This week, we turn our attention towards “To Whom It May Concern”. Originally titled “Mr. Jones”, this song was reportedly written in response to manipulation the band experienced from their attorneys. As the story goes, the song had been completely finished (as “Mr. Jones”) for inclusion on the album, but once having learned of it, the attorney in question forced the band to discard it. With the help of some overdubbing and remixing, the song became “To Whom It May Concern”.
Dear Mr. Bones, I’ve (We’ve) had enough
You can try to pull us down
With your pinstipe weasle stuff
But word travels in this town
I wouldn’t write home about you
We’re better off without you
Without you Mr. Bones
Some people feed on other people’s troubles
Some people beat on other people’s meat
Some people want to bleed us dry
And some people…Gonna drown on your feet.
You said “Boy’s I’ll get you more
But you got to pay me by the hour”.
Anyways you are just another bore
Who believes he’s a superpower.
When you talk about loyalty
I just hope you realize
Since you ate my royalities
Mr. Bones this is goodbye.
This is goodbye and such hereinafter shall be referred.
Notwithstanding or foregoing statements unpreferred.
Don’t claim you understand
When you’ve not heard a single word, a dicky bird.
Some people feed on other people’s troubles.
Some people beat on other people’s meat.
Some people want to bleed us dry
And some people… gonna drown on your feet
For the longest time, I never quite understood the point of touch-tone dialing and the ringing in the intro. That was before I really listened and understood the words. If there was any doubt that the band often writes with a certain amount of irony, satire, or even sarcasm at times, this song should erase all doubt. In recent years, I’ve found myself wishing I’d heard the original version. Somehow, I suspect I would be better able to appreciate it, particularly these days.
As is, there are parts of the song that really work well. The chorus, with the words “Some people” chanted and therefore accented really gets the attention of the listener. There is a certain “crowd-pleaser”, or “rabble-rouser” type of quality to this song, which I admire. The music is funky, and fits the 1990’s styling rather well. It is a song I could have imagined hearing on the radio – at least in parts. I appreciate hearing the contributions from the entire band, even as the song flows from featured guitar, to the final chorus. However, this is where the band loses it’s mark completely. Right around the 4 minute mark, there is an outro that feels like it comes completely out of left field, not really contributing to the song because it’s written and recorded in a completely different vein.
I can appreciate the sentiment of the song, reminds me of the vague-tweets and “vaguebook” posting we see so often today, but I think it misses the mark a bit. It is awkwardly incongruous in certain sections, and takes away from the spirit of what was likely a great song before remixing in order to pass the test of the attorneys. (The irony of that is certainly not missed.)
I admit that I never knew the back story to this song that Rhonda posted above, which is fascinating to me. Will it alter how I review this song? Maybe slightly as I think understanding a little bit about what was going on whenever any art is created makes me appreciate it more or give it more of a benefit of a doubt. That said, I think there is much in this song that does not work for me.
Rhonda mentioned how she did not understand the inclusion of the phone in the beginning of the song but now gets it after learning about the origin of the song. I can appreciate that but it still does not work for me. It just bugs me and makes me want to turn the song off. I almost wonder if it would work better in a different part of the song. Rhonda also discussed about how the outro at the 4 minute mark does not work for her. I completely agree. Could the phone have been added there to make it more affective and less annoying? I don’t know but that outro did not need to happen. It changed the flow of the song completely. Plus, it took away from the best part of the song, which, in my opinion, is the instrumentation. The music of the song is good, especially with the featured guitar.
Unlike the music, which I enjoyed, I found myself wishing for different vocals throughout the whole thing. First, there is the spoken word of “Mr. Bones” at about 30 seconds in that adds to my dislike of the opening. Then, throughout the rest of the song, it feels like Simon is trying to sound like something or someone he is not. The lyrics are super interesting, especially with knowing the back story to the song. Yet, they get completely lost due to how Simon is singing them. Now, knowing Duran, I suspect that this was done intentionally. Maybe they wanted people to work to gain a full understanding and appreciation of the song. That’s possible. Maybe they is how it felt to work with the lawyer they wrote the song about. Who knows?
The back story, the lyrics and the music definitely help to make sure that this song is tolerable. I just wish the vocals would have been different and that they didn’t feel it necessary to add some of those extras.