Usually, I would wait until I could come up with “Top Five Uses of Alliteration,” in keeping with the immemorial custom of the blog.
But that might take me a month, or at least an hour (if I wanted a lame list, just to have a list).
So I just thought I’d say it. This is the best use of alliteration to achieve a rhythmic effect in the history of popular music:
“Little old lady got mutilated late last night…”
Yeah, it’s gruesome, perhaps even off-putting. But wow, does it pop as a way to warn people to look out for the Werewolves of London.
Today, walking around the neighborhood and listening to Pandora on my new phone — I initially started to listen to headlines on NPR, but like most news these days, it was all stupid — and since it was a new phone and all, I listened to a station I hadn’t heard for awhile, probably years and years: My “Handbags & Gladrags Radio” station.
I didn’t know what to expect, beyond related Rod Stewart tunes. I think when I created it I had been watching “The Office” (the real one, not the American one), and I always loved that they made an instrumental rendition of the song their theme. I wasn’t trying to make a Rod Stewart station, it was the song itself. I wanted to see what Pandora would tell me was like it, because I expected it would be pretty good.
And it was. Yeah, it’s a little on the mellow ’70s side. You can smell the dope (in the air, and sense the use of ‘ludes in the vicinity. But it’s more of the smart, edgy side of the mellow ’70s. Not Bread or Seals and Crofts or something mind-numbing like that. Stuff you can really get into, mind and body.
That, of course, led to the late, lamented Mr. Zevon. Which I appreciated.
The line before that one has a nice rhythm to it, too — although it’s not as evocative or provocative, it does a nice job of setting up the great one: “You better not let him in.” It creates anticipation, even excitement, because you know: Here it comes!…
And there it is! And now you know that whether you “hear him howling around your kitchen door” or not, don’t go walking through Soho alone after dark.
So… if we were building a Top Five List, what else should be included? It’s got to use alliteration to achieve a really impressive rhythmic effect, the way Warren did, racing through “Little old lady got mutilated” so that the words tumble over each other, and slowing down on the last three as though Warren hesitated to say the last word, probably because it didn’t have an L in it: “late last… night.”
I don’t mean exactly like that. It should be as different and distinctive as this is. (At least, it was distinctive, until other songs ripped it off). It just needs to achieve as impressive an effect.
Anyway, now that I asked y’all to do the rest of the work, just to observe the forms, here’s a quick Top Five Best Songs I Heard Just Now on that Station:”
- Werewolves of London, of course. I’m not sure whether this is my favorite Zevon song or not, but it’s definitely in the Top Three. “Lawyers, Guns and Money” is probably first, with “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” offering it some stiff competition. All on that same amazing album.
- Maggie May. Have I ever told you how large this song looms in my legend? About hearing it that day when I came to interview for the job at The State in 1987? It’s a good one, one of the moments in my life when I felt I was in a well-directed movie, and the person in charge of the needle drops had a really nice touch? If not, remind me to tell you.
- Your Song, by Elton John. This puts me on the sand of Barber’s Point on Oahu in 1970-71, not so much sunbathing (although getting burned) as resting up, letting the cramps in my side go away before I paddled my board back out. You ever surf (or are you like Charlie)? If you haven’t, you can’t imagine the way it punishes your lats. Anyway, someone else sitting nearby had brought a radio, and this was playing.
- Mandolin Wind. Not sure whether this or “Handbags” is my favorite Rod Stewart song. As does the wonderful “Werewolves,” “Maggie May” is probably third.
- Can’t Find My Way Home. In which Blind Faith inspires a semi-religious experience. Which is what they did throughout their oh-so-brief time as a Supergroup.
Other songs I heard were good, too, but those are the top five. If you’re on Pandora, I highly recommend creating such a station. This is far, far from being the only kind of music I like, but it is A kind of music I like…