Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Videos up the Wazoo: (What's That Song About, 5)

The song today is Tesla Girls, by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Before I get into the song itself, here is a fascinating excerpt from the person who posted this on Youtube:

*Note: If you are a Record Company employee or artist(s) themselves who object(s) to this commercially unavailable video footage being promoted on YouTube (albeit in a lossy mono audio format) then please contact us to have it removed before flagging it. At the same time you may also like to explain to the fans why they cannot access this classic material in a decent quality digital format anywhere else?

"You won't make a profit on something that cannot be purchased but enough exposure may well help sell what you actually do have for sale. Meanwhile to share ones talents is the greatest of gifts!"

I... love... that statement. I would adopt it as my motto, but it's a bit long to put on a t-shirt or tattoo. In any event, though, they're right: why isn't more stuff available for free on the Internet, especially when that stuff is not available anywhere else in the world? If I had been a part of OMD, I would make dang sure that every song I'd ever released had videos up the wazoo on Youtube, each linking to that spot on iTunes where they could buy the song.

So anyway, on to the song, Tesla Girls.

What I Thought It Was About: I am not completely unfamiliar with Nikola Tesla, a not-complete-unfamiliarity I had even before watching "The Prestige," a movie Sweetie figured out before I did. (Excellent movie, by the way.) So I guessed this song is about girls who are so awesomely perfect that they are like electricity, only a romantical sort of electricity -- that is, they will (love-wise) charge you up and leave you burnt to a crisp.

Let's listen:

What The Song Is Actually About: Sample lyrics:

Tesla girls tesla girls/ Testing out theories/Electric chairs and dynamos/Dressed to kill, they're killing me. So I seem to be right, so far, don't I? (Keep in mind that I've listened to this song perhaps 10,000 times in the 25 years since it was released.)

But going just on that seems unrigorous and unscientific, especially when I could go right to the source and check out the OMD Q+A at their site, where this exchange appears:

In Tesla Girls you sing of "electric chairs and dynamos", what does this mean in the context of the song? I have always wondered, as I use an electric chair because of my disability and would love to know. Thanks for the immense listening pleasure that you have given us over the years and long may it continue.
Glenn Evans

Answer: "The title was lifted from Martha Ladly who used to be in Martha And The Muffins who was at the time the girlfriend of Peter Saville. Nikola Tesla was basically the father of modern electricity/alternating current. The references to electric chairs and dynamos is actually a reference to dynamos which was essential for the use of the alternating current and anything electrical basically and electric chairs is actually a reference to the fact that his main competitor for the development of modern electricity was Thomas Edison who, to discredit Tesla's alternating current, suggested to the US authorities that a nice new way of killing people might be the electric chair using Tesla's new AC. So it was actually Edison who invented the electric chair using Tesla's AC as a way to discredit AC - Look it kills people! So it's not a reference to an electric chair that would be useful for a disabled person, quite the opposite in fact! But thanks for a very interesting question."

Martha Ladly, as we all know, once won the "Juno Award" for best single, the single being "Echo Beach." She also is an expert in "interaction design.' Peter Savile, meanwhile, is a graphic designer who designed, among other things, New Order record covers.

Anyway, back to the point -- Nikola Tesla competed with Thomas Edison to establish the type of current that we would use for electricity, with Edison being an advocate of "direct current," and Tesla preferring his "alternating current," which apparently can be used not only to safely and efficiently power household appliances, but also to clone hats and cats and more. So I think it's entirely possible that Tesla Girls are girls who are not only electrifyingly awesome, but also who play games with your feelings -- liking you one day, then not the next, toying with you... alternating: "Now and then they'll watch TV/now and then they'll speak to me."

To wrap up, then:

1. Despite how often I've listened to this song, I never looked up the lyrics before and so for 25 years I've been singing heaven knows they arrested me, but it's actually heaven knows their recipe.

2. If your kids want to be Canadian new wave singers, let them because they will probably go on to have distinguished careers on top of making a pretty-catchy song:

and 3. If Sweetie figures out a movie before you do, she's kind of cocky about it.

Bonus: OMD seemed to really have an electric-thing going. Here's their song "Electricity," which has a contagiously catchy keyboard part that I defy not to get stuck in your head:

Bonus Bonus: If you're wondering how I got started on all this, this was my exact chain of thought: I heard the news reports about the guy who survived two atomic blasts back in 1945, and those news reports mentioned the bomber the "Enola Gay," which made me think of the OMD song by that name, which then led me to remember the song "Tesla Girls" and listen to that, and then while searching for that video I came across "Electricity." So here's "Enola Gay," while I'm at it:

And, to come full circle, I will note that there are other versions of "Enola Gay" on Youtube, but apparently OMD has complained about them.

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