Speech impediment rock

It is not uncommon to hear music piped over a retail store's public address system. In some instances, particularly those niche stores in shopping malls, you can hear the music booming out the doors as you walk past. Reasonably benign background music has the ability to enhance one's shopping experience making it seem a bit less onerous. Conversely, annoyingly trite music (and I use the term music loosely in reference to hip hop Gangsta rap generally has me scurrying out of a store faster than a stray dog out of Chinatown. Could anything, other than perhaps bagpipe music, be more obnoxious?

Strolling through the grocery store last week, my brain immediately recognized the melody of What a Fool Believes as it was piped out of the store's public address system. It wasn't the original version as performed by the Doobie Brothers back in the late 70s. It was, however, the unmistakable voice of Michael McDonald. To suggest that annunciation isn't McDonald's forte' is just a nice way of saying that he sounds like he's gumming a mouthful of mashed bananas when he sings. As the song continued, I realized that I've never actually been able to understand the vast majority of McDonald's lyrics. As you watch the associated video, and try to discern McDonald's lyrics, try to imagine the Jetson's Astro and the Muppet's Swedish Chef doing the background vocals.

Incoherent lyrics, for anyone forced to endure the disco scourge of the 1970s, were commonplace as groups such as the Bee Gees epitomized what music would sound like when three guys had Vice-Grips clamped on their genitals. Anyone actually able to recognize the lyrics to these linked Saturday Night Fever, Night Fever and Too Much Heaven YouTube video songs, has a far more discerning ear than I do. "Arggggghhhhhh!," he screams in agony, "my ears are bleeding!."

The concept of Speech Impediment Rock, as a unique music genre, didn't actually cross my mind until a few days ago when I was walking through Ottawa's Billings Bridge Plaza on my way to drop something at the Canada Post outlet. And what paragon of musical and linguistic genius do you suppose I had the pleasure of hearing when the epiphany overtook me? It was, of course, Bachman Turner Overdrive's st-st-st-st-st-stuttering classic: You Aint Seen Nothin' Yet. Yikes... speed impediment rock!

It would be grossly unfair to declare the 1970s, the decade of disco, as the era which spawned speech impediment rock. Indeed, it existed long before Rick Dees saw fit to unleash the likes of Disco Duck on the unwashed masses. Speech impediment rock, for a slightly earlier generation, was exemplified by The Silhouettes 1957 hit Get a Job, The Bopper's 1961 Who Put the Bomp, The Delltones' 1962 nonsensical novelty doo-wop ditty Papa Oom Mow Mow and, perhaps one of the most grating songs ever recorded, The Trashmen's 1963 Surfin' Bird.

William "Wild Bill" Henry Clermont, my mother's father, who had manned a Vickers battling the Hun in the Great War, would occasionally regale us grandchildren with K-K-K-Katy, a 1918 Billy Murray song meant to assure solders their beloved were faithfully awaiting their return from the war. Though K-K-K-Katy is the earliest example of speech impediment rock that I've been exposed to, I feel reasonably comfortable suggesting that the phenomena goes back centuries.

My personal tendency is to eschew speech impediment rock; it seems irrational to me to embrace that which cannot be understood. If the lyrics are so unimportant that the listener is unable to discern or to intuit their meaning, then perhaps the artist should be releasing an instrumental. If you do not believe that lyrics are important, consider how the entire meaning of Sesame Street's The Song of the Count can change entirely by simply removing one small word.

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 18 May 2012