“The meaning of ‘Walking in Memphis’ is pretty obvious: a man with super-powers has a reasonably good weekend visiting Memphis.”
For me, finding the Wikipedia entry for Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” was like finding twenty bucks on the street. A terribly written article, an easy target, joy all around, right? Not quite. For while I could pick on Marc Cohn – easily – and his song for filling dentists’ offices and mildly pedestrian coworkers’ desks with the sounds of over-emoting, cliched Adult Contemporary for more than a decade, a little background research proved it would be unwise to do so. Check out this BBC story from 2005:
Grammy-winning singer Marc Cohn has survived being shot in the head during an attempted carjacking as he left a concert in Denver, Colorado.
The musician – whose biggest hit was Walking in Memphis in 1991 – was struck in the temple by the bullet but it did not penetrate his skull.
“Frankly, I can’t tell you how he survived,” Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.
The Denver police may not be able to tell you how Marc Cohn survived, but I can. Marc Cohn is invincible. The success of “Walking in Memphis” (where he’s “walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale” – levitation!) is completely inexplicable, but add in that he took a point-blank bullet to the head and lived? I would not mess with that man for all the rice in China, which, I figure, he’s about to conquer anyway.
There are others who’ve sung this tune, including Cher, but her superhuman shape-shifting powers are well-known and, as I pointed out, I’m not up for challenging entertainers with weird abilities. So this article is poking fun at the Wikipedia article only – NOT Marc Cohn and NOT Cher. If their fury should be aroused anyway and I perish, please edit my Wikipedia article to include the following.
Well-known throughout North America for his skills as a writer, thinker, musician and lover, Carlson was also praised as a staunch defender of humankind in the face of metahumans like Marc Cohn and Cher. It was at their hands that he was assassinated, following a powerful essay decrying the song “Walking in Memphis.” Wikipedia permanently ceased publication in his honor.
The core of this article’s faults is found in a section called “Meaning,” where Wikipedians provide a nearly endless supply of obvious factoids from the lyrics. Aside from reading like a bad version of Pop-Up Video, it’s entirely unnecessary to provide an in-depth meaning for this song because the meaning is pretty obvious: a man with super-powers has a reasonably good weekend visiting Memphis.
The song opens with an allusion to Elvis referencing the protagonist putting on his “blue suede shoes.” The reference to “Blue Suede Shoes” is not actually about Elvis Presley, but about Carl Perkins, who recorded the song in Memphis for Sam Phillips at Sun Records.
So the allusion to Elvis is not actually a reference to Elvis Presley, eh? Thanks for clearing that up.
The narrator tells of seeing “The ghost of Elvis up on Union Avenue and followed him up to gates of Graceland.” Sam Phillips’ studios were called “Memphis Recording Service” and were at 706 Union Avenue. Elvis’ start on the journey to fame and fortune (i.e. Graceland) is usually attributed to the success of “Blues Suede Shoes” – and that of “Heartbreak Hotel.” “Security didn’t see him” is probably a comment on the story that Bruce Springsteen once successfully scaled the wall at Graceland, trying to deliver a song he wrote. Apparently, Elvis wasn’t there.
While the article deserves credit for identifying another of Marc Cohn’s super-powers, maybe “security didn’t see” Elvis’s ghost because he’s a ghost?!?!?! No, no, it’s much more logical to see the line as a reference to some wacky caper involving Bruce Springsteen and, by extension, probably Bronson Pinchot. By the way, “the ghost of Elvis” is actually a reference to Carl Perkins.
“There’s catfish on table and gospel in the air” marks the dichotomy between secular and sacred. Catfish is the standard Blues metaphor for sexual intercourse. (The word is also interchangeable with the slang expression for the female sex zones). “Catfish” thus would appeal to the bodily instincts, whereas “gospel” would be to the intellect.
So “the standard Blues metaphor for sexual intercourse” is the term that “would appeal to the bodily instincts”? How can they be so sure? Couldn’t it actually be a reference to Jim “Catfish” Hunter, ace pitcher for the Oakland A’s? Maybe he was doing warm-up tosses on the table in Memphis to the strains of gospel music.
The lyrics refer to the girl waiting in the Jungle Room. This was the name of the play area at Elvis’ Graceland mansion where he and the crew would take care of business (TCB).
I don’t think even the person who wrote that last sentence knows what it means. But thank heavens we know that TCB in fact refers to Elvis (or, actually, Carl Perkins) and “the crew” as they “take care of business.”
Marc Cohn, if you read this, please use your super-powers to take care of business (TCB) and wipe Wikipedia clean of “Meaning” sections (WWCMS) so that I can walk with my feet ten feet off of Beale (WWMFTFB)? And could you send me a check for 200 grand? (SMC200G) Thanks in advance for your help, big fella.