Friday, December 17, 2010

I Love Critical Analysis

Here are my professional thoughts on the song "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" as performed by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

I saw him dancin' there by the record machine
I knew he must 'a been about seventeen.

The record machine? We're off to a bad start. First line and I'm confused. What the hell is a record machine? Is Joan Jett (and presumably the Blackhearts as well) in some sort of factory? I mean Factory Records started as a club called The Factory, and then the record label was called that, but I don't think there was ever an actual factory involved. Other than in the production of records of course. The physical production of records, not records being produced, like in a studio. Whatever. Either way I think this kid's gonna loose a finger in that machine. He's probably only seventeen, too, so he really shouldn't be operating machinery, let alone dancing while doing it. I mean, when I worked in a deli clerks were required to be at least 18 to operate the slicer, so I imagine the same holds true for some sort of industrial record press.

The Beat was going strong
Playin' my favorite song

This is of course a reference to British ska band The Beat, known in the states as The English Beat. They may have been playing a show in the factory. It's possible one or more of the members worked in the plant and they jammed on breaks.
[See also Mingus in the Classroom Conboy, pp 183-190]

An' I could tell it wouldn't be long
Till he was with me, yeah me

An' I could tell it wouldn't be long

Till he was with me, yeah me singin'

This concerns the aforementioned underage machinist from the first line. Joan Jett anticipates being with him in some capacity. Perhaps she's going to take him to HR and get him some safety glasses or make sure he's even allowed to operate that machine.

The machinist and his v-neck shirt

I love rock n' roll
So put another dime in the jukebox, baby

A dime? I realize this song was written in 1975, but still, a dime? What did that get you, like half a song? In the mid-to-late eighties when I used to play my jams on the jukebox at Round Table Pizza I think a dollar got you five songs, so maybe that is how much one play cost in 1975. It just seems cheap to me. 10 songs for a buck? That's a lot. I think that the dime must have been the standard unit of jukebox currency for something like 70 years, and it just got you fewer and fewer plays over time. In 1940 a dime got you like 58 songs. Or a live performance of one song by the real-life Glenn Miller band. By 1975 it got you one song. Maybe not even that. Maybe she wants him to put another dime in the jukebox because the last one is almost up. It's like a peepshow booth window where you have to keep pumping in money to keep it up. [Take that last sentence however you please.] That's also why she asks for more money to be put in a number of times throughout the song. This shitty jukebox plays 18 seconds of a song before you have to feed it another dime. And it only takes one dime at a time. If you haven't heard the "time is about to expire" klaxon yet your next dime just falls through the slot, and the exit hole is about two inches off the floor so you have to pick up your dime off the nasty linoleum. While I'm talking about jukeboxes, allow me to digress.

I really dislike these newfangled Internet-connected jukeboxes that bars have nowadays. I always thought that a jukebox was a great indicator of a bar's atmosphere. If you don't like a single song on a particular bar's jukebox, you probably should not be drinking in that bar. Now the music on the bar's speakers is determined by what asshole wants to dump in money to download his jam from the Internet. I've even been to bars where a couple slots held CD's from regular patrons. Also, it seemed to me that the ability to pick a great set from whatever music the bar had available was a key skill for the habitual bar-goer. Your friends would always like to see what you picked and give props if props were deserved. I don't think it's that fun to go out and pay to listen to the same songs I would play at home from my personal music collection. Also, you never knew when your set was going to play, and it made it so much better when your songs came on. There was always a chance that some dude put like ten dollars in there right before you and your songs wouldn't come on before you left, but that was fairly rare. Now most 'boxes (that's what they call jukeboxes on the coast; they actually pronounce the apostrophe) allow you to play your song next for additional credits. Theoretically people can prevent your songs from ever being played. I've seen it happen. Some bros hang out by the 'box and talk about college and continually pay to hear that awesome Dave Matthews song next until some drunk chick wants to hear "Sweet Caroline" and your songs never come on because you decided to play fair and let the music play in the order it was put in. And this download nonsense. It enables some bad shit. I was at Don's Mixed Drinks once after it had started to go downhill and they had installed an Internet jukebox. Some hippie downloaded and "play[ed] next" a Phish song. Thanks to these contraptions the whole bar was treated to a fucking live Phish track that was seriously like 18 minutes long. I bet the hippie thought he was really clever, too. I bet he thought, "Wow, not only is this an awesome jam, but it's so long the 4 dollars I just spent is totally worth it! That's like 22 cents a minute, man". Not that a hippie would really do the math on that. It would be more like "It was like four bucks, but that's like... um... a TON of music, so...". Lastly, these things are freaking expensive. I know I can't get 5 plays for a buck anymore, but I think a dollar gets you 1 1/8 credits on these things. And with the option to pay to download or "play next" your song a person could spend like $13 to hear "Sex Dwarf". Which is of course why these exist. Just like the old style 'boxes, it's about the coin, not the rock 'n' roll.

I love rock n' roll
So come an' take your time an' dance with me

I don't get the "take your time" part. "So, mosey on over hear and eventually we'll dance. Not to this song, because it will have ended some time ago, but that's really my fault for telling you to take your time." Maybe the dancing is him taking his time. Maybe he's got to go do his dishes or something but instead he's taking his time and dancing with her. I suppose she could be saying the dancing itself would not be rushed, but would be enjoyed leisurely. That doesn't jibe with my concept of dancing to rock 'n' roll, but I may be wrong about the whole concept; I don't really dance.

He smiled so I got up an' asked for his name
That don't matter, he said,

'Cause it's all the same

I love this dude. He has disdain for names. He's like "Whatever, it's just a word for somebody. They're all the same. Pffft. Names." Have hipsters turned their cynicism and irony on names yet? 'Cause this dude just won. I have no idea, but I imagine hipsters currently have somehow ironic names. Maybe men named Leslie and Tracey(Tracy Morgan doesn't count because he's hilarious and clearly not a hipster) and Warren. Women named Agatha and Gertrude (Trudy). But this dude totally just won. He's like "Oh, you use names? Right."

Said can I take you home
where we can be alone

It's not entirely clear, but I think this is the machine operator speaking these two lines. He cuts the crap. He doesn't even put up with shit like names, so you know he cuts to the chase when it comes to propositioning women. Life is nasty, brutish and short at the record factory. One second you're pressing a never ending stream of 3 Doors Down albums and the next your pulped phalanges are on their way to making "Kryptonite" skip and ruining Alpha Sig's circle jerk. You have to grab love when you can.

An' next we were movin' on

He was with me, yeah me

Next we were movin' on

He was with me, yeah me, singin'

Joan and the machinist relocate to another location, presumably a filthy apartment above a tattoo parlor.

I love rock n' roll

So put another dime in the jukebox, baby

I love rock n' roll

So come an' take your time an' dance with me

I think rock 'n' roll is a metaphor for sex. Joan loves it. I'm not real sure what she means by the "So put another dime in the jukebox, baby" thing though. If the jukebox "plays" rock 'n' roll(sex), then the dime makes it possible for the jukebox to play(commence) the rock 'n' roll(sex). So the dime is him feeding her drinks. But that makes her the jukebox. Does that work? Maybe dancing is the sex metaphor. I don't know, screw it. The line "So come an' take your time an' dance with me" refers to her concerns about premature ejaculation.

Said can I take you home
where we can be alone

Maybe now they are going to relocate to the other person apartment for more sex? Like, Joan is sick of hearing the buzz of the tattoo gun coming out of the shared air ducts and wants to go back to her place because she lives over a laundromat and it always smells like fabric softener there, which is nice.

Next we'll be movin' on

He was with me, yeah me

An we'll be movin' on

An' singin' that same old song

Yeah with me, singin'

The video is confusing as hell too. It follows the basic plot of the song - Joan arrives at a bar, a young man is dancing by the jukebox, they party together. But evidently the song that he is jamming to on the jukebox, which as Joan stated is also her favorite song is this song. The underage guy in question is also the bassist for The Blackhearts (Gary Ryan). So according to this video Joan somehow wrote this song (I know, it's a cover. Deal with it) about meeting this stranger(Ryan) with a guy who was already in her band(Ryan again), and he's the same guy, and they are listening to this same song before they ever met one another. That's some nightmare Escher bar that Joan frequents. I imagine myself drinking an everlasting mug of beer that I'm busy brewing with my wife that I have not yet met although she gave me the recipe some months ago. And of course the band is shown playing for excited bar customers.

These people love rock 'n' roll

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