Sometimes the words are more important to the singer/songwriters, too

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/11/23 11:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/11/23/6486305.aspx


I had reader Tamara ask me via the Contact link whether I only was willing to handle song lyric questions from people I knew.

And if not she had a song she wanted to ask about....

To be honest it had never come up before, but the song she had in mind was one I remembered from way back when it first came out, so I decided to say what the hell and talk about it. :-)

The song?

The Canadian band Len's "one hit wonder" song Steal My Sunshine.

The song had many different versions (there was even an import CD somewhere in my collection with four different versions of the song on it!).

The source of the song is kind of a nice story.

Marc Costanzo, one half of Len, wrote it back in 1996, after he and his sister (Sharon Costanzo) were going through some pretty tumultuous times. The two of them had a really bad fight, and Sharon wasn't talking to Marc at all. Marc had no idea how to fix things up or what to say, and he went home and wrote Steal My Sunshine to try and tell Sharon (who really is his sunshine) how he felt -- how much he really needed her in his life.

If you look online you'll see a whole bunch of non-identical attempts at the lyrics. I'll put up my own from my listening to the aforementioned four versions of the song (Marc lines in PURPLE, Sharon lines in RED):

Tim (spoken): Hey Matt.
Matt (spoken): Yeah Tim?
Tim (spoken): Hey, you talked to Marc lately?
Matt (spoken): Uh..haven't really talked to him but..he looks pretty uh..down.
Tim (spoken): He looks pretty uh..down? (laughs)
Matt (spoken): Yeah, well maybe we should cheer him up, then.
Tim (spoken): What do you uh..suppose we should do?
Matt (spoken): Well does he like butter tarts?

I was lying on the grass on Sunday morning of last week. Indulging in my self-defeats.
My mind was thugged all laced and bugged all twisted wrong and beat, a comfortable three feet deep.
Now the fuzzy stare from not being there on a confusing morning weak impaired my tribal lunar-speak.
And of course you can't become if you only say what you would have done. So I missed a million miles of fun.

I know it's up for me
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE
Making sure I'm not in too deep
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE
Keeping versed and on my feet
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE

Tim (spoken): Chad. Come here, come here, come here.
Chad (spoken): Wow, look at her.
Tim (spoken): I know...
Chad (spoken): Wow... I've never seen Sharon look so bad.
Tim (spoken): I did once before... but this is pretty bad.
Chad (spoken): Yeah... What do you think she got up to last night?
(both Tim and Chad laugh)
Tim (spoken): Well... I... Sharon! I love you!

I was lying on the bench slide in the park across the street l-a-t-e-r that week
My sticky paws were in to making straws out of big fat slurpy treats, an incredible eight foot heap
Now the funny glare to pay a gleaming tare in a staring under heat Involved an under usual feet
And I'm not only among but I invite who I want to come. So I missed a million miles of fun

I know it's up for me
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE
Making sure I'm not in too deep
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE
Keeping versed and on my feet
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE

I know it's done for me
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE
Not as some and hard to see
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE
Keeping dumb and built to beat
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE

My Sunshine
IF YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE

(repeat the last two lines until the song fades out)

Now clearly some of this was probably written after Marc and Sharon managed to make up from the fight, and it would be great to fill in some of those details, too -- as there is a small amlount of distance between what we know and what the song says....

And I do love the tare reference in the second verse -- and am pretty sure that is what it is, though most lyric sites assume that tear is the woukd there (as in to rip, not as in to cry). And not only because it makes more sense.

In the meantime, I admit that I have a much easier time (when thinking aboiut the lyrics) identifying with some parts than I do with others -- because who of us can become if all we do is talk about what we would have done? It is a pretty inspired and determined statement of the need to make sure that in order to really feel like a human being that the most important step is to be a human doing.

And Sharon and Marc clearly did manage to patch things up; I think I would have been minded to accept the apology too, were it being directed to me -- clearly there are times that the lyrics do matter -- when we are saying we're sorry....

I now see the disadvantage of doing this sort of thing without having the long phone conversation -- there is no feedback system to see if I answered Tamara's question(s) about the song or if she had additional thoughts or insights herself!

 

This post brought to you by ? (U+003f, aka QUESTION MARK)


Kelly on 7 Dec 2007 11:11 PM:

Interesting to say the least!

This is probably one of my favorite songs of all time. But actually I  read an interview some years back where the Burger Pimp said they were drunk and wrote the lyrics on napkins and found and sampled a beat from the disco hit "More, More, More" by The Andrea True Connection, all at like 3 in the morning.

It kind of makes more sense to me that way, because most if its just gibberish. Yet there are gems, and the line BP says, "And of course you can't become if you only say what you would've done" is about as absolute as it gets.

Pablo Picasso once said, "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." I think that is what's so beautiful about "Steal My Sunshine"; it's pure, simple, and meaningless, and yet has all the meaning in the world.

Slurpeeeeeeee!?! on 24 Aug 2010 12:30 AM:

How does one make straws out of 'big fat slurpee treats?

Daddy O' Four on 23 Mar 2012 4:20 PM:

Hi guys.  Found yer blog searching for the meaning of this song.  It always makes me think of my 4-year-old daughter Rachel, whom we affectionately call Rae (or 'Ray'), becasue she is our little 'Rae' of sunshine becasue of her infectious beaming smile.  Unfortunately, being four, she has sunk into a bit of a rotten streak lately and spend more time in the corner than smiling.  This song reminds me of her because when she is behaving badly, she literally steals our 'sunshine!'

On "straws out of "big fat slurpee treats" I could only imagine the task requiring one to CONSUME a number frozen sticky beverages and link the straws together (as I may have done in my youth and have witnessed attempts by other youths).  I remember the generic SLURPEE straws alway had that 'spoon' tip that was conducive to connecting atop or asunder the flat end of another spraw :o]

Great post! Thanks for the insight!

Michael on 18 Apr 2012 9:29 PM:

It's obviously about a whacked out night... maybe an alcohol acid binge.


go to newer or older post, or back to index or month or day