Monday, June 22, 2020


One of the things I noticed around the time of Little Richard's death a month or so ago was a proliferation of related articles in various media using as a headline some variant of the famous closing line from probably his most famous song, Tutti Frutti. I say "some variant" because there doesn't seem to be a canonical spelling of the phrase, hardly surprisingly since it doesn't feature any actual words, and I say "closing line" because the only time the phrase appears in the song is as the very last words. Whoa, there, Neddy, you may be saying, he says it after every chorus! Not so, in fact: here is a sober and scholarly analysis of what he actually says and when:
  • 0:00 wop-bob-a-loo-mob-a-lob-bob-bom
  • 0:15 a-wop-bob-a-loo-mob-a-lob-bob-bom
  • 0:46 a-wop-bob-a-loo-mob-a-lob-bob-bom
  • 1:17 wop-bob-a-loo-mob-AAAOOOOWW
  • 1:48 a-wop-bob-a-loo-mob-a-lob-bob-bom
  • 2:20 a-wop-bob-a-loo-mob-a-lop-bam-boom
So you can see that the bop-bom line is the standard one, with a couple of variations - specifically, dropping of the a- that precedes it at the start of the song and in the partial phrase that introduces the saxophone break about halfway through.

A related topic (in that it relates to last lines of songs) is the one which came up in a quiz I participated in over Zoom a couple of weeks ago. There was a music round which featured the following question: what do the songs Virginia Plain and Up the Junction have in common with each other, and with no other singles that have reached the UK Top 10? This is one where you'll either instantly know the answer (as I did) or won't have any idea at all. The answer is that the title of the song is the last line of the song's lyrics, and moreover appears nowhere else in the song. This second caveat is important, as for instance Let It Be by The Beatles finishes with the title of the song, but it has also previously been sung about a gazillion times during the song. The obvious other example that sprang to mind was Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose regular chorus contains the phrase "I ain't no fortunate one" and which only changes to "I ain't no fortunate son" just as the song starts to fade out (at about 2:12 in the linked video). Strictly there is a "no, no, no" after that which means it's not technically the last lyric, but I think we can make a case for it being the last line. 

Finally, back to The Beatles: it is an oddity of their single output that many of their most popular songs have the song's title as the first lyric. Of the 27 songs on the definitive(ish) singles compilation 1, for instance, 10 (a whopping 37%) have the song's title as the first lyric: She Loves You, Can't Buy Me Love, Help!, Yesterday, Paperback Writer, Penny Lane, Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, Something and The Long And Winding Road. Furthermore Love Me Do and A Hard Day's Night only miss out by the narrowest of margins. This could be a coincidence, it could be a conscious songwriting policy, or it could just be that the band were exceptionally bad at coming up with names for songs and just took the approach of saying: fuck it, what's the first line? That'll do.

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