Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Best and worst lines ever, in one song

I liked Neil Diamond before he was Neil Diamond. I was a big fan from his very first single, "Solitary Man," on Bang Records in 1966. Always thought he got a little full of himself when he moved to Uni Records and especially after he landed at Columbia. Instead of nifty little pop-rock songs like "Cherry Cherry" and "I'm A Believer," he started writing bombastic epics. Some of them worked out, some of them didn't, and once he managed both in the same song.

It's "I Am I Said," which has some of his best lyrics and the very worst ever, within seconds of each other.

Did you ever read about a frog who dreamed of being a king and then became one?
Well, except for the names and a few other changes, if you talk about me, the story's the same one.
But I've got an emptiness deep inside, and I've tried but it won't let me go,
And I'm not a man who likes to swear, but I've never cared for the sound of being alone.

Now, that's pretty good writing, evocative and lyrical. The problem is, those words are sandwiched between the weirdest image of all time.

I am, I said, to no one there,
And no one heard at all, not even the chair.

What? The chair?


Has a chair ever heard anything? Where are the ears on a chair, anyway?

Diamond wrote that song in 1971, and 40 years later, I still don't get it. Of all the words that rhyme with there, why chair? There must be a better line that ends with bear, bare, care, dare, fair, fare, glare, hair, hare, lair, mare, ne'er, pair, pare, rare, stare, scare, swear, tear, tare, wear ... understand?

Not even the chair?

Why? What does that mean?

Has there ever been a line in an otherwise serious song that made less sense?

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