Friday, November 20, 2015

If I Had A Boat

If I had a boat 
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat 
And we could all together 
Go out on the ocean 
Me upon my pony on my boat


Ride a pony on a boat?

A little boat like a a Laser or an RS Aero?

What a ridiculous idea!

What on earth is Lyle Lovett singing about?

Well it may mean different things to different people. But it seems to me that this is some kind of escapist fantasy. As a boy I always dreamed of owning a boat and going out on the ocean in it. And my granddaughters have been known to say they want ponies for their birthdays. (Not that any of then have had that wish fulfilled. At least not yet!) Is the central theme of this song a combination of those two childhood wishes?

Not that escaping on a boat is merely a childhood dream. For me, and I suspect for many people, the appeal of sailing is that it takes us away from the everyday life of working and living in little boxes and driving in little boxes on roads, and shopping in big boxes (ugh - I hate supermarkets) and bills to pay and the Internet and computers and phones and blogging...

Stop! I need to finish this blog post.

For some of us, sailboat racing provides relief from the pressures and tedium of everyday life. For others, just taking a small boat like a Laser or an RS Aero out to play on the ocean in big waves is their escape route.

But what is Mr. Lovett trying to escape from?

Maybe the first verse will give us a clue?

If I were Roy Rogers 
I'd sure enough be single 
I couldn't bring myself to marrying old Dale 
It'd just be me and Trigger 
We'd go riding through them movies 
Then we'd buy a boat and on the sea we'd sail


He doesn't want to marry "old Dale." He is pulling back from a relationship with a woman...

Roy and Dale

 ... and going back to a childhood fantasy of a man and his horse. 

Roy and Trigger

Maybe the song is about the bitterness of a man who was hurt in a romantic relationship that went wrong?

But wait. What is in the second verse?

The mystery masked man was smart 
He got himself a Tonto 
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free 
But Tonto he was smarter 
And one day said kemo sabe 
Kiss my ass I bought a boat 
I'm going out to sea

Lone Ranger and Tonto

The Lone Ranger.  A man and his horse. But now the singer identifies with the lone ranger's Indian companion who "did all the dirty work for free." And it is Tonto who says "kiss my ass" to the boss and goes off on his boat to escape. Or is there an undertone of a sexual relationship here too? Whatever the nature of the relationship it's clear that the image of going out on the ocean on a boat (with or without a pony) is a release from a human bond which the singer wishes to escape.

But things get even more confused in the third verse.

And if I were like lightning 
I wouldn't need no sneakers 
I'd come and go wherever I would please 
And I'd scare 'em by the shade tree 
And I'd scare 'em by the light pole 
But I would not scare my pony 
On my boat out on the sea

Lightning? Sneakers? What does that have to do with the other verses? Well I guess it's all about escape and freedom again so he can "come and go wherever I would please." But there's a touch of anger and maybe even revenge too.  "I'd scare 'em by the shade tree and I'd scare 'em by the light pole." Who does he want to scare? The mysterious woman? Her new partner? The boss man? All of the above? Whatever the source of his rage it is in contrast to his liberation with his pony on his boat out on the sea.


I guess I really am no good at analyzing song lyrics.

All of the above is probably utter nonsense.

You are probably laughing at me because I am too naive to understand the true meanings of "pony" and "ride" and "lightning."  They are likely references to drugs or sex or both, subjects of which I know so little.

So how do YOU explain this weird little song?

This post was inspired by today's post on Damian's excellent blog, The Final Beat,  which is about a different song called If I Had A Boat sung by a musician friend of Damian's.

If I Had A Boat - the Lyle Lovett song not the one by Damian's friend - was one of the the Top 10 Sailing Songs in a vote held by Adam in 2007 on his excellent blog Messing About in Sailboats.


Rick said...

The Lone Ranger was gay? I am shocked, shocked!

Damian said...

Tillerman, you are far more thorough with your lyric analysis than I could ever be - impressive stuff. I get the feeling that you've probably thought more about Lyle Lovett's words than he did.

Thanks for pointing me in the direction of the vote - I hadn't seen that and it will be good to check some of those songs out.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Damian. Adam sent out a CD of the top sailing songs (actually a slightly different selection from the ones on his post) to everyone who participated in the poll and who wanted the CD. I still play it in my car. (Which probably gives away how old my car is. Do cars even have CD players these days?)

I may write some more posts in the future about some of the other songs on his top 10 list.

Anonymous said...

Where is that painting from? It's awesome!

Tillerman said...

I don't know. I found it on the Internet somewhere.

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