“Turn me on”: I scored 10 goals (hurrah!) … in a 9-1 defeat (oh…)

SongExpresso is frustrated. This song was high on my list of songs to review, and I have often used its first line as an example of a great simile/analogy in songwriting. It may be that Norah Jones’ version lifted the entire song up to a new level and made it sound smooth and glorious. But I was really looking forward to analysing this one and when I actually saw the remaining lyrics my heart sank (with a sound like a penny falling into a wishing well – ha!).

Listen to this:

Like a flower…. Waiting to bloom 

I’m just sitting here waiting for you

To come on home and turn me on

Press pause. Wow. I’m thinking “this guy is a genius” – what a fantastic image – a closed flower, waiting to become fulfilled and complete, full of antici — pation, so quiet but so sexy. And perhaps best of all (without wishing to get into plant anatomy) equally applicable to males and females, same effect. Compare that to “your sex is on fire… consumed by what’s to transpire” – same idea, right? Which do you prefer? (I already know – but then I do like new and outlandish images and metaphors).

He’s taken the ball from the kick-off, run 50 yards and hit a screamer into the top corner. 1-0. Should really count double. Maybe it’s an away goal, like if this was the Champions L… (hey, cut it out, Ed.)

Memorable. Like a delicious white prawn in a Spanish beach café. This meal is going to be amazing… 

But then I wake up. The match continues. I stumble over my feet and put the ball into my own net. I don’t really want it back but manage to mis-control it and it rebounds again past my own goalkeeper. Now I really want to get out of here. Ball comes back, ouch, in the goal again. Is it half-time yet? My whole body is tense like an elevator cable. I gesture to the half way line to be substituted, speechless as if I am breathing sand. The ball bobbles again across my own goal line like an oblivious puppy. I am desperate and frantic and trying anything to control the situation. Same result. The whistle blows. 9-1.

But wait. Before starting to criticize the writer (the prolific and respected John D. Loudermilk), let’s do a little research. Here we get some explanation (great resource by the way).

Aha. Turns out these are not the original lyrics. John D.’s version is here. We are told (caution, internet speaking) that Nina Simone changed it. Qué?! The original is really quite different (and I think much better – the tides and stars images really work). A whole different tone really – it was about lost love and the despair of the writer that his ex won’t be coming home and he will be waiting for ever. 

So, not John D.., but Nina…? Nina, what were you doing?

John D. started it so well. Really got my hopes (and stamen) up. I do understand the decision to take the song in a different direction. That the lover is not gone forever, just maybe tantalizingly round the corner (did they have an argument?) and we’re imagining the scene when he/she reappears tonight. But…

Nina’s version is just so, well, ordinary and – for me at least – actually not good at all. Bad rhymes. Clichees. Metaphors that are really the opposite of sexy (school kids? glass of water?). Contrived lines like “you’re the one who turns me off; you’re the only one who can turn me back on”…. All sounds so rushed and careless, and so not SongExpresso. You gave me the prawn; but then the wine was rough, and the steak was (ahem) tough…

What do you think? Am I wrong? Is the opening really that good? Is the rest really that awful? What are the good bits? Could it be improved with some better rhymes and images? Should Norah have gone back to the original? How would it sound then? Do you think she considered it? But on the plus side, note the change of direction – do you have a song about “lost love” that could actually be a song about “delayed love”? Or vice-versa? Could be a great way of turning an interesting song into SongExpresso.

Here are the full texts. Have a think and let me know…



By John D. Loudermilk

©1961 Acuff-Rose Publ. Inc.

Alt. lyrics as recorded by Nina Simone (1966) and Norah Jones (2000):

Like a flower waiting to bloom

Like a light bulb in a dark room

I’m here waiting for you to come on home

And turn me on


Like the desert waiting for rain

Like a school kid waiting for spring

I’m sitting here waiting for you to come on back home

And turn me on


My poor heart, it’s been so dark

Since you’ve been gone

After all, you’re the one who turned me off

Now you’re the only one who can turn me back on.


My hi-fi’s waiting for a new tune (or tube? Ed.)

And my glass is waiting for some fresh ice-cubes.

I’m just sitting here waiting for you to come home

And turn me on


Lyrics on the original recording of Mark Dinning (1961):


Like a flower waiting to bloom

Like a light bulb in a dark room

I’ve been waiting for you to come back home

And turn me on


Like a puppy waiting to bay

Like a jukebox waiting to play

Like I’m waiting, so come on home

And turn me on


My poor heart, it’s been so dark

Since you, since you up and said goodbye

Lord, I don’t eat, I can’t sleep

I just sit here, I just sit here, and I cry


Like the moonlight turns on the tides

Like the sunset turns on the stars

I’m here a-waiting, oh, come on home

And turn me on


(source: Standard Songs Pop/Country/Blues/Folk/Instumentals/Novelty, Acuff-Rose Publications Inc. 1956-1973)  http://www.ihesm.com/jdllyr/LyTurnMeOn.html

One thought on ““Turn me on”: I scored 10 goals (hurrah!) … in a 9-1 defeat (oh…)

  1. Just found this in The Great Gatsby ch. 6: "At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete" – a bit of inspiration for this?


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