Two Songs that Confound Me, or Midnight Plane to Houston*

I think it’s fairly safe to say that librarians often get caught up in the details. I personally get a little carried away by airport carpets, proper grammar, and imagined inconsistencies in song lyrics. So without further ado, here are the two songs that I find most confusing, distressing, and confounding.

The Song: Bust a Move, by Young MC

Your best friend Harry has a brother Larry

In five days from now he’s gonna marry

He’s hoping you can make it there if you can

Cause in the ceremony you’ll be the best man

My Problem: Okay, so Larry is getting married. Why doesn’t he want his brother to be the best man? Is Larry “your” friend as well, or is he asking “you” to be the best man to spite his brother Harry?

And who the heck asks someone to be their best man a mere five days before the wedding? Isn’t that cutting it a little close, especially if there’s a tux rental involved? What exactly is going on with this family?

The Song: Midnight Train to Georgia, by Gladys Knight and The Pips (written by Jim Weatherly)

L.A. proved too much for the man so he’s leavin’ the life he’s come to know.

He said he’s goin’ back to find the world he left behind not so long ago.

He’s leavin’ on that midnight train to Georgia and he’s goin’ back to a simpler place and time.

And I’ll be with him on that midnight train to Georgia.

I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine.

My Problem: Oh, there’s so much wrong here. The man only just moved to L.A. and he can’t handle it. Not even trying. What a quitter. And doesn’t it sound like he’s sneaking out, too? What’s wrong with the 2:00 PM train? Was it overbooked?

But here’s the part that I’ve always wondered about – did he even ask this woman to come with him? Doesn’t it sound like she just invited herself? Maybe he wanted to take the midnight train so he could get away without seeing her. Well, sorry dude. Your plan is blown.


*original title of Midnight Train to Georgia. Really.

– Amy


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10 responses to “Two Songs that Confound Me, or Midnight Plane to Houston*

  1. Regardless of the nonsensical lyrics, Midnight Train to Georgia is fun to sing along with because you can pretend you’re a Pip and do all of the Woo Woos. I think that’s the true secret to its popularity. WOO WOO!

    • Because I’m a reference librarian, my first thought was, “Wait – was there EVER a midnight train from L.A. to Georgia? And if there was, wouldn’t you have to transfer / connect at some point?”

      Glad to see I’m not the only person who has ever questioned “Bust A Move”! :)

      Leigh Anne

    • Amy – True, true. But there’s a limit to the number of WOO WOOs any one person can stand. And since I wrote this post last week, my head is full of them right now.

      On a random note, when I read “you’re a Pip,” I immediately thought of Dickensian orphans and not matching tuxedoes.

      LAV – Totally! I mean, the midnight train would probably be an express. And then, wouldn’t it be more likely to go from L.A. to Chicago to New York City? I bet you’d have to transfer at Chicago, if anywhere. Maybe Denver.

      But I am far too lazy to dig out historical train time tables.

      – Amy

  2. Maria

    As a Motown native, I love anything by Gladys Knight & the Pips but, yeah, you’re right, what the heck is up with those lyrics? To tell you the truth, I never really paid attention. I enjoy the groove. Oh, well.

  3. lizzy

    Totally not with you on this one–I think the lyrics are perfect…tells a whole story just like a poem. I imagine the opposite–he tried to make a career in LA, hated the BS, decided to return to his southern roots and asked her to go with him. She was the one who had to make the big leap of faith and she chose to do so for the sake of loving him. LOVE IT!

  4. Reblogged this on booktopiareviews and commented:
    I never knew she wrote more than the one!

  5. Popular song lyric exegesis is not a field for the unwary. What’s really needed is a proper postmodern deconstruction of the “text”.

    “Midnight Train to Georgia” – cf Leavin’ on a jet plane

    It’s a more clearly-defined angst, but we still don’t know why the guy has to leave, outside of “There’s so many times I’ve let you down”. He should’a kissed and made up.

    “… when I read “you’re a Pip,” I immediately thought of Dickensian orphans … ”

    Last week or so, somebody asked what a “pipsqueak” is. Then I read this sentence: “I’ll squeeze you until the pips squeak!”. Not to mention Conan Doyle’s “The Five Orange Pips”.

  6. leifkhayyam

    Seeing that commenters already deconstructed and analyzed the L.A. – Georgia one in proper postmodern fashion, let me set you straight on the Bust a Move one.
    You are assuming that brothers have a higher hierarchical status in the best man choosing ritual, an unjustified assumption. Also he is Harry’s best friend so either he already knew the wedding was in five days OR they JUST decided they are getting married in which case the timing is justified. If he simply didn’t tell him the wedding was five days from then, I challenge his claim that they are best friends. :D (Excuse my English, its not my first language)

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