Those Faraway Eyes – discovering a classic Rolling Stones lyric

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Recently, a student chose to analyse the 1978 Rolling Stones song Girl with Faraway Eyes as related material for the Area of Study: Discovery. As a class, we viewed the music video and although the analysis was based on the song lyric, the facial expressions of the band highlights the tone of the song.

Is this song an example of spiritual discovery? When I mentioned this in the staffroom, teachers were initially sceptical about the notion of Mick Jagger experiencing a spiritual epiphany even though they were not familiar with the song. I knew this ‘girl’ from my high school years and the album Some Girls.

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Following our discussion, students understood the satirical nature of the lyrics. Specific features that could be discussed include:

  • title: suggests an escapist attitude, and the chorus of ‘get a girl …’ reinforces the cliche of ownership or power imbalance within stereotypical heterosexual relationships
  • the word ‘faraway’ reminds us of an aspect of discovery new worlds or ideas
  • first person perspective invites the audience to understand the narrative
  • mocking tone and long duration of word ‘Lord’ contrasts with expectation of respect, reinforced by action of running ‘Twenty red lights in [H]is honor’
  • repetition of ‘thank you’ references Christian prayer, yet supports sarcastic mood
  • impersonal pronoun ‘she’ either reinforces female objectification (see earlier point re stereotypical relationships) or anonymity allows for inclusive connection with audience
  • descriptive language ‘a little bleary, a little worse for wear and tear’ uses repetition and assonance in cliched imagery that euphemistically suggests a female of loose morals
  • use of second person, ad colloquial language – contraction ‘you’re’ in chorus provides advice on how a dreary life could be made more interesting
  • third verse reference to the payment of money – ‘ten dollars’ – as a guarantee that ‘dreams could come true’ positions the listener to consider the negative impact of commodification in religious worship
  • changing word choice from ‘harmonise’ to ‘sympathise’ in the repeated chorus at end of song evokes a shift in emotional response – from a feeling of being part of a group narrative to that of an understanding observer

Ultimately, we discover the cynical attitude of rock star celebrities towards institutional Christian religion. The specific location references to Bakersfield and Los Angeles remind us of an accepted cultural cliche that ‘anything is possible in America’.

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