I guessed it couldn’t be too tricky. Child’s play. The sort of thing that I could probably sort out whilst a) assembling some flat pack furniture and b) patting the top of my head with one hand whilst moving the other hand on my stomach in a circular motion. Easy peasy, as the saying goes, lemon squeezy.
Sadly, the song turned out to be ZZ Top’s Ten Foot Pole, a brilliant song that I hadn’t heard until that point, which is only blighted by being as articulate as one of the blunter minds in the Premier League’s toolbox (say, John Terry at 3am after downing fifteen WKDs in China White).
It turned out that deciphering the lyrics to Ten Foot Pole would have caused even the Enigma machine to complain of a headache and tummy pains and dive under the duvet for the day. Imagine Vic Reeves taking the microphone and doing his Shooting Stars “Geordie pub singer” routine. In Norwegian.
Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult*.
So what, I hear you ask, could possibly be so tricky about the lyrics of a song? In times when we can send singer-songwriters into outer space, surely it is not beyond the wit of man to achieve such a simple task?
That afternoon I singularly failed to decipher the lyrics. However, I was not to be beaten, and some twenty six years later, I have decided to try again: Live! (NB due to a lack of clever technology, the only way for me to do this is for me to listen to the lyrics, and transcribe and translate live right now. You, the reader, will have to use your imagination that this is a live feed. OK? OK.
If you want to have a go too, use the Spotify link below.
Here we go – possibly for the first time ever anywhere, is an analysis of the lyrics to ZZ Top’s Ten Foot Pole:
Trida fine, a sinmah (or is it finba?) do dah hep haing ding fum gogamamo
Er, pretty obvious this line, so I’ll skip this in order to save time. On to the next one…
Stry da fings thadd awondt oont do butt any il thang thad a wondt meeto
We can translate this as “Try the things that you want me to but any little thing that you want me to”. Clear as day that.
Shees fine bring mi do’ esit seten ra mind at a ros reshoo
You know, it’s bitterly disappointing that El Loco didn’t come with a lyric sheet…
I don loo kadang doo my net loohah leten meen you
…or it could be “I don’ minadang do dan ma nen no man fever”. I think my speakers are playing up…
Hmm, I wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole
Got that one! Yes!
You just don’t know what shape I’m in
You know what? I think we do know what shape you are in. The only other person I ever heard talk like this was clearly off their face on a toxic blend of tequila and peach schnapps (long story). Back to the song.
Try-da-fy thedit dern tasgoo
Er, “Try to find what you want me to” again?
Letit ang ifen eeton wacha ron wichoo
Um, “let it hang if even what’s wrong with you”
Day me dy ron my nek
“The day I die / around my neck”
Thars a dang ana ding doo itan beegon
“”There’s a thing I’ll do and it’ll be gone”
Shee kina sitn wita ly dou fang
“She’s kind of sitting with a little thing”
Let it ang wit a itin imin babee
“Let it hang with something baby”
Ide oln lee pak da thangs yoodo
“I’d only take the things you do”
Letit ang ifen eeton wacha ron wichoo
That’s that “Let it hang what’s wrong with you” line again.
I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole
Is it “her” or “it”?
Hmmmm. Interesting. I think the kadangs and the dings and dos are especially significant in the first verse…
So what do I conclude? I think it’s about a guy who’s girlfriend wants him to do something that he wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. But I’m not entirely sure. Compared with my translation, John Prescott comes across as positively eloquent.
I also think there might be a deeper message in there that perhaps we could all learn from. It’s just that I don’t know what it is. Perhaps I should send a copy of these lyrics to sixty great and noble world leaders – Obama, Putin, hey, even Clegg – perhaps wrapped around an acorn and a copy of Whizzer and Chips. To promote world peace. Or something. If you think you know, leave a suggestion in the comments below. Now, ‘scuse me while I kiss this guy…
Record #209: ZZ Top – Ten Foot Pole
* with thanks to “The Thick of It” for that lovely phrase.