Thursday, April 17, 2008


I had no idea until the other day that the word snafu began as an acronym in World War II that stood for "situation normal all fucked up." Now I'm wondering if Fubar, the Star Wars character name I was given by my childhood friends, had a double meaning.

But let me tell you about a snafu in terms of Philly soul, the subgenre of music I love so much
. I recently heard Teddy Pendergrass's "Turn Off the Lights" for the first time in a very long time. It was written by Philadelphia International Records maestros Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, but it's not one of their better songs. I doubt they consider it one of their crowning achievements, either, but it's hard not to wince at the following lyrics:

Let's take a shower, shower together
I'll wash your body and you'll wash mine, yeah
Rub me down in some hot oils, baby
And I'll do the same thing to you

Just turn off the lights, come to me
Girl, I wanna give you a special treat, you're so sweet
Turn off the lights and let's get cozy
See, you're the only one in the world that I need

You can write better lyrics than those for the Teddy Bear, K-Jee and El-H!
(Plus the rhyming of "treat" and "sweet" in this sort of R&B number, followed by Teddy making a kissing noise, is too cute—either you talk dirty or you don't.) What the world needs nowand what it needed even in 1979was subtlety. "Turn Off the Lights" was made for the Quiet Storm, after all, not the Loud 'n' Tacky, Cologne-on-the-Crotch Storm. Some say that kind of storm could signal the end of days, so let's not push it. Teddy, on the other hand, can push it all he wants after he and his special lady "Close the Door," but I don't need to hear about itor hear the words to "Turn Off the Lights"ever again.


  1. Certainly does: FUBAR = Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.

  2. But Fubar Dillweed was such a cool name! I guess my friends weren't really my friends.

  3. Some others:

    Complete Monumental Military Fuckup

    Fucked Up More Than Usual

    Joint Army Navy Fuckup

    Self-Adjusting Military Fuckup

    Surpassing All Previous Fuckups

    Situation Unchanged Still Fucked Up

  4. Must say, I never paid much attention to those special lyrics, but now that you've mentioned them I probably won't be able to ignore them anymore - which means that I don't really need to hear "Turn Off The Lights" again anytime soon, either.

    What's puzzled me most about "Teddy", though, is the track order - side A is all romance and slow dance, whereas on side B, when he should be slowing down even further, he suddenly decides to go to the disco.

  5. Who knows with that track listing, but Gamble and Huff did seem to be losing their touch by the time of Teddy's solo albums.

    On Saturday I went to a record store in Chicago to celebrate/support Record Store Day and found a promo copy of Legacy's 2007 two-disc "The Essential Teddy Pendergrass" for only $8! It wasn't there two weeks ago when I was at Laurie's, dammit, and I think that was right before I placed my $20 order on for the Right Stuff's 2003 "Anthology," which also has two discs.

    I compared the track listings for the two compilations before I bought "Anthology"; I decided on that one because it only covered the Philadelphia International years of Pendergrass's career, whereas "Essential" went further into the '80s and included all the Harold Melvin hits featuring Pendergrass on lead vocal that I already have. But "Anthology" has a lot of dull ballads on it, and the liner notes have some big errors -- there's no mention of Stephanie Mills being the duet partner on "Feel the Fire," and "Shout and Scream" and "It's You I Love" are listed as being "live" even though they're the two studio cuts from the otherwise live album "Live! Coast to Coast." (The Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes concert medley from that album is included on "Anthology." It feels like an insult more than a tribute to the group that launched Pendergrass's solo career.)

  6. those lyrics are hilarious! i remember a coworker at the RIghteous Room and i making up alternate lyrics to sing along with it. it is just asking for it, cuz it's such a laundry list of things to do. love it.

  7. p.s. i don't remember now what all the lyrics were, but i do remember "take my hand, now pull my finger, why don't you light a match, turn on the ceiling fan." ahhh, genius.

  8. Did you ever see Lenny Henry's Theophilus P Wildebeest parody of TP? It was quite excellent.

    I have a feeling that Turn Off The Lights was written totally as a piss-take. "Let's see what Teddy can do with shit like that". I think TP pulled it off (is there a pun in that?) admirably: he sings his swollen balls off, he does.

  9. No, never saw Lenny Henry's impression. He's a British comedian, right?

    Teddy certainly gives it his all in "Turn Off the Lights." But he's fighting for a worthless cause.