Saturday, December 12, 2015

Song Dissection: Skateaway

I was a fairly depressed person in the 1980's. One of my biggest causes of my angst is that something I loved was being destroyed before my eyes ... and ears. I thought rock and roll was dying.  Everything coming out seemed so over produced. Each time a new album came out of one of my favorite musicians, it was a great disappointment. The rawness, the intimacy was gone. All I could think of was some corporate douche sitting at the sound board with a pile of cocaine in front of him yelling at a band, like Heart or Genesis, that they need to add more synthesizer or insert sax solo here... or "you need more hair spray, your hair is not tall enough." Rock and roll made a lot of money in the 1970's so that meant that a lot of people got involved in it for reasons other than making great music like making money. Dumbing down the music is great for sales.

MTV (Music Television) also happened.  Having a network dedicated to pop music was good for the industry for a lot of reasons. Bands had a place to communicate almost directly with their fans for the first time. Before MTV, performers would have to hope for a rare spot on the Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand or Top of the Pops.  MTV had tour dates and interviews and fans could see their favorite performers readily and, of course, there was the music video. The video was a new creative medium that attracted film people to music in new creative ways. This is a good thing, but it also had a bad effect on music. The music wasn't just audio now, it was visual. The big money labels wanted to manage the image of musicians as well as their audio output. This is virtual death to creative types.

Here is what the awesome Wilson sisters from the band Heart looked like before the MTV era. 

Here is after:
Of course, they had their biggest hit "These Dreams" in the MTV era which is a pretty dreadful song co-written by one of my favorite song writers Bernie Taupin. Since this is a blog post about Dire Straits, I won't pan it any further. The era was in need of a new kick ass rock band.

I was only 12 when "Sultans of Swing" hit my FM station in 1977 and I had already started my Dylan obsession. I just had bought my first Dylan album in cassette, Infidels. My first exposure to Dylan was from MTV, the Sweetheart Like You video. Imagine that!  The first time I ever heard Dire Straits, I thought "Wow, Bob Dylan can sing!" Of course, I was mistaken it was Mark Knoffler not Dylan. If Dylan had a better voice, he'd sound like Knopfler. This band had everything. They had one of the best guitarists in rock history (27th on Rolling Stones top 100) , a killer rhythm section, a good singer and decent lyricist. How could MTV ruin this band?

Dire Straits was just so talented they could do whatever they wanted in regards to their image. They could be themselves. Mark Knopfler was a white balding Brit in his late 20's who went on stage wearing head bands and wrist bands. Talent trumps trendiness. How does a band like this survive in the era of MTV? They confront it head on. The song and video of Skateaway is about the movies we make in our head when we hear music, that which the music video robs us of. It is on their third album "Making Movies", arguably their best, which gets its title from the lyrics of the song (see below).

The lyrics are straight forward and the video is sparse and to the point. It is about a girl, a "roller girl," skating through traffic. She has headphones on and she is in her own world. While the world is at a standstill she weaves in and out of traffic freely. The "city's been so rude to her" but this is her revenge, she "tortures taxi drivers just for fun." It is escapism, but it is the "rock n roll dream" that makes her want want more, "the music make her wanna be the story."

Ironically, it is hard not to see this video in my head when I hear this song. I prefer to make own movies when I hear a great tune, but is one of the better videos I have seen. I like how the band comes in at the end and just sways back and forth. No glitter here, just rock and roll.  Rock and roll survived and is better than ever thanks to bands like Dire Straits who kept it burning through the dark ages of the 1980s.





Skateaway
lyrics Mark Knopfler
I seen a girl on a one way corridor
Stealing down a wrong way street
For all the world like an urban toreador
She had wheels on, on her feet
Well, the cars do the usual dances
Same old cruise and the curbside crawl
But the rollergirl, she's taking chances
They just love to see her, take them all
No fear, alone at night
She's sailing through the crowd
In her ears the phones are tight
And the music's playing loud
Hallelujah, here she comes, Queen Rollerball
In an Enchante, what can I say, care at all
You know she used to have to wait around
She used to be the lonely one
But now that she can skate around town
She's the only, only one
No fear, alone at night
She's sailing through the crowd
In her ears the phones are tight
And the music's playing loud
She gets rock 'n' roll and rock 'n' roll station
And a rock 'n' roll dream
She's making movies on location
She don't know what it means
And the music make her wanna be the story
And the story was whatever was the song, what it was
Rollergirl don't worry
DJ play the movies all night long
She tortures taxi drivers just for fun
She like to read their lips
Says, "Toro, toro taxi see ya tomorrow, my son"
I swear, she let a big truck graze her hip
Ah, she got her own world in the city, yeah
You can't intrude on her, no, no, no
She got her own world in the city
The city's been so rude to her
No fears, alone at night
Sailing through the crowd
In her ears the phones so tight
And the music's playing loud
She gets rock 'n' roll and rock 'n' roll station
And a rock 'n' roll dream
She's making movies on location
She don't know what it means
But the music make her wanna be the story
And the story was whatever was the song, what it was
Rollergirl don't worry
DJ play the movies all night long, all night long
Slippin' and a-slidin'
Yeah, life's a rollerball
Slippin' and a-slidin'
Skateaway, that's all
Skateaway
Shala, shalay, hey, hey, skateaway
Now shala, shalay, hey, hey
She's singing shala, shalay, hey, hey, skateaway
Shala, shalay, hey, hey


5 comments:

Olga Hebert said...

Good one!

FridaP said...

That "before" picture of "Ann and Nancy Wilson" is NOT them...repeat...NOT Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson.

Mark Peloquin said...

Hmm, I'll have to check where I got this picture. It has been a long time. Do you recognize these women, if it isn't them?

FridaP said...

I'm sorry. I do not know those "before" women. But I remember what the Wilson sisters looked like in the 1970's...and they didn't look like totally different people. They just looked younger, because they were younger. Just Google young Ann and Nancy Wilson. You will see.

FridaP said...

Also, the blonde is clearly older than the Wilson sisters were even in the 1980's. She bears absolutely no resemblance to Nancy Wilson.