Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Calaboose, Some Perfume, and de Basil Beans

I finally looked up “calaboose,” as in:

“Riding along in my calaboose. Still trying to get her belt unloose.”

The online dictionaries say it’s a southern or creole term for jail. I wasn’t completely satisfied so I went and looked at the big old dictionary my mother left me, and it says pretty much the same thing, a slang term for jail or prison, from the Spanish “calabozo” for “dungeon.”

Lots of you probably knew that. Chuck Berry obviously did.

Poets are like that—collecting interesting words and filing them away until they become ripe enough to express some powerful sentiment.

As it turns out, there's an old Missouri Calaboose just northwest of St. Louis in the town of Elsberry.  That's a picture of it there on this page somewhere!
And it makes sense—because he’s stuck and going nowhere until he gets that buckle off.

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The lyrics online, even though they are often suspect or just flat wrong, have become invaluable to me. For example, one of my favorite songs is “Tulane.” But what was she supposed to say she swallowed? I always hear “tell him you swallowed cycle fuel,” (pronounced like “pickle”), but I always knew that couldn’t be right. The online lyric sites tell me it’s “some perfume.” That makes sense. Still can't hear it, though.  (I've never heard "motorvatin'" either.  I still hear, and prefer, "motivatin'."

Or “You Can’t Catch Me.” For 35 years this is what I heard.

I bought a brand-new air-mobile
It was custom-made, 'twas a lightning vehicle (wrong!)
With a pow'ful motor and some highway (wrong!) wings
Push in on the button and you can hear her sing
Oh you can’t catch me!

If there is a single person in the world who is as confused as I was, (and I doubt there is) the airmobile is a “Flight DeVille” and the wings are “hideaway” models. What’s funny is that I always knew my version had to be wrong. What the hell is a “lightning vehicle?”

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But I’m not alone. One reader of this site thought Chuck caught “a rollin’ off a writer” while sitting down at the rhythm reviews. Makes as much sense as a lightning vehicle!

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I still wonder what sort of bean is mentioned in “Oh Louisiana!” It’s usually put down as “basin beans” on line. I haven’t found that term on google. I personally hear “basil bean” and there are references to “basil bean salad” all over the internet.

Who knows? I’m the guy who hears “cycle fuel” and “lightnin' vehicle.” Maybe it isn’t a bean at all.

But anyway, just in case it is basil bean (salad???  hell no!) here's one way to make it!

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