Monday, September 15, 2008

Can I Walk With You At Least?

Listen to Roy Orbison sing Oh, Pretty Woman:

Pretty Woman, walking down the street
Pretty woman, the kind I'd like to

Listen to Manfred Mann sing Do Wa Diddy Diddy:

There she was just a-walkin' down the street
Singing do wah diddy
diddy dum diddy do

Listen to the Sir Douglas Quintet doing She's About A Mover:

Well she was walkin' down the street
Looking fine as she could be

Ok what gives? What's with all the chicks walking down the street? Don't they have cars, bus tickets? Can't they get a ride? Where are they walking to? School? Work? Are they steet women?

And it's not just gals either. The guys are walking too. Listen to the Shangri Las do Give Him A Great Big Kiss:

Here comes my guy
Walkin' down the street

And of course who could forget the Crystals (who weren't even the Crystals) do He's A Rebel:

See the way he walks down the street
See the way he shuffles his

Sometimes the narrator himself is walking down the street, like Robert Lamm, one of Chicago's singers, doing Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is:

As I was walking down the street one day…

He doesn't say where he was going. He just whines about being asked the time.

Even couples get into the act. The Guess Who sang His Girl:

Look at the way they walk down the street
You can see she's his

And Them doing Here Comes The Night:

I can see right out my window my girl
Walkin' down the street with
another guy

At least we have an idea what they were up to. Meanwhile, poor Van was having a conniption. And in Gloria, he was having another kind of conniption:

She comes walkin' down my street
Well she comes to my house
knock upon my door
Then she come to my room
Then she make me feel

Well we know why Gloria was walking down the street anyway.

But aside from that, I have a theory. See pop song lyrics don't wax philosophical all too often (okay, forget about U2 for a minute). And what these songs celebrate I think is just the idea of existence. They are metaphysical pop. Don't laugh, bear with me here. We want to sing about how happy we are the so-and-so exists (think of Elton John - "How wonderful life is when you're in the world"). But they can't just sing "Pretty woman, EXISTING" or "there she was BEING." So walking down the street becomes a stand in; it is the most neutral act there is; it has no moral quality, it doesn't reflect anything individual about the person (apart from the object of Manfred's affection, who is not just walking down the street, but is snapping her fingers and shuffling her feet - she must have had an iPod); it is to say, see the way she lives and breathes and just is.

If Descartes had been a songwriter, he would have written "I walk down the street, therefore I am."

Well it's a theory.

Here, by the way, is, in no particular order, a very partial list of more songs that have, in the lyrics, someone walking down the street:

  • Who's Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I'm Gone (Muddy Waters)
  • A Guy Is A Guy (Doris Day)
  • Daddy Cool (The Diamonds)
  • Say Man (Bo Diddley)
  • Cadillac (Bo Diddley)
  • Party Doll (Buddy Knox)
  • Boogie Chillun (John Lee Hooker)
  • Say The Word (Mickey And Sylvia)
  • Talk That Talk (Jackie Wilson)
  • Framed (Richie Valens)
  • Looking Back To See (The Browns)
  • On Broadway (The Drifters)
  • Gee Whiz It's You (Cliff Richard)
  • Me And My Shadow (Liberace)
  • I Go To Pieces (Peter & Gordon)
  • Twistin' Postman (The Marvelettes)
  • When The Lights Go Out (Jimmy Witherspoon)
  • Pink Petticoats (Big Bopper)
  • Theme From The Monkees (The Monkees)
  • Tunesmith (Johnny Rivers)
  • It's Gonna Rain (Sonny & Cher)
  • Gangster Of Love (Sam The Sham & the Pharaohs)
  • Look Away (Spencer Davis Group)
  • Long Tall Texan (Murry Kelum)
  • Stop Look and Listen (Elvis Presley)
  • Letter Full Of Tears (Gladys Knight And The Pips)
  • There's No Other (Like My Baby) (The Crystals)
  • Hey Baby (Bruce Channel)
  • Male Ego (The Beach Boys)
  • Stop! In The Name Of Love (The Supremes)
  • Walk On By (Dionne Warwick)
  • This Empty Place (Dionne Warwick)
  • Ain't She Sweet (Paul Ash & His Orchestra / The Beatles)
  • Heart Of Stone (The Rolling Stones)
  • Stop Breaking Down (The Rolling Stones)
  • Paint It Black (The Animals - not the Stones' version though)
  • Everybody's Gonna Be Happy (The Kinks)
  • He's My Guy (Reparta And The Delrons)
  • My Heart Skips A Beat (Buck Owens)
  • Looking At The Stars (Gary Lewis & The Playboys)
  • May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose (Little Jimmy Dickens)
  • Cool Jerk (The Capitals)
  • Hello I Love You (The Doors)
  • Rock & Soul Music (Country Joe & The Fish)
  • Every Time (The Box Tops)
  • Day Time, Night Time (Simon Dupree & The Big Sound)
  • I Feel Free (Cream)
  • Are You Ready (The Chambers Brothers)
  • I Got My Eye On You (Canned Heat with John Lee Hooker)
  • Bang Shang A Lang (The Archies)
  • Swingin' Lite (Bill Deal & The Rhondells)
  • #9 Dream (John Lennon)

  • East L.A. (War)

  • Hey, Miss Fannie (The Clovers)

Do Wah Diddy Diddy

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