The fictional vigilante known as "The Lone Ranger" has been part of American culture for decades. Basically Robin Hood reconfigured as a cowboy, he is a former Ranger, and as such usually traveled with a group of fellow Rangers. But his unit was ambushed and wiped out, save for himself. This is why he considers himself the "Lone" Ranger, even while he is always accompanied by his Native American sidekick, Tonto. Together, they fight criminality as it crosses their path, always on the hunt for the gang that left him an "orphan." The masked character has been a mainstay of American popular culture, his stories told on the radio (he debuted there in 1933), television, books and comic books, and film... even to this year (2013), his 80th anniversary.
This explains the gunshots, ricochets and galloping hooves heard in "The Lone Teen Ranger." Having explored the idea of adolescent loneliness in several other ways, Simon turns to the popular icon and adapts his "lone" status for this purpose. Only this time, the one called "Lone" has legions of followers, while the speaker is the one abandoned by his girl for the Ranger.
The song begins with the bass vocal intoning, "Hi-yo, Silver-- away!" which was the Lone Ranger's catchphrase for galloping off on his shiny white steed, Silver. It ends with the speaker asking "Who was that masked man?" another catchphrase from the show, asked by a witness as the Ranger speeds off into the sunset. Even the sax solo at the break is taken from The William Tell Overture, used as the show's galloping theme song.
The song is one of the few to register a common teen complaint-- a girlfriend's attentions stolen away by a teen idol such as a musician or actor. While totally inaccessible to the teenage girl, this figure's flashing eyes, wavy hair, and dreamy voice are nothing the average acne-ridden teenage boy can compete with for attention.
"Oh, he rides around on a big white horse/ He's as cool as he can be/ And my baby fell in love with him/ When she saw him on TV," laments the abandoned, now-lonely boy. "And since that day... She hasn't had time for me," he continues, "To save my soul, I can't get a date."
He points his finger directly at the character: "You know who's to blame!" Another reading is "You-know-who's to blame," as in, "you know whom I mean without my having to say his name, which I cannot bear to repeat in any case."
The bridge has the line "The Lone Teen Ranger stole my girl/ He left Tonto for me." Meaning not "he abandoned Tonto and chose me instead," but "left" in the sense of "He drank the water and all he left, for me, was the empty pitcher."
The speaker is determined to win back his girlfriend's attention, and affection. His plan? "Gonna wear a mask and ride a horse/ And carry a six-gun too/ She's gonna love me, too."
The poor sap thinks it's the Ranger's accouterments that attract her notice-- the costume and accessories. He couldn't be more wrong. It's the raw masculinity, the brave feats of derring-do, and the flouting of authority that attract her.
Tarzan has no mask, gun, or horse-- barely any clothes, in fact-- yet he manifests the same attraction. D'Artagnan, Zorro, Batman... James Bond, Indiana Jones, Wolverine... back to Robin Hood himself, all such heroes are cut from the same shadowy cloth. Heroic rogues go back even further, to be sure, to Hercules, Pericles, Bellerophon, Thesus, Perseus, and the warriors on both sides of the Iliad conflict.
The song itself is light-hearted novelty fare, full of sound effects, silly vocals, and lines like "She even kissed the TV set."
Yet, even underlying all the ridiculousness, we find another signature Simon teenager abandoned and alone, "unlucky in love." Why, he can't even compete with a fictional cowboy. At least this time, instead of "Cry, little boy, cry," we get the line ""I'm gettin' mad" and an attempt, albeit misguided, at fighting back.
Maybe instead of finding himself a Halloween cowboy costume, our hero will find himself a young woman with standards that are less... two-dimensional.
Next song: Lisa