Switchin’ to glide… towards help

While I’ve been on a music trend the past few weeks, I’ve learned to listen and over-listen to the lyrics and perhaps read too much into them.

In the early days of rock and roll, there were few original ideas when it came to words, so finding different ways of expressing the same few sentiments became something needed to survive.

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Songwriters have had to find different way of expressing themselves, and one of those ways has been in a moment of pride and with no hubris or humility present, describe themselves and explain why they should listen.

This self-description has been the hallmark of an introduction to an artist and Canadian rock is no exception. The Kings – again, clearly checking their humility at the door – released This Beat Goes On/Switchin To Glide on the album The Kings Are Here in 1980 and the song(s) have been on constant repeat on Canadian AM and FM stations since then.

But the question remains: what does it all mean?

I believe that on some occasions, a songwriter can seem… shall we say desperate for attention. I don’t know lead singer and bassist David Diamond but I believe there are issues with overcompensation when it comes to his friends and his relationships with others. 

One of my favourite parts of this song and its most enduring rhyme is to rhyme ‘Donna’, ‘wanna’, and ‘Toronto’. As a native-born southern Ontarian I can say this is 100 per cent an accurate way of how locals pronounce Canada’s largest city. ‘Tronna.’ This is a column idea for a later date.

But this point is, our singer is calling up three women without hiding the fact he wants to spend time with all of them. The next lines are ‘I have lots of friends that I can ding at anytime/Can mobilize some laughs with just one call/Like a bunch of lunatics, we’ll act till way past dawn/Sure we’ll be rockin’ will our strength is gone/this beat goes on.’

There’s a lot to unpack there. Not the least of which is the idea that lunatics stay up till past dawn, rockin’ till their strength is gone. Apparently they call friends beforehand, because you don’t want to do that kind of thing alone, and rock. And the beat goes on.

And on, and on and on, he says.

The next line includes a deliberate shout out to his bandmate Mister Zero (which perhaps is not his God-given name), when Diamond calls out to ladies: “Me and Zero request you in the Mercedes.”

That seems a bit forthright, but it’s 1980 and those ladies aren’t going to get into a stranger’s Mercedes unless politely asked.

“And then we’ll ride/so zoomy inside/the sky’s the limit, this time I’m switchin to glide.”

OK, sir. That’s good to know. No one can be sure what it means, and what you’re switching from, but this is a Burger King drive-thru, you realize.

For me, the song falls into overcompensation when he says ‘I don’t give a hoot about what people have to say/I’m laughing as I’m analyzed.’

Mr. Diamond if you didn’t give a hoot about what people had to say you really would have no need to say so. In fact, the fact that you’re laughing as you’re being analyzed (by whom?) suggests that indeed, people’s opinions do matter to you.

And you know what? That’s OK. If we didn’t have that concern about what other people thought, we’d live a lonely life indeed.

The next line ‘Lunatics anonymous, that’s where we belong’ is also full of problems. First of all, I know of no groups going by that rather pejorative name, and even if there were such a group, I’m not certain Mr. Diamond would qualify.

His only claims so far towards such a diagnosis are rockin’ till past dawn, a desire to have some ladies join he and his friend/bandmate in a Mercedes and lacking common empathy. These are not signs of what people in 1980 would call lunacy, but rather a carefree approach to life and really not all that uncommon. Did Diamond and Zero really think they were lunatics for this?

Going back a bit to the line where he says he’s got lots of friends he can ding at anytime, I think he’s trying to tell us something. Why aren’t those friends dinging him? He feels like he has to reach out and invite people, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but why aren’t they trying to get to him?

Anyway, next time you hear this song, which will likely be in the next hour, try to think about this song as a cry for help.

Mr. Diamond, I think about how you’re doing and hope everything is ok. 

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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