Monday, May 5, 2014

Back Seat Driver

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"Backseat driving" is generally done by someone in the backseat, and it involves unasked-for suggestions made (often in a constant stream) by the passenger to the driver. In this case, we assume that she is in the front passenger seat, but the terminology remains.

This is a comedy number along the lines of "Yakety-Yak," about the frustrations of adolescence, but closer to the "Wake Up, Little Susie" format in that it is about getting into trouble while on a date, and in that the conversation is between a couple.

The song begins with a boyfriend telling his girlfriend that, while they are going for a spin, he wants "No backseat drivin', y'hear?" Even at the beginning of the song, we hear the anger in the young man's voice: "Talk, talk, talk/ I can't take no more/ If you don't like my driving/ Just open the door/ Get out... Start walking."

The song's structure varies between dialogue-- both cajoling ("Don't you know how to relax?") and yelled ("Why don't you stop buggin' me?")-- and rhymed lines.

Then this slice of sexism; "When you drive with a woman/ You got to take it slow." Like any such remark, it is unnecessary. Perhaps Simon meant to show that the driver is not entirely the hen-pecked victim here.

Out of frustration, our driver says to his date: "You take the wheel/ I'll give all the orders/ And see how you feel/ Turn left, turn right/ Watch out!/ Didn't you see that red light?!"

His psychological experiment worked out too well. Either she is a lousy driver, or he succeeded in distracting her, or the other car was to blame. It could be all three. In any case, we see that some accident or moving violation has happened, because the last thing we hear the boyfriend say is: "See what you've done/ If you're such a good talker/ Talk us out of this one!"

You almost feel sorry for the guy-- no one likes to be corrected while he or she is doing something, particularly as delicate as piloting a two-ton, gas-powered machine that can punch a hole in a brick wall. But then he has to go all Archie Bunker on us with that sexist crack.

Maybe they just deserve each other.

Next Song: Beach Blanket Baby

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