Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What cross? What ballpark?

In response to my recent musings on lyrics that might or might not mean something, a regular reader of this blog (okay, my mother) e-mailed me to say I'd reminded her of an interview with Paul Simon. Someone had asked him about a line from "The Obvious Child" that goes, "The cross is in the ballpark." In context:
And in remembering a road sign
I am remembering a girl when I was young
And we said These songs are true
These days are ours
These tears are free
And hey
The cross is in the ballpark
The cross is in the ballpark
He said it didn't mean anything. He just liked the sound of it.

How disappointing.

There are songs for which the sounds-cool/actually-means-something distinction doesn't matter so much. Take "I Am the Walrus." Sure, the lyrics seem to be dripping with symbolism, and maybe I would have analyzed them to death if I'd been around when they were new, but now they're just big goofy fun. "The Obvious Child," on the other hand, skims the seas of purpose and intention just enough to make me wonder if I'm missing something.

How about you? Can you think of a song whose meaning has eluded you for ages? Does it bug you to think there might be nothing there?


Anonymous said...

Sometimes meaningful words come from the mouths of people who are not aware of the meanings themselves. when people are connected to music they are also connected to parts of the human condition that cannot be described scientifically, so being connected to something beyond themselves and perhaps a connection to the collective conscious? so the words mean whatever they mean to you and not to the person who is saying them....personally they say so much and mean so much to me.

cinderkeys said...

Interesting thoughts. I'm not sure I believe in a collective consciousness, but it's absolutely true that listeners bring their own meanings to song lyrics. One of the songwriter's jobs, I think, is to step back and allow for different interpretations in the places where specificity isn't required.

Anonymous said...

"It got me thinking when that first popped out," Paul Simon says, sitting in the living room of his Manhattan duplex, watching an early moon come up over Central Park. " 'The cross is in the ball park.' "The first thing I thought of was Billy Graham, or the Pope, or evangelical gatherings. But I came to feel what that's really about is the cross that we bear. The burdens that we carry are doable, they're in the ball park." -Paul Simon,9171,971667,00.html#ixzz1OLgp7kSo

cinderkeys said...

Thank you! I'd poked around the web before I wrote this post, trying to get information that contradicted what my mom had told me, and didn't find anything. Clearly I didn't look hard enough.