Phantom Songs: Del Amitri – “Roll To Me”

rolltomePhantom Songs is an ongoing series of musical pieces that you can’t quite put your finger on. You have most definitely heard the song before, but are most likely not able to pinpoint who made it, when it was released, and/or what the song is really about. All of the artist’s history and biography was either stolen from wikipedia or made up entirely.

The mid-90s were an awkward time for Alternative Music. On the coattails of Cobain’s death, there was a sudden surge Wuss Rock™. We all know now that it was an elaborate ploy to make young men more sensitive, but back then, we couldn’t help but fall victim to the sensitive crooning of Dave Matthews, Gin Blossoms, Counting Crows, Hootie & the Blowfish and Soul Asylum [?]. It was cool to show your feelings and compliment women again, go buy them flowers and shit, play acoustic guitar and tell them how beautiful they are. Everybody was doing it and getting mad rich in the process. So these no-name hacks starting rolling in and striking gold, which brings us to today’s subject.

Enter Del Amitri: a band named after a word they made up, because they’re that damn cool. They found moderate success in their native land of Scotland, at one point opening for The Smiths, which is okay, sure, whatever, fine. But being popular in Scotland doesn’t garner any pop culture notoriety. So to catch up with American trends of being The Sensitive Guy With A Guitar, they wrote the only hit that mattered, “Roll To Me”. And now, you will hear this song in every media program that features a downtrodden teenage girl and an optimistic boy/dolphin/credit card that wants to show her all the world has to offer.

Its general tone is so uplifting that you don’t even need to listen to the words to know what it’s about. But I think it might be best if we listen anyway:

Look around your world, pretty baby
Is it everything you hoped it’d be?
The wrong guy, the wrong situation
The right time to roll to me

Like I said, optimistic, but vague. There seems to be a few possible meanings:

1) The singer is wooing and pursuing a girl with a shitty boyfriend/life/dolphin. Typical subject of a Wuss Rock hit.
2) The singer is about to marry a woman with a kid that’s losing the custody battle, even though the child’s father is an abusive drunk, he has a damned good lawyer. He believes that he can be a much better father and convince the court to grant him full custody. Either that, or he’s going to kill the dad.
3) The singer is a dolphin.

Look into your heart pretty baby
Is it achin’ with some nameless need?
Is there somethin’ wrong
And you can’t put your finger on it?
Right then, roll to me

Man, this guy is really prying. I feel like he wants something more than her love and acceptance. He wants her…money?!?!? That would make him a:

a) Pimp
b) Salesman
c) Drug Dealer
d) Cult Leader

The answer is E. So, let’s back everything up here and start from the beginning. Cyrus [I’m assuming the singer’s name is Cyrus or he wishes his name was Cyrus] is approached by a desperate woman. Probably for a job or food or directions to a nail salon or something. Immediately, he goes off criticizing this girl’s life as if he can read her mind. He says things that can be easily generalized and not denied. In the industry, they call it persuasion. He sells her the drug, she works for him now, she is his sheep, his everything. Cyrus is one evil dude. I shudder to think what he’s going to do next.

And I don’t think
I have ever seen a soul so in despair
So if you want to talk the night through
Guess who will be there?

He’s giving off another sermon. We can easily see now that she has melted into his claws. And he always has time for his children, always willing to fill them up with drugs and spend the entire night brainwashing. Pretty cut-and-dry cult leader, if you ask me. Where’s the creativity?

So don’t try to deny it pretty Baby
You’ve been down so long, you can hardly see
When the engine’s stalled and it won’t stop rainin’
It’s the right time to roll to me

Really?!? Really?!?! He gave her the Kool-Aid already?!!? It’s pretty clear; he asserts that she’s a drug addict who’s going nowhere and life is no longer worth living. She might as well just “roll” to Cyrus, so they can be in a better place for all of eternity. So swift and with no resonance or meaning. This song is the Lifetime Movie version of songs about cult leaders. It only focuses on Cyrus and everything we hear is inside his head. The girl might not even exist. He could be drowning hamsters for all we know [“roll to me”?]. It could be about Sonic The Hedgehog or smoking the ganja weed herb pot. However, if you consider the fact that the last 2 verses are repeats of earlier verses, it could possibly mean that the girl was poisoned and now her life is flashing before her eyes. It all makes sense, if you think about it hard enough and hate Scottish people.

This whole journey has only proved my point that most hit songs from the 90’s were about mind control. Whether they’re commanding you to “dance now”, “roll to me” or “dip”, most music acts made money off of telling us what to do. Whether it worked or not, you ask me. I can’t ever thump my feet without feeling an innate urge to pump up some jam. I’m sure there’s still people perpetually showing their Tootsie Roll. Some trances are difficult to shake.

Join me next time when I accuse The Goo Goo Dolls of being mass murderers!