Photo by Ardian Lumi on Unsplash
2024 / April

The Birdie Song

How do you consider the lyrics of a song when it’s an instrumental?

The Retune Blog - 12th April 2024

If you grew up with family parties in the 1980’s then you’re likely to have fond memories of this week’s music choice. It’s The Birdie Song by The Tweets. Given this is a blog inspired by musical lyrics you may well be asking right now, wasn’t the birdie song an instrumental? Well, yes. At least sort of.

Whilst the official song didn’t have any lyrics, DJ’s at parties popularised a set of lyrics:

With a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a shake your bum.

I guess they were just commentating on the dance we all used to do. Which I suppose is just an extension of the adaptation which had already happened as the song was around in the 1950’s as a fairground polka and had just been adapted to the 1980’s style.

Thinking about the song this week has left me with three thoughts which I think have had a quite profound impact on me trying to live life well.

  • We always need to adapt - for things to work we need to bring them up to date. Make them work in our time and context. But as we adapt sometimes things don’t always make sense.
  • Sometimes, we make sense of things through commentating - so if the DJ’s adaptation of lyrics were just a commentary on the dance, this is probably something we do more often than we think. When we see something we fit words around what we see and then that becomes almost as real as the experience itself. It’s amazing how many people search for the lyrics of the birdie song when it was an instrumental because we all remember singing the unofficial lyrics.
  • We quickly fill in the gaps - one of the amazing things about the human brain is that it has this incredible ability to fill in the missing gaps. So when we want to sing along, lyrics develop and they become shared and popularised. Our brain does this with lots of our other experiences too, so we start to think something existed even when it didn’t.

Thinking about what all this tells us about wellbeing reminds me of a phrase from neuro-linguistic programming (NLP); the map is not the territory. We create a mental understanding of our experiences to help us make sense of them. But this tentative map can become as real to us as the experience itself. This should lead us to question the assumptions we have made about our own experiences and how we have thought about them.

Now who would have thought the lyricless birdie song would have contained so much psychological insight?

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Founder and Director of Metanoeo CIC and Metanoeo Coaching. Working with individuals, communities and business to co-create #wellbeing4all through life coaching, resources for living life well and training and supporting life coaches.

Joy of nothing

4 April 2024