Wire: Ex Lion Tamer
x Lion Tamer” was the first Wire song I heard by a significant margin; I caught it on an oldies show on music television (yeah, I don’t know why they were playing Wire either), and out of context from everything else they’ve ever done I naively figured them for just another old punk band with one great single. Because, I mean, “Ex Lion Tamer” is definitely great. It’s got that nagging little piano in the back of the second half of the song, it’s about as pop as the band got back then, and it’s got a great Colin Newman chorus. But I’m not here to talk about the song, I’m here to talk about the fun I’ve had with it over the years.
See, I wasn’t paying enough attention when I saw it that first time, and I never retained the name of the band, or even the song. That riff and the indelible refrain stuck with me, though, and I’d find it popping into my head at odd times during the intervening five years. How did it go? “Take me to your something something”? All I could ever think of was “leader” to end that sentence, but I knew that didn’t fit. Singing “Ex Lion Tamer” in the shower was quite funny; I always ended up choking out the last bit the same way Ash from Army Of Darkness never quite finishes the magic words. And of course the rest of the song, save for the “There’s great danger” opening line, was completely butchered. At least I could imitate the other guy going “TV!” in the background. No-one I knew, not even my dad, could tell me what the song was. But that end section, the same damn thing repeated over and over again (“TV!”) until it becomes anthemic.
“Take me to your something something (TV!)
Take me to your something something (TV!)
Take me to your something something!”
And then, years later, I started hearing about this band Wire (through the whole “Three Girl Rumba”/“Connection” uproar, unsurprisingly). I downloaded a bunch of recommended songs, but as is so often the case with downloads I didn’t wind up hearing them until weeks later. And then…
“There’s great danger
In the loneliest ranger of all…”
Holy shit! That teenage favorite of half-forgotten yob-punk was actually the well-respected Wire?! Since I’d been living with a pale copy for years, I fell hard for “Ex Lion Tamer” once again. I played the shit out of this song for about a month before I finally got up the nerve to actually look up the line I’d been garbling for so long.
“Stay glued to your TV set”
Oh. Really? Well, I had “to your” right. The song makes a lot more sense now, and of course I still love it, but there was something in those nonsense syllables I used to sing along to that no amount of sense can replace. As John Gardner pointed out in his great novel Grendel, one of the tragedies of existence is that “alternatives exclude”. Any single answer to the question of what that line is wasn’t going to be as exciting as the wild swirl of what it might have been. The ‘old’ “Ex Lion Tamer” was different every time I heard it, always shaping itself to my mood and situation. It’s still an incredible song (especially in context on Pink Flag), but it’s no longer my song. Ah, well; we’ll always have “something something”, baby.
By: Ian Mathers
Published on: 2004-10-13