happy ones

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happy ones

Post by navi » Sat Apr 06, 2019 6:26 pm

There's this song called 'Baba O'Riley' by The Who. I am sure some of you
are familier with it.

In it, it says: The exodus is here, the happy ones are near.

I always thought that 'the happy ones' meant 'the happy people'. I had
a doubt today. Could it mean something else? Like 'the happy days'?

What does it mean?

Here's the lyrics of the song:


https://genius.com/The-who-baba-oriley-lyrics


Gratefully,
Navi
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Re: happy ones

Post by tony h » Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:06 pm

"The point is not to explain lyrics", as I was told by a music publisher in the 60s, "lyrics should mean whatever the listener wants them to mean."

Sally, take my hand, we'll travel south 'cross land
Put out the fire and don't look past my shoulder
The exodus is here, the happy ones are near
Let's get together before we get much older
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Re: happy ones

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Apr 06, 2019 10:04 pm

Maybe that explains why the lyrics of so much music from the 60s onwards aren't worth a light.
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Re: happy ones

Post by Phil White » Sun Apr 07, 2019 7:27 pm

When you've worked that out, navi, you might want to explain to me the lyrics of "Siberian Khatru". I've always wondered...
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Re: happy ones

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Apr 08, 2019 3:09 am

I can't be bothered to try to parse word-salad lyrics. I tend to assume that whoever wrote them was either high, having a psychotic breakdown, or a Google Translate victim.
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Re: happy ones

Post by Phil White » Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:00 pm

Quite so, although drugs are unlikely. From what one reads, Jon Anderson never did drugs, at least not in a big way. He has constantly been questioned about his lyrics, and always insists that his songs are "about" something, but he writes lyrics for the sounds of the words, not for the meaning. The resulting songs stand on their own terms. For me, they work. Insofar as one registers the lyrics, they seem to be a kaleidoscope of fragmentary images to which you can impart meaning or not, as you choose.
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Re: happy ones

Post by tony h » Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:15 pm

Phil White wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:00 pm
but he writes lyrics for the sounds of the words, not for the meaning.
As an aside, after being diagnosed as Aspergers (use of apostrophe here is variable) last year I discovered that a lot of Aspies, like me, do not hear the words in songs. That is the noise of the words are just another instrument. For people like me we have to study the lyrics written down in order to sing along.
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Re: happy ones

Post by trolley » Mon Apr 08, 2019 4:07 pm

I always found it so strange that my wife doesn't pay attention to song lyrics. She loves music and can easily pick out the voice of a particular artist from a crowd. She knows the name of the song and probably the words in the chorus but couldn't tell you what the song was about. As Tony puts it, the lyrics are just another instrument, to her. I have a hard time imagining how that could work. For me, the lyrics of any song are as integral to the whole experience as the music is. I asked her once about listening to poetry. Is it just the metre that she hears?
"Whose woods these are I think I know"
"Da da da da da da da da"
She said "No, that's completely different"
hmmm....is it?
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Re: happy ones

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Apr 08, 2019 4:54 pm

I enjoy well-crafted, easily decipherable lyrics as much as anyone. Classic performances that feature items from 'the great American songbook' are prime examplars.

But taking that as one extreme of the continuum, at the other there are also an awful lot of noisy, overproduced pop songs where the lyrics are a) chaotic and sloppily written, b) hard or impossible to make out against the instruments, and c) contain numerous idiosyncratic — and sometimes pretentious — references that mean little or nothing to the non-initiate.

I genuinely don't understand the appeal of songs where the words appear to be devoid of meaning (except where they are obviously there just for their sonic effect, such as in scat-singing), and where the music is just a tuneless and repetitive racket.
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Re: happy ones

Post by Phil White » Mon Apr 08, 2019 5:52 pm

How about opera in a language you don't understand? Or some of the wonderful songs of Miriam Makeba? Or Janacek's Glagolitic Mass? Or Orff's Carmina Burana? Surely they stand on their own without the listener understanding the meaning of the words?

Or how about this one, which I happen to undersstand. Indeed, I know every word of it, having written a dissertation on the poem at university, but I cannot understand a word in the recording. Does it impact my enjoyment?

As for me, I have a similar problem to Tony. I suffer from a form of APD which means that I have difficulty isolating different sounds. Anything I hear is equally important to me, so if I am talking to somebody, I am equally aware of the sound of the plane passing overhead, the motorbike passing down the road a quarter of a mile away, the sound of kids laughing and the voice of the person I am talking to. I have to focus very hard to identify what a person is saying. I detest loud pubs, hate films where the soundtrack is overlaid over dialogue and despair when my niece comes to visit and immediately switches the TV on and then starts a conversation. Talk or watch TV. One or the other!

But it also means that any songs with a complex accompaniment become a soundscape to me. Try as I might, I cannot isolate more than fragments of lyrics as soon as there are more than one or two instruments. On the other hand, I follow and love polyphonic music such as Bach fugues, as each part is there simultaneously and makes sense to me.

Of course, when I was growing up, nobody had heard of APD, and neither had I. I just thought others could hear better than I can. Not true. I hear perfectly well. Perhaps too well...

ps: trolley, listen to the Miriam Makeba. Do you like it? That may well be how your wife enjoys songs in English.
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Re: happy ones

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:25 pm

With opera in a language I don't understand, and anything else where I can't understand the words, my response is dependent almost entirely on the qualities of the music (and sometimes the sonic quality of the singing). For example, as a non-speaker of Italian I can still find Verdi's Aida a pleasure to listen to because it contains such great music and virtuoso singing, but his Otello (which doesn't) leaves me cold.
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Re: happy ones

Post by trolley » Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:57 pm

Of course, lyrics are more important in some types of songs than others. You wouldn’t have much of a ballad without lyrics. I enjoy a good instrumental piece as much as the next guy but if there are lyrics, I need to listen to them…I can’t help myself. I always thought that people who did not understand English and listened to songs by English speaking artists were at a huge disadvantage. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around how popular some of these songs become in foreign countries with so much information missing. My wife (a native English speaker) loves Bob Dylan but she doesn’t really know what he’s saying! Seriously? How does that work? After Googling around a bit, it seems that it is not all that strange. The responses I read to the question “do you pay more attention to music or lyrics?” seem like a 50-50 split. I am amazed.
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Re: happy ones

Post by Phil White » Mon Apr 08, 2019 8:51 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:25 pm
... but his Otello ... leaves me cold.
Bloody barbarian! Just listening to the beginning of Act IV with Callas... And no, I am not listening to the words.
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Re: happy ones

Post by tony h » Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:32 pm

Phil White wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 5:52 pm
Surely they stand on their own without the listener understanding the meaning of the words?
Now there is a pretty little song which young English girls are want to sing in French. It starts "Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumera". In translation the words have a rather less sweet image to portray. "Little songbird, pretty little songbird, I wll pluck you." It then goes on to state that head, eyes and beak will be plucked.


So I suggest that knowing the words may actually lessen your enjoyment of a song. Mind you, if you are woken at an unearthly hour by a determined lark, maybe you will feel some empathy for the sentiments of the song.
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Re: happy ones

Post by navi » Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:53 am

Thank you all very much,

The song I asked about was supposed to be part of a big 'rock opera'. It would probably have been meaningful within that context, but was released with a batch of other songs from that 'rock opera' without the 'opera' being completed. I am not sure it was ever completed. I think it was (maybe as a musical of sorts or...), but ages after the song was released. If I am correct, then the song remained in a limbo of meaninglessness for quite some time.

It is sometimes hard to make out the lyrics of a song just by listening to it. I gets bits and pieces here and there and generally grasp the tenor of the song. If it is really interesting, I look up the lyrics. But there are songs I might listen to without paying any attention to the lyrics.

In Chaplin's Modern Times there's a wonderful scene where he sings a song in a nonsensical language he's making up as he's going along. While singing he makes movements that are supposed to tell the story of the song. Everybody present enjoys the music and laughs at the story that is being told by Chaplin's movements.

Respectfully,
Navi
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