Thursday, October 17, 2013

Something, Something, Something in Cincinnati

Unemployed people.
Way back in the year nineteen-hundred-and-seventy-eight, an awesome little TV show about a rock and roll radio station in Cincinnati hit the airwaves and subsequently made me want to be a DJ when I grew up. Until I found out what they got paid. WKRP in Cincinnati ran for only four seasons but it garnered a lot of respect and attention due to its excellent ensemble cast and hilarious writing, and also because of it use of real rock music within the narrative of the show which, at the time, was unprecedented. It's even been said that the exposure Blondie's music received by being played on the show helped propel the song, Heart of Glass, to the top of the charts. In fact, a gold record given to the producers of the show by Blondie as a thank you can be seen hanging on the wall of one of the sets. Even the catchy title track, co-written by series creator, Hugh Wilson, became a major hit on the radio in 1981.

But what about that song they played over the closing credits? Have you ever really listened to the lyrics? Well try as you might it's nigh impossible to make out what's being said, even with all of our modern technology, and that's because the lyrics are mostly nonsense. Apparently the original demo of the song contained improvised gibberish by the song's performer, Jim Ellis, which was to eventually be replaced with a saxophone line, as his singing on the recording was actually just the product of his joking around in the studio. However when Wilson heard the track, he immediately loved it and decided to keep the garbled words for the final cut, partly because it satirized the often unintelligible lyrics of rock and roll songs, but also because he knew few people would even be able to make the words out due to the common practice of having a station announcer speak over the end credits. Thus much like Louie, Louie before it, the lyrics of WKRP's closing theme became the subject of much speculation and misinterpretation over the years, although most viewers never realized that there was no definitive lyric sheet for the hard-driving rocker. Check out the videos for a few of the of the funnier attempts at deciphering Jim Ellis' mumbo-jumbo.


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