Day 179: Phantom Songs: Bananarama – “Robert DeNiro’s Waiting”

Phantom 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.

Back in college, I was a dabbler in the act of ingesting Psilocybin Mushrooms, as many were ought to do. [And Mom, I know this is a dumb way for you to learn about this, but I’m pretty sure we have had this discussion before and I forgot. You probably forgot as well. Rest assured, I haven’t done anything of the sort in well over 9 years and it was always a safe and light-hearted time. Moving on now.] I didn’t do it to expand my mind or find enlightenment. I just wanted to laugh uncontrollably and be overly fascinated by minutiae. This fascination carried over into my adult life and that’s why a lot of my writing is so oddly specific. A few of us were sitting in the living room on one of those particular evenings, struggling mightily to play Sonic The Hedgehog 3. Serendipitously, a poster on the wall caught my attention. It was Taxi Driver, because I was a 20 year old dude that played Sega on mushrooms, of course I would also own a goddamn Taxi Driver poster. Something about the poster drew me and I couldn’t look away. Something about it I had never noticed before. And I never looked at it the same way again. I interrupted the loud conversation that was going on to report my findings.

Guys! Guys! Shut up!

Robert De Niro is walking!

Yep. It was just a picture of Robert De Niro walking. But it felt so special. Where was he walking to? What was he walking on? Did other people notice him walking? Or was he walking in place for the sake of a perfect still image? As the night wore on, I kept randomly stating that Robert De Niro was still walking. I imagined him at my age, walking, and announcing to everyone that he was doing so. Although in my mind, he was still the same age. It’s impossible to imagine him as a child or teenager. I came to the conclusion that night that Robert De Niro was born at the age of 30. I also concluded that he’s walking. I learned a lot on that particular trip.

Fast-forward 12 years and it was another slow day at work. The same Bananarama song played at 7, just as it did every night that week. “Something mumble something mumble, talking to Tanya”. You know the one. Or maybe you don’t. Doesn’t matter. I went to the stereo to check the title and see if maybe it would be Phantom Song-worthy. The screen on the stereo read, “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” and my brain completely melted. Why would Bananarama make a song about Robert De Niro, let alone one about him doing something totally innocuous? I never saw the song title before, why did my mushroom-riddled subconscious find significance in him walking? Which made me think, maybe he’s not walking in the picture. Maybe he’s waiting. Maybe Bananarama also did drugs and stared at the Taxi Driver poster for too long. Who in the hell was Tanya? What does any of it mean?

And most importantly, do the answers lie within the lyrics?

Hopes dashed to the floor
Like shattered teenage dreams
Boys living next door
Are never what they seem ooooh
A walk in the park can become a bad dream
People are staring and following me
This is my only escape from it all
Watching a film or a face on the wall

So the protagonist just had her heart broken, it seems. And although the following lines can be interpreted as her going into isolation from it, I’d rather read between the lines. Some people turn to substances to cope. So maybe, just maybe, she ate some mushrooms to get over the bad times, but it turned into a bad trip. She becomes increasingly suspicious of her neighbors. She briefly went on a stroll in the park, but just like any good-hearted person that encounters sober people while tripping, she assumed that they all knew and were staring at her. So the only thing keeping her trip from turning volatile was watching TV…or a poster on the wall.

A poster…of Robert De Niro…


Robert De Niro’s waiting
Talking Italian

Wait, what the hell? There is no Tanya and nobody’s talking to her. It’s actually Robert De Niro, talking Italian, while waiting. Phantom Songs originated from me never knowing the right words to songs, but this might be the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. For the last 33 years, I thought Bananarama was talking to Tanya. Now she never existed. What the hell am I supposed to do with my life, now?!?

I don’t want a boy
I’ve got a man of steel
Don’t come any closer
I don’t wanna feel, ooh
Your breathing, your touching
But nothing’s for free
I never want this to happen to me
Don’t try to change me you’re wasting your time
Now I’ve got something much better in mind

If there’s one thing I know about mushrooms, it’s that I would never want to do any sexy stuff on them. Just mere human contact seems weird and alien. Touching another person’s skin? Ewwww. That’s gross. It’s probably all warm and sticky and stuff. Our protagonist clearly feels the same way. On top of that, it seems like she also doesn’t want to do it in the future. She’d rather just spend her days chilling out, tripping and staring at a Taxi Driver poster.

So there you have it. A random mushroom trip I had in 2008 subconsciously recreated a song from 1984, of which I had no idea what the actual lyrics were. It’s fun to think that, but it’s also a total reach. It was stated in an interview with The Guardian that the song was written while they were on a Scorsese kick. It’s essentially about choosing a fantasy relationship with a celebrity over a real-life one, especially after being sexually assaulted. They chose De Niro to be that celebrity, because it was more phonetically pleasing than Al Pacino. She wasn’t on drugs, she was just in isolation and traumatized. Every connection I thought it had to my trip is just a coincidence.

So that’s it. Case closed. Or is it? There’s still a music video. In it, the “Robert De Niro” character is not waiting. He’s walking. He’s walking the whole damn time. And what does he do at the end? He delivers goddamn mini pizzas in a violin case. I’m sorry, but that’s some stoner ass shit. Once again, I have to pull back to my mushroom theory. Even though there were no mushrooms on the pizza. Time is a flat circle and obviously, this song is some Nelson Mandella shit custom engineered to fuck with me and with me only. I’ll never know for sure, because the Time Cops won’t let me. But there’s one thing that’s certain: as long as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, Robert De Niro is walking.

He’ll always be walking.

– TeeCoZee