In the days before I had the internet I sat down by the CD player, pen in hand, and listened to Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, writing the lyrics down as I heard them. There were parts I couldn’t quite make out (in retrospect there were a lot of incorrect lyrics in my version) and there were plenty of bits I didn’t understand, but the point is that I made the effort to listen to the lyrics and hopefully get a deeper understanding of the song.
I learned the lyrics to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar this way, although Judas sang too fast for me in the title track, and it wasn’t until I had the internet that I was able to work out the “Israel in 4BC had no mass communication” bit, among others.
I loved buying albums and unfolding the cover booklet to find the lyrics to each song hidden inside. I’d then listen to the entire album, reading along and (mostly) understanding. I would get annoyed when I found a mistake in my printed lyrics. Why didn’t they double-check them before printing the CD booklet?
I learned the words to Muse’s first albums, and tried to learn Nightwish’s but some of the lyrics were just too difficult to remember. I remember struggling with the lyrics to Wishmaster, supposedly inspired by the Lord of the Rings books, which makes sense. At least back then I was trying.
I don’t know at what point I stopped paying attention to the lyrics but I recently realised that I am listening to music with but a vague idea of what the song is telling me. In fact, I’m even doing it now, as I write this post. I don’t want to hover through life like a zombie, not taking in my surroundings.