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Thursday, 18 December
T Minus Two Words

As I was walking home today from work, a familiar set of sensations came over me: I listen to music in my head a lot, and my internal jukebox likes to mix up songs without much regard as to how they fit together. Sometimes someone--a coworker, a friend--will say something that sets off a song in my brain (say, for example, someone says, "roped and tied," and I'll have Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" in my head for hours), and as my loony head spun, I began to wonder: Is it possible that there are certain irreducible phrases that can conjure up whole pop songs? Could only two words, say, bring up a whole song? And would it be so for other, possibly non-loony people?

So I set about a totally nonscientific, totally bullshit endeavor: I tried to imagine mere two-word phrases or phraselets that could possibly evoke an entire pop song. I of course avoided titles: How hard would it be to figure out something like "California Girls"? I also avoided pop chorus phrases that were terribly obvious or clearly rhymed with the titles, like say "graveyard smash."

So what I tried to do was to think of unique two-word phrases that could only refer to one specific pop song. And then I wondered how people would deal with it, given that I was by definition working out of context (though I altered no grammar, syntax or anything; I also did not obfuscate things, I hope, by ramming together words that didn't belong with one another). I just tried to think of certain two-word phrases (and hopefully without many articles) that seemed to embody, typify, or just clearly identify certain well-known songs.

I've probably fucked it all up, but hey. And if I had any clue how to make radio buttons, or text fields, this would all be cleaner, but I don't, so you're stuck with me: If it moves you to do so, take the quiz, and email me your guesses/comments at Skot(AT) The winner will receive . . . uh . . . something weird from me! In the (unfortunately very likely) case that there are multiple candidates for my two-word hints, I will award points once I verify the correct lyrics via Google. In any case, these songs were either hits, or have become more or less ubiquitously classic. Wording is important. But sorry, I get to be the final arbiter.

Final pointers: I tried very hard to make these unique, two-word lyrical singularities, but I probably failed. But if you can make the case that there was another popular song that used the EXACT same words, I'll cough up a point (Different cases or alternate plurals or altered wordings aren't going to fly). But just know that, for the most part, these are all pretty commonly known songs from the past 30 years, and except for a couple entries, aren't that sneaky--though I wonder at what I'll be seeing. Bear it in mind that a crabby argument about how Desmond Choad and His Angry Toads once sang similar lyrics to what I list are unlikely to carry much weight.

And finally: This is kind of a "hey, shiny thing!" for me. I don't intend it to be a real biggie. If I fuck it all up, I'm all to blame. I'm just kind of interested in seeing what comes of it. Again, everything from here on out is on me. Here's the list. I'm not worrying about punctuation or capitalization, and since for deviousness' sake, I don't want to clue anyone in as to where in a given lyric's place the snippet came, but do know this: I did not string together any misleading words or fuck with the word order. I may have messed with the timing of the flow, but these words all go together in their songs. And to those of you who might Google your brains out: I can't stop you, but you suck.

Here they are. Like I said, these are two-word phrases from well-recognized pop songs. Show me what you got. Some of these are (I think) easy. Some of them are totally diabolical (or, ah, I'm just a dumbass). At least that's what I say now. I had a good time with this. Let's see what happens. I'm really most excited to see how many people write, "WHAT? Not THAT song! That's from ANOTHER SONG!"

1. choking smokers
2. devil too
3. grey eyes
4. fruit cage
5. supple wrist
6. silver spoon
7. sixty-five degrees
8. watch dynasty
9. needs sweeping
10. halfway there
11. done died
12. god money
13. don't dance
14. face north
15. stand naked
16. baggage carousel
17. city walls
18. slicing up
19. loves horses
20. hickory stump
21. 'til touchdown
22. be double
23. lost myself
24. late September
25. be abused

P.S.--I thought I had caught the typo last night, but apparently it didn't stick. #4 is now corrected. It's one of the easy ones, I think.

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


See how pitiful I really am ... I only know nr. 24 - Franky Valley, don't even know the title, but "late september back in '63" is running round my brain right now ... THANK YOU!!

Comment number: 004069   Posted by: Anna on December 18, 2003 04:14 AM from IP:

Right, there goes any chance of me working.

And I hope these songs are international, dude, as I don't want to lose out just because there is some hicksville hit from the early 80s that never made it to this side of the Atlantic.

But, from your previous posts, you do seem to like some decent tunes.

Comment number: 004070   Posted by: Stray Toaster on December 18, 2003 05:15 AM from IP:

Damn, some of these are diabolical.

Comment number: 004071   Posted by: Bet on December 18, 2003 07:14 AM from IP:

Damn, some of these are diabolical.

Comment number: 004072   Posted by: Bet on December 18, 2003 07:17 AM from IP:

There's some sad ass commentary on my brain's musical pushbuttons: not a single hit until I got down to #13 which _immediately_ flung a song smack into the center of my forehead where it is now gleefully frumping along without end. Followed by 12 more random words that found no purchase in my cortex.

Flinging back at you, Skot, just try eradicating this fucker from your brain since you saw fit to jam yours in mine:

26. pretty boys

Comment number: 004073   Posted by: ColdForged on December 18, 2003 07:50 AM from IP:

This reminds me a little bit of Googlewhacking (but without the Google part).

Comment number: 004074   Posted by: dave on December 18, 2003 08:03 AM from IP:

I suggest that someone put all of the two-word phrases together to make a NEW song. That would be impressive.

(Yes, this is my sad way of trying to dodge the fact that I have nary a clue about any of the songs)

Comment number: 004075   Posted by: Stacey on December 18, 2003 08:08 AM from IP:

I'm fucked, I think. Someone has already found an alternate song for one of my hints. That didn't take long. Oh, well.

Comment number: 004076   Posted by: Skot on December 18, 2003 08:20 AM from IP:

26. pretty boys

Thank you for eradicating #13 with a song I really like. My morning has just improved.

Comment number: 004077   Posted by: Snarky on December 18, 2003 08:46 AM from IP:

#13 and #14 are the only two that immediately jumped out at me... and now they'rer fighting a battle royale to the death to see which one gets prominence in my brain for the rest of the day... it's actually kinda humourous, the mish-mash of the two songs.

Comment number: 004078   Posted by: Ryan Waddell on December 18, 2003 09:00 AM from IP:


my wife and i were laughing at the sillyness of #9 just last week. but today it eluded me. so, after i sent in my results i looked it up.. and now.... there's a 5 second loop of that song in my head.


Comment number: 004079   Posted by: ChrisL on December 18, 2003 09:21 AM from IP:

the only one that jumped out at me is #6 - cat's in the cradle. #13 made me think of genesis i cant dance, but i think that is because i was trying too hard.

Comment number: 004080   Posted by: Valette on December 18, 2003 09:31 AM from IP:

Many people are thinking that #24 is Frankie Valli, but that lyric is "December 1963."

This is kind of fun for me, if not for anyone else.

Comment number: 004081   Posted by: Skot on December 18, 2003 09:47 AM from IP:

The chorus of #3 is ricocheting in my brain and I don't know the title.

Comment number: 004082   Posted by: Erin on December 18, 2003 12:47 PM from IP:

This is all a trick, you see. These are actually just the lyrics to "mmmBop" by Hanson. Skot, you think you're so fucking clever, sitting on your throne, eating your precious bon-bons and farting.

Comment number: 004083   Posted by: Joe on December 18, 2003 02:39 PM from IP:

This is good.

Those that ripped through skot's list can have a go at these:

27. mean stride
28. feelings restrained
29. dark sarcasm
30. foggy freeze
31. death's construction
32. mama's porch
33. wartime novelty
34. taste saccharine
35. equilibrium's there
36. hip rocket

(the last one may be a little unfair as it's ambiguous whether those two words really belong grouped together).

Comment number: 004084   Posted by: Jacob on December 18, 2003 03:01 PM from IP:

Damn, this is really hard to do with other music playing. I think I've only got about half of 'em -- maybe not even that many.

Comment number: 004085   Posted by: stennie on December 18, 2003 04:50 PM from IP:

Am I just retarded, or are these really hard? Normally I'm good at word games, but I've got the brain pain now. I'm sending in my meager guesses in a minute.

Comment number: 004086   Posted by: Tracy on December 18, 2003 06:12 PM from IP:

Am I retarded, or are these just really hard? Normally I am good at word games, especially lyrics, but now I've got the brain pain.

Comment number: 004087   Posted by: Tracy on December 18, 2003 06:15 PM from IP:

crap! I didn't mean to post twice... please disregard second one. and this one...

Comment number: 004088   Posted by: Tracy on December 18, 2003 06:22 PM from IP:

i feel pretty dumb right now. but at least i got #1. my brain immediately screamed "don't you think the joker laughs at you?"

Comment number: 004089   Posted by: cat on December 18, 2003 07:07 PM from IP:

k, i looked twice, and now i have 10, 14, 19, 22, 25, and 29 from jacob's list

i thought of a few, too
1.deadhead sticker
2.sparrow's blood(a bit obscure)
3.california grass
4.juju eyeball vibration

Comment number: 004090   Posted by: cat on December 18, 2003 07:51 PM from IP:

Grr, damnit, I can do "love sensation" but not "love vibration".

Comment number: 004091   Posted by: Jacob on December 18, 2003 08:31 PM from IP:

Jacob: it's "dark sarcasmS", plural.

Comment number: 004092   Posted by: senn on December 19, 2003 10:42 AM from IP:

Hey Skot, you may be interested in "Plexure" by John Oswald. Oswald created the slice-and-dice genre of Plunderphonics, and "Plexure" was his attempt to essentially do what you're doing here, but with sounds instead of phrases. You know how that drum hit at the beginning of "Be My Baby" sounds like nothing else in the world, and that one beat can conjure up the entire song? "Plexure" is a composition made up of nothing but those moments in music...fairly mindblowing.

Comment number: 004093   Posted by: Vidiot on December 19, 2003 04:30 PM from IP:

There's a real alternative for #6. Rhymes with "own lagoon".

Comment number: 004094   Posted by: Matt McIrvin on December 19, 2003 06:32 PM from IP:

Also, I got tripped up by Frankie Valli too.

Comment number: 004095   Posted by: Matt McIrvin on December 19, 2003 06:34 PM from IP:

There's an alternative to #23. It appears in the first line of the song. Very timely too, since it's the 7th anniversary of his death this week.

Comment number: 004096   Posted by: Rohan on May 31, 2004 10:49 PM from IP:

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