On the way to work today, Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” played on the radio. That song always jets me back to high school at warp speed.
I sang along in the van. “Love is like a bomb, baby, c’mon get it on. Living like a lover with a red owwf on.”
Wait. What exactly is a “red owwf”? I never knew that line. Not in 1989 and still not in 2014.
In fact, I distinctly remember a late-eighties conversation with a girl named Leanne. Leanne was a classmate and fellow Def Leppard fan (we’d been to numerous DL concerts), who (hide your eyes, Mom) cut school with me one day to go to the beach. We sat on the beach, tanning, talking, and discussing that line for a nice chunk of time.
“Maybe it’s ‘red outfit on’?”
“But there aren’t enough syllables. Maybe it’s not red at all?”
“Like ‘real loaf on'”
(Break into fit of giggles)
Every time I hear the song, I think of Leanne. Eventually, we accepted that a “red owwf” was either something British or we just didn’t have the ears to hear it right.
Today as I sipped my morning coffee at my desk, I googled the line. According to azlyrics, the lyric is “Living like a lover with a radar phone.”
Of course, this begs the question: What on God’s green earth is a “radar phone” AND WHERE CAN I GET ONE?
Back in the old days, I’d get so mad when albums didn’t include lyrics. I’d camp on the floor with my ear to the speaker and hit rewind, stop, play, rewind, stop, play over and over on my cassette tape deck to figure out one measly word from a song. Sounds silly, but sometimes one word can make or break a song, especially to an emotional teenager. (Ready for your irrelevantly relevant factoid of the day? Case in point: Modern English’s “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” (1983-ish). My friend and I insisted that somewhere in the song the chorus changed to “I’ll Stop the World and Melt For You,” which totally changes the entire song. Melting “with” someone is different than melting “for” someone, right? A quick azlyrics search doesn’t reveal any secret switchover from the nice-I-want-to-date-you-and-love-you “with” to the wow-he-wants-to-like-MELT-for her “for.”)
When I got my hands on Journey’s Escape album, circa 1981, I was thrilled to find the lyrics inside. I copied the lyrics to every song, by hand, onto looseleaf for a friend. He was so happy when I gave it to him, even though Journey’s songs were relatively clear and easy to decipher. After all, I’d saved him hours of strenuous listening to figure out the words. Now he could read along without lyrics stress.
Remember when Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was a topic of conversation? “But the chair is not my size.” “NO! It’s but the kid is not my son!”
Or The Police? “We are Cheerios, in a cereal bowl.” “Duh! It’s SPIRITS. We are SPIRITS in the MATERIAL WORLD.” “But what does that mean?” “Who cares? It has a good beat and you can dance to it!”
During that “Billie Jean” era, a girl named Kathy lived a few houses down the street from me. Kathy knew everything. EVERYTHING about Adam Ant (Perhaps you remember “Goody Two Shoes”? “Don’t drink don’t smoke. What do you do?”). She loved him more than life itself, which even back in the 80’s was ridiculously weird. Whenever we had a question about anything Ant-related, someone would say, “Let’s go ask Kathy.” We’d trek to her house on our bikes and bang on her door, ask our question, maybe debate a little. Kathy was our Adam Ant Wiki. The best part would be when debating turned into either, “You’re a reject!” with stomping and yelling and riding away, or “Let’s play Payday,” and we’d move on to something else.
But rounding the corner to my point (it’s here somewhere), the mystery of the lyric is now over. I wonder if I’ll still automatically sing “red owwf on” when I hear the Def Leppard song or if I’ll convert to “radar phone.” (I really NEED one of those, people!)
I miss wondering about lyrics, and miss wondering in general. Something positive must have developed from all that wondering we did with our friends on the street. Today, all debatable questions are answered in light speed with a Google search. What do kids even talk about these days?
All these memories from a Def Leppard song on the way to work! Who knew it would turn into a writing prompt!?
Have a nice night. Thanks for reading. I’m going to go Google “radar phone” now.