Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out”
Taken literally, it’s about opening the little black book, scanning past the multitude of ex-girlfriends, and finding companionship as an excuse to put down the frozen burritos and get off the couch. It can also be about wanting to be a gracious homicide victim for a person for whom a relationship has soured. `I say you don’t know/you say you don’t know’ is about the most tedious conversation in the history of dating, and enough to make you want to suffocate in the complimentary peanut bowl. Either way, there’s reason the song made it to “Guitar Hero.”
The Replacements – “Take Me Down to the Hospital”
The band was known to tipple a little golden nectar in their time, and this testament to indulgence dry-heaves its way to the finish. The line “I don’t wanna die before my time” was a wish sadly unfulfilled by guitarist and founding member Bob Stinson shortly after his contributions to the group’s inimitable album Tim. After Paul Westerberg admits to having used eight of his lives, he moans and groans, wordlessly sounding out every bad hangover you’ve ever had in the most aching, guttural tones that suggest his ninth and final life is just a pilsner away.
Talking Heads – “Take Me to the River”
Significantly edgier, tighter and more anxious than the Reverend Al Green’s earlier rendition, David Byrne’s river is full of carp, leeches and fertilizer runoff, giving his idea of drowning a certain gritty realism. “Hold me/ squeeze me,” he pleads, as though nothing but a real embrace could save him from his watery tomb. Okay, I studied English as an undergraduate. Contribute to my student loan payments, or I’ll analyze and deconstruct the song’s homosexual undertones, I mean it.
A-Ha – “Take On Me”
The most dyslexic song on the list, this song hustles through the extraneous verses on its way to the soaring chorus that’s been lovingly mangled in every karaoke bar. Take on me or take me on, it’s your choice baby! The former sentiment is ambiguous, and vaguely sexual, while the latter is confrontational and challenging. The song’s iconic video, wherein the protagonist turns from a sketchily animated cartoon to flesh and mullet made the duality clear.
Eddie Money – “Take Me Home Tonight”
Eddie needs Ambien; that or a date with the Ronette’s Ronnie Spector, who wants him to “be her little baby.” That’s an open invitation to take her back to his neon-bedecked penthouse, where he “finds the key and turns the engine on” in a curious metaphorical choice. Then Eddie is free to take off his skinny tie and Wayfarers, and shake his thick mane until Ronnie `sees the light.’ This is a little disturbing, since it implies some troubling possessiveness on his part, and possibly alludes to a snuff fetish.
The White Stripes – “Take Take Take”
Jack White is cooler than chrome, so this song about being star-struck by another celebrity is almost touching, but also confusing, since the object of his affection is actress Rita Hayworth, who has been dead for 23 years. The only mention of `taking’ comes in the chorus, when the song’s usual White Stripes thump slows, and White repeats the word nine times, like he’s stuttering through his nerves. White tells of seeing Hayworth in a seedy bar, and of approaching her for an autograph, only to be told abruptly that she `needs some sleep,’ and likely some Centrum Silver, thus ending their unexpected encounter. She doesn’t notice how cool he is, probably because he would have been at most twelve years old and dribbling cranberry juice down his chin.
Spoon – “Take a Walk”
Britt Daniel’s hackles were raised on Girls Can Tell. Maybe he was upset at being dropped by his previous record label, but this sounds much more flippant. His lyrics are caustic to the point of rusting-through his tough-guy shell. Nowhere is his fierce defiance more on display than “Take a Walk,” a scathing kiss-off to nobody in particular. “Tough break hand job sent me back home to ma/ back to cow town and the fish shop and the mall.” That is a tough break, Britt. This is where you up your medication, seek a shrink, start flossing more regularly and hope for a promotion at the shopping center’s Long John Silver.
Pink Floyd – “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk”
In 1967, Pink Floyd released Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a seminal slice of British psychedelia that cemented the band’s reputation as purveyors of the paisley, and the start of Syd Barrett’s grotesque mental decline. “Stethoscope,” Waters’ songwriting debut, borrows lines from a Bible verse, with gloomy ruminations about self-medication, themes he would return to in songs like “Comfortably Numb” and “Free Four.” Or maybe it’s about getting stoned and flipping randomly through the rhyming dictionary, since the lyrics are nursery school simple, with the line `Gold is lead’ repeated twice, echoing another familiar theme of distrusting capitalism and selling out, despite their being on the road to making more money than God.
Rage Against the Machine – “Take the Power Back”
An impassioned, rabble-rousing song about inciting civil disobedience by self-proclaimed communists whose music would’ve been banned in any totalitarian government. The three nice boys sing about reclaiming power from `motherfucking Uncle Sam,’ but don’t provide any further instructions. That’s what Noam Chomsky is for. I used this song as the background music for my high school student government campaign video, without a trace of smirking irony. Evidently I thought the district superintendent and my principal were evils to be overthrown, along with the teachers and their Eurocentric slant. No more lies! And more pizza fries in the cafeteria, come on!
Supertramp – “Take the Long Way Home”
Supertramp nails all the sadness of the long, slow fade and add harmonica. They seem to be describing a tragic, delusional antihero, a guy who “thinks he’s a Romeo/ playing the part in the picture show,” who is really the “joke of the neighborhood.” He used to play to adoring crowds, but now his wife thinks he’s losing his sanity, and probably his ability to get it up. “So you think your life’s become a catastrophe?” What are you to do, but take the long way home, of course? On the unpaved back road with the strip clubs, bars and gun shop. See you on the nine o’clock news.