Adam Quirk, the Great American Something, fearless filmer and renal editor of giant kidneys, told me recently that he and his friends had played Shotgun Golf over Thanksgiving. I hadn’t quite been able to picture it. Now I can. Wish I’d been there. I’m not much for the actual game of golf — my shape makes it hard to swing the clubs — but I like to blast golf balls with a shotgun the same as the next male kidney.

In other news, even giant kidneys have heard the 1967 Monkees single “Daydream Believer.” But there were things about it that made no sense to us. The beginning is weird: “Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings / The six o’clock alarm would never ring.” Sounds nice, but what does it mean? How would hiding under a bird’s wings prevent an alarm clock from ringing?

A later lyric is weirder still: “You once thought of me as a white knight on his steed / Now you know how happy I can be.” With that ‘white knight’ stuff, the singer is setting us up for his beloved’s disappointment. Then he tells her that she now knows how happy he can be. Huh? Why should she care?

Well, thanks to, this particular giant kidney has gotten to the bottom of the mystery. I noticed in the obit for the late John Stewart that in addition to joining the Kingston Trio and singing “Gold” with Stevie Nicks in 1979, Stewart wrote “Daydream Believer.” Turns out he recorded his own acoustic version of the song four years after he sold it to the Monkees, and Rhapsody carries it. (You can hear it for free — about 14 songs down on Stewart’s list.)

Hearing his 1971 version is a revelation. The song begins not with an “Oh,” but with an “If”: “If I could hide ‘neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings / the six o’clock alarm would never ring.” He’s saying he would do something to stop that infernal alarm clock from annoying people. I’m not clear *how* he would kill the alarm from beneath those wings — but at least we’re dealing with an if-then statement, rather than an obvious non-sequitur. Maybe he means that if he lived under a bird’s wings, no alarm could reach him. Who knows.

And a second item that had barely registered as odd becomes clearer. Davy Jones of the Monkees sang, “My shavin’ razor’s cold, and it stings.” Stewart, though, sang, “My shavin’ razor’s old, and it stings.” Of course. Cold razors don’t sting. Old ones do. Who added the ‘c’ to a perfectly good ‘old’?

The third issue is, if possible, even more important. Here’s the white-knight lyric in Stewart’s version: “You once thought of me as a white knight on his steed / Now you know how funky I can be …” You can hear him smiling as he sings it. He knows he’s not everything she wanted him to be, but what can he do? Most men are doomed to disappoint our lovers, and while that disappointment can be sad, it can also be a little funny. We’re only human.

The Monkees didn’t like the “funky.” Or someone who controlled them didn’t. (A commenter named Garrett on this page says the TV show’s producers were unfamiliar with the word “funky,” thought it might be dirty, and changed it.) Somebody made the song safer, or thought they did — but in the process he or she (probably ‘he’) robbed it of its meaning, as well as an important part of Stewart’s gentle humor. (Sadly, Rhapsody doesn’t carry the Anne Murray cover, which was the first version I heard. I can’t check how she handled it.) Later in Stewart’s version, the singer continues to play with his phrasing — ‘Daydream deceiver and an old closet queen’ — and you can hear him laughing.

There’s no ‘closet queen’ in the Monkees’ version. No deceiver. And no funkiness, either. It’s still a fun song, obviously — it hit number one, and it took the Beatles’ “Hello, Goodbye” to displace it. But it had lost something I was glad to get back, and am glad to share with you. — Kenny

Posted on January 31st, 2008 | filed under generosity, kidney, renal | Trackback |

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