I WAS listening to the radio last weekend when one of my favourite songs came on, and – perhaps for the very first time - I listened to the lyrics and was horrified.
It was Another Brick in the Wall from Pink Floyd’s 1979 rock opera, The Wall.
In it, Pink Floyd’s bass player, Roger Waters, created a modern protest anthem about education.
But is it?
Here’s the best known verse:
We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.
At the end, there’s a chorus by a British primary school class, and this time, the verse goes like this:
“We don’ need no ejercashun. We don’ need no fough’ contro’… all ’n’all ’s jus’ a nuvver brick inner wa’w.”
It’s the cockney accent which drops t’s and l’s from the middle and ends of words, so “bottle” become “bo’uw”. It must be hell for those who are trying to learn English.
On current Bendigo radio ad for a car dealer uses a cockney accent to “se’w mo’uhs”, or as you and I might say, “sell cars”.
But the point is that the song proves exactly the opposite of what it says: these young people DO need an education, and pretty damn quickly.
Its use of double negatives, lack of punctuation, incorrect words, poorly formed sentences and appalling pronunciation scream out for some urgent remedial reading classes. Actually, when you think about it, maybe Pink Floyd was being literal in the use of its double negatives. “We don’t need no education” literally means “We need education”
I think I should stop listening to the radio too closely.
When you tune your ear into this sort of thing, pop music is just full of it.
Here are some well known ones.
In I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, Mick Jagger is really saying he is satisfied. Lynyrd Skynyrd sang Ain’t No Good Life, which must have been nice, or even good.
What was Helen Reddy really saying when she sang Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady?
Stevie Wonder could actually have been praising you for getting things done when he sang You Haven’t Done Nuthin’.
When Bobby Brown sang I Feel Good he was saying “I feel well” or “I feel happy”. Whether he was good or not is a moral issue.
And U2 showed that a proposition is not a good thing to end a sentence with when it sang I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. It should have been “I still haven’t found that for which I am looking.” Just saying.
Janis Joplin should more correctly have sung about “Bobby McGee and I”.
Bill Withers meant “There is sunshine when she’s gone” when he actually sang “Ain’t no sunshine …”
Now that Bushwhacked has picked its nits and proven that some things are not meant to be thunked about too deeply, I just want to make this point.
When we moan and groan about people not knowing how to talk or write proper, we should pause ask why.
We are deluged with mangled language from advertisers, supermarkets and – as we’ve just seen – our own popular culture.
Ain’t never no harm in takin’ a nu, brite delite in getting’ it rite on the nite. LOL.