23 December, 2010

An unAustralian Confession

I have a confession – one that is probably enough to have me branded un-Australian.

I do not like the song Throw Your Arms Around Me.

I quite like Mark Seymour as a songwriter and I have nothing against Hunters and Collectors these days. I say “these days” because I used to not like them. My reason for not liking them was the same reason I didn’t like Midnight Oil – it was more to do with their meathead fans than the band. And Mark Seymour’s vocal style made it very easy and tempting for those meatheads to get in your face at the Blue Light Disco (or even in the schoolyard, apropos of nothing) and bellow
Yeew don’t make me feeeel, like I’m a womananymooooooore!

That, and bogans at gigs yelling out for HUNNAAAHS, regardless of whether it was a local cover band or well-established original artists like Nick Barker or Frente, was enough to put me off them. I have since learnt to enjoy them, but I still don’t like Throw Your Arms Around Me.

Obviously I’m in the minority. The song has been covered by everyone from Kate Cebrano to Pearl Jam. Crowded House have always made it a regular item in their live sets and there can be few greater compliments to a song than having a songwriter the calibre of Neil Finn wanting to sing it. But I still don’t like it.

It’s not just that I don’t like it, I am disturbed by it. Let’s look at the lyrics,
I will come for you at night time
I will raise you from your sleep
I will kiss you in four places
I'll go running along your street
Okay, that’s pretty standard stuff for some confused, late-teen romance, but it’s the next stanza where things get creepy:
I will squeeze the life out of you
You will make me laugh and make me cry
We will never forget it
You will make me call your name and
I'll shout it to the blue summer sky
“I will squeeze the life out of you?” Is this describing a rape? Also the chorus of “You will throw your arms around me,” implies that either the object of the narrator’s affection doesn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter, or he is being rather presumptuous. This was somewhat confirmed after Paul McDermott’s cover of the song. Either by accident or design, he changed the lyric to “You may throw your arms around me,” and he was mocked for it, which suggests that “will” is important.

A friend has suggested that I am reading far too much into the song, and he takes it more as describing a summer shag. If that’s the case, it’s probably a depressingly accurate representation of Australian romance. “We may never meet again so shed your skin and let’s get started.” What girl wouldn’t melt for that? It’s really just one step above, “Darlin’ it’s yer lucky night.”

The second verse also has its creepy bits.
I dreamed of you at night time
And I watched you in your sleep
Hmmm.... stalking? Mind you, that’s only creepy on the same level that Every Breath You Take is creepy – not nearly as suss as squeezing the life out of someone.

Having said all of this, I must say that the chorus is brilliantly crafted. It has hooks in both the first and last lines, and can easily be sung by anyone, no matter how drunk they are. That’s clever songcraft any way you look at it.

As for the subject of the song though, someone please tell me I’m wrong about this. At best, I think Throw Your Arms Around Me is a song that has been mistaken for a love song in the same way that Every Breath You Take, The One I Love and One have been.

PS: I don’t rate Sounds of Then very highly either.


  1. I never noticed that McDermott had changed the lyric from 'will' to 'may' and if anyone gave himself the liberty to be presumptuous, it was Paul.

    I don't mind the Hunnahs. Holy Grail is overplayed, sure, but it's rather inoffensive otherwise.

  2. PS I find Every Breath You Take far more disturbing than TYAM.

  3. Oh, I don't mind them either. I loved Head Above Water when it came out. The fact that it had beats on it annoyed some of the rock fans, which was a bonus.

  4. I find this song really creepy, too. Being what used to be euphamistically referred to as a New Australian, I didn't grow up hearing it, and the first time I did hear it, I turned to my husband and said, "What on earth is this song about?!"

    I'm still kind of weirded out that people think it's a sweet and touching love song. Sounds like stalking and possible foul play to me. *shudder*

    Of course, I also find it freaky that people think Every Breath You Take is sweet. Sting actually deliberately wrote that to be a creepy stalker song, and so it is. Apparently, Sting is just as weirded out that people have it performed at their weddings and such...

  5. "...bogans at gigs yelling out for HUNNAAAHS..."

    Whoa...I've obviously been out of the country too long. I used to be in a relationship with a professional musician, and the bogan chant was "PLAY SUM BAAARNZEEEEEEEEEEEEY." (Guess I am getting old.) It was usually right before the beer cans started flying. The choicest moments were playing in a specially designed chicken wire cage (coop?) at a B&S ball, trying not to run over girlies in the neighbouring paddock with their dresses over their heads and legs in the air on the way home from the gig, and seeing debs skulling jugs of beer before the ball began.

    Ah, bogans...the reason I will never, ever take uggboots seriously as a high fashion item. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

  6. Bonni,
    It's amazing how people only listen to the chorus. At least Sting has explained the song. No-one has ever really explained Throw Your Arms Around Me, and in fairness, they shouldn't have to. Writers should have the right to remain mysterious about meanings, but I still see nothing vaguely romantic about it.

    "Chicken wire?"
    Had to quote from the classics! ;)
    It might be a regional thing - my area was always HUNNAHS! or sometimes CHISOOOOL! but never so much BARNSEEEY! - or DACCAAH! for that matter.
    Why would you ever want to leave that?

    Mind you, the weirdest one I heard was when Jimi Hocking, who is very much the pub rocker, was opening for bluegrass guitarist Bo Jenkins, and one heckler called out, "Why don't you play some ABBA?"
    No pleasing some people.

  7. Just came across this now. You missed a vital detail, Bill. The song is about groupies.It's a vulgar appeal to teenaged girls to turn up backstage with their pants in their hands.