I did't even know what the song was about until I found a subtitled YouTube video last night.
I remember realising I couldn't hear song words four years before I knew I was deaf. I was six years old and my grandparents gave me a red Walkman cassette player and a Kylie album for Christmas. The first thing I had to do was crank the volume up to the highest level and even then with those fetching foam covered flimsy 80s headphones, I could hardly hear it – but I assumed that this was just something that everyone struggled with. And then I remember truly believing that pop stars didn't sing song words. I thought they just mumbled the words and that it was your job to guess what was being said.
On a totally separate subject, I actually used to think that was the whole point of Dictation exercises at school, too and often used to used them to creatively enhance the story instead of writing what was being said as I couldn't hear what was being said. And then was totally gutted and confused when I did badly in them.
Anyway, back to those song words. The first time I realised that song words actually did exist was when I started singing my own version of Hand On Your Heart by Kylie with some friends from my class on the rounders pitch and they all started laughing at me. Mortified, I found the words in the cassette cover and memorised the whole lot to prevent it happening again. Assuming that this is what all my friends had done in the first place.
On discovering I was deaf, a lot of things started to make sense – dictation at school was in fact a test of your ability to follow and write down a story without making errors, French listening was actually to see whether you understood the words, not whether you heard them, and the violin – those high notes, well that wasn't guess work, normal people could actually hear them.
And don't even get me started on the fact that birds actually sing.
Anyway, back to those song words. Back in the 90s, there was no internet to Google lyrics on, so instead I spent all my pocket money on Fast Forward and Smash Hits magazines so I could tear out the lyrics pages and learn them after recording the Top 40 charts off Radio 1 onto my pink and white cassette recorder.
For years, my bedroom cupboards were plastered with the lyrics to Chesney Hawkes, New Kids On The Block and most importantly Kylie.
Next, came a rather amazing school friend who wrote all the lyrics I requested into a book for me and another friend who mouthed them to me with hilarious home-made sign language that I can still remember to this day.
It worked – and it's these songs that I can still remember all the lyrics to.
By university, lyrics websites had popped up and so I printed and learnt the lyrics to the songs that I needed to bounce around to in the Students Union – storing them in a ring binder, creating quite a library. And then all of a sudden came the Sound Hound and Metro Lyrics apps which worked with your smartphone and literally turned it into a Karaoke machine and the rest is history.
To this day however, I still don't really get the importance of lyrics. In fact, quite often, learning the lyrics can actually ruin a song for me. My favourite songs are much more about the chord sequences or melodies than what the lyrics are. I feel quite lucky that while my deafness has take away so much clarity of speech, but I still seem to be able to retain my understanding of pitch and melody. So long as it's not more than an octave and a half above middle C.
But for the sake of my sanity, I did google the lyrics to Rotterdam Or Anywhere and they're really quite weird, but I'm going to learn them, if only to get me out of the 2-line repetitive rut I am stuck in.
So if you hear someone singing The Beautiful South, horribly out of tune in a check in queue at Heathrow in the next few weeks, be sure to wave won't you?