Sunday, July 25, 2021

Deconstructing Puff

The rumor was always that PP&M's "Puff the Magic Dragon" was a drug song.  They had a performance piece specifically dedicated to describing how We didn't even know what marijuana was in 1962, which was convincing only if you wanted to be. Yet they had a point.  What else, other than the title, would suggest that?

So, you have this guy you meet, by the name of "Papers." Huh. Yeah. What's that about? What do you mean when you say 'Sealing Wax?' 

Jackie Paper.  He's my friend. My only friend. I don't really like to talk about it.  He was a little boy, about six years old, I think. Sealing wax is this weird substance he brought to me as a present. You heat it up and then you stamp your initials on it.

Heat it up?  Like on a spoon or something?  Then what do you do with it?  Inhale it? Eat it?

Eh.  It's a stretch, even at that.

But skeptically looking at the lyrics, some dark stuff emerged. A dragon lives forever. Okay, but very soon after it is followed by without his life-long friend. So...this immortal dragon has a little boy who is a LIFE-LONG friend. Therefore, a very, very young dragon, who is now going to go forward for centuries with some sort of human-induced trauma. Where are this dragon's parents?  This sounds like a normal developmental process for a young, well-meaning dragon, but he has to navigate this by himself, with no older dragon to reassure him.  Is this normal dragon behavior?  No wonder they are such destructive, narcissistic creatures. Your parents and all older members of your species abandon you when you are a child. You make friends with a young human, who in a very short time decides he doesn't need you and ghosts you. No text, no email, he just stops coming around. No one to say "Son, it was ever thus.  This is the burden that all dragons bear. Go eat a sheep or two and get a few gold bracelets.  You'll get through this."

It reminds me of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, where the "monster" originally starts out as a pretty good guy, looking in on a human family with sad envy, cutting wood for them in hopes of starting some normal relationship. When that is cruelly dashed he becomes an enemy of humankind.

Does Dragon culture have any sort of child welfare system? I am thinking that we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble centuries ago if we had only understood what the poor bastards have gone through. When they are already 400 years old it's way too late. 

If anyone runs into this Jackie Paper character, who must be at least 70 by now, let me know.  Someone needs to have an intervention with that jerk.


stevo said...

Made me laugh. I guess dragons need a continuous stream of little boys to survive.

Narr said...

stevo said, "I guess dragons need a continuous stream of little boys to survive."

Like The Lincoln Project?

Never did care for that song.

Cousin Eddie

Assistant Village Idiot said...


james said...

I like it. Worse still, this is a magic dragon--conjured by the boy. Paper is doubly responsible for the the dragon's welfare.

I hadn't given the drug angle much thought; I just assumed it was weed-related. But now that I think of it, the Puff is for children, who grow out of it, and kid/dragon stories predate the song (Green Smoke)

Christopher B said...

Sometimes little boys get stuffed dragons rather than stuffed bears.

Donna B. said...

This commentary illustrates why Bach's Inventions are my favorite musical compositions. There are no lyrics to analyze for ever darker/subversive/ohmygoddrugs meanings.

This is one of the problems I have with the glorification of Leonard Cohen's and Bob Dylan's music. I admire their lyrical poetry, but their music is... mostly boring when played without the lyrics. Dylan was better at music than Cohen, but he wasn't all that great.

Narr said...

Donna B, I guess "Oh sleep why doest thou leave me?" and "Endless pleasure, endless love" and the like from Handel's Semele are right out.

Cousin Eddie

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It is interesting how I respond to lyrics, both good and bad. If there are words, my mind instantly goes to them and I cannot concentrate on anything else very well. I can also ignore lyrics in foreign languages, and thus both Italian and German opera can be background for me. I once had an office mate who could not grasp this concept. He would say "Would it be all right if I played some of the pieces our choir is singing. They're very gentle and relaxing." I would say - about twice a week - that if there were understandable English words, the gentleness and relaxing nature would be irrelevant. My mind goes to conversation. Sometimes he would even try to patiently explain to me (don't you hate that?) that this was different because...nonsense. He found it relaxing, and therefore believed that everyone else would as well, if they only tried. He kept thinking it was because i didn't like various forms of classical music as much as he did.

Two related points: That type of patient explaining, as if the obvious had somehow eluded you but once you just did it their way once is common to both cliche-driven evangelicals and (and? and?) liberals. Hmm, that commonality might be fruitful to explore. Have at it, as I have other things. Secondly, the Latin words of sacred music are such a narrow category that I find I cannot listen to them either. While they are not quite conversation, they approach it. Pax hominibus just goes with particular preceding and/or succeeding comments, and I hear them as if someone were speaking to me.

Donna B. said...

@Cousin Eddie -- nope. I actively listen to Opera, but seldom indulge in dissecting the lyrics for deep meanings. I find vocal gymnastics entertaining and there are few better examples than "Myself I Shall Adore". You should be grateful that you've never been present when I attempt to sing along (at home, alone). I do not find vocals by Dylan and Cohen to be inspiring or inviting for sing alongs. I'd rather read their lyrics as poetry.

As AVI illustrates, words require my present attention. This is one reason why my driving playlist does not include instrumentals. Words keep me attentive, as does singing along. My 'turn it up and sing along' favorites are "Werewolves of London" and "Handel's Messiah".

BTW, did anyone ever play "Puff the Magic Dragon" backwards to check for satanic messages?

Narr said...

The most exalted, terrifying, and consoling sacred music I've ever heard is Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. I have to psych myself up for it . . .

Cousin Eddie