Dear Ed

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dearedDear Edifice,

You obviously have an ear finely tuned to poetic turns of phrase. When was the first time the seductive tones of poetry whispered to you from the shadows?

Frank Lee

Dear Frank,

Are you sitting comfortably? It wasn't poetry at all that made me feel funny inside. It was the little known American folk-poet Charles 'Chuck' Berry and a song called 'Maybellene'. Okay, when you've finished sniggering I'll go on. Are we all done at the back? Okay.

'Maybellene' is about a car chase and lost love, like all good pop songs. It has a line in it, 'As I was motivatin' over the hill, I saw Maybellene in a Coupe de Ville' and my teenage ears (and, shortly afterwards, my teenage brain) went, What? What is motivatin'?

I knew the word motivation but this was the first time I'd heard an adult playing with words in a serious way. It wasn't nonsense poetry like Edmund Lear or Spike Milligan or Jack Prelutsky, which even as kid I found too forced. In all truth, it probably came about because Berry needed to add another syllable to 'motoring'. Besides, it sounded better.

I've never seen a Coupe de Ville and I only managed to work out the lyrics to 'Maybellene' after playing the song on scratched vinyl about 20 times, but it's a glorious rhyme and it's stayed with me in my mental junk drawer for far too many years.

Thanks for asking,