Over the weekend, someone was saying the words to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” in a very pronounced manner. Specifically, this line:
“I brought my pencil… Gimme something to write on.“
(Don’t think about the context, just keep reading.) My reaction? “Wait — what?” *cogs in my brain spinning in overtime* “By ‘pencil’, does he mean his penis?”
This is just the latest in a series of embarrassing revelations over the last two decades or so in which, at some point well beyond the peak of a song’s popularity, I’ve learned or realized what the singer meant. I wasn’t always so obtuse. In fact, I distinctly remember the moment when I was riding in the car when I was 9 or 10 years old that I finally understood what Bono meant when he sang the mutually exclusive statement, “I can’t live with or without you”. I had heard the song a lot, but one day I recall thinking, “Oh – I get it now.” I feel like I probably shouldn’t have been thinking that hard about song lyrics at such a young age – but I think that’s another story. On the other hand, it was just last year that I learned what Ted Nugent meant by “Cat Scratch Fever”.
But above all, my favorite embarrassing anecdote is that I never really knew what the last “P” in “O.P.P.” stood for. I truly thought it (only) stood for “Property” until sometime in my 20’s when I guess I actually listened to the lyrics. I attribute at least part of my innocence to my mom, who tried to shield me from inappropriate music by banning MTV. As I remember it, when I was very young and my mom was babysitting a couple of other kids around my age, one of the boys was watching television and MTV happened to be on. He said something to my mom like, “Hey, Kim, check out this girl.” And this was in the 80’s, so you can imagine what sort of girl he was looking at. And from there on out, there was NO MTV in my house. I am a rule-follower to a fault, and even though I was often home alone after school, I never broke her rule. Well, except when I was a teenager and Brady Anderson was in those Rock-n-Jock shows. That was the only time I watched MTV. Ahahaha, sad but true.
So, anyways, it’s not like I had a visual to go along with the music. And it’s not like I was listening to songs on anything but the radio. So, a lot of things were over my head. And the last “P” could only mean “Property”. Once when the song was playing on the radio while we were driving to confirmation class (that’s catechism for you Catholics), my mom actually asked me what the last “P” stood for. At the time, I was mortified that my mom was asking me such a question because although I didn’t know the real lyrics, I did get that the song was suggestive. So I said something snarky like “Just listen to the song, it tells you.” Looking back, I bet my mom was testing me. Because I’m sure she listened to the song and figured it out. I guess my answer was pretty awesome, then, because she probably thought I knew, but was too embarrassed to tell her. Eh, I’m sure she also figured out that I had no idea what it meant.
What’s my point in regaling you with these embarrassing stories? I don’t know. None really. But I hope you got a little kick reading about what a naive listener I am. And maybe you can tell me what some other songs mean that I should probably know by now. 🙂