lot higher. Don’t be content to be somebody else’s girl, work out what you really want to do and who you want to be. Not now, obviously, but when the time is right, when you’re not a kid anymore.
The part of the song that brings a smile to my face, and which I wanted my daughter to hear, is in the second verse. The singer tells us: “Each night I sit at home / Hoping that he will phone / But I know Bobby has someone else”. At that point the backing vocals repeat, knowingly, that line from the first verse: “You’re not a kid anymore”. She knows what’s really going on. I can’t think of a more knowing line in a backing vocal in any other song that made the Top 3. It has entertained me for the over 40 years. It still does.