Song Lyric Sunday – The Fool on the Hill

The prompt from Jim and from yours truly:

This week we have Elevator music which was suggested by Maggie of Cave Walls.

The prompt this week was my idea so I’ll just go ahead and apologize right up front for that. I remember when I suggested it to Jim and he reminded me that Song Lyric Sunday has to do with ‘lyrics’ which might be absent in much elevator music. My thinking was about the songs we grew up with that were turned into easy listening, on loop music, played to soothe us, or lull us into purchasing decisions we might not otherwise make.

Muzak was the primary source of elevator music. To understand its origins we must go back to radio in its infancy. Radio required expensive equipment and was not designed to deliver free music to the masses. Enter Major General George Owen Squier who invented ‘wired radio’ as a way of delivering music over wires. This was the beginning of Muzak and the piping of music to the masses no matter where they gathered.

As radio progressed and music became available over the airwaves, Muzak needed a new audience. ‘Canned music’ was taken into businesses as a way to fill the uncomfortable silence while shopping and to soothe the nerves of people riding in skyscraper elevators in complete silence.

I read a few blogs about elevator music and learned some interesting things. Music is used to impact our purchasing decisions, speed us up or slow us down, and has even been used to drive unwanted patrons away from one’s establishment. It is rumored The Beatles actually purposely recorded some of their songs as elevator-type music to appeal to the adults with buying power to help sell their music. “Yesterday” might be one of the most popular songs heard as background instrumental music.

Over the years elevator music has changed. It is now played in the background at the mall, in the grocery stores, and while we are trapped helplessly on hold. I was so relieved when Apple put an option in to hold with or without music. The music was once almost completely instrumental, then there was a period when songs were re-recorded in an easy listening style often including lyrics. When my kids went off to college, I often noticed the music they listened to while locked away in their bedrooms as teens now played as I shopped in the grocery store. (I listened to a lot of Pearl Jam back in the day thanks to my son.)

Groups like 101 Strings and Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66 often had that elevator sound to their music. And of course, some groups’ own natural sound seemed to lend itself to this type of music. Steely Dan, Bossanova groups, The Carpenters, The BeeGees – even Adele’s songs are recorded as instrumentals and played as background music everywhere. I find it interesting that someone’s full-time job consists of curating music loops for individual business brands that subscribe to their service. Spotify, YouTube, Sirius XM, and Pandora all have ‘elevator music’ or ‘muzak’ playlists, too.

The first song that came to mind for me was one I featured a while back on SLS – “The Girl from Ipanema” but since I had written about it not too long ago, I moved on to my second choice.  The song I chose to feature is a Beatles song – “The Fool on the Hill”.  The song was written by Paul McCartney and credited to the Lennon-McCartney partnership. Below I have included both the Beatles version and the version by Sergio Mendez so you can hear the contrast.

The Fool on the Hill
Lyrics from

Day after day
Alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin
Is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
And he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning ’round

Well on the way
Head in a cloud
The man of a thousand voices
Talking perfectly loud

But nobody ever hears him
Or the sound he appears to make
And he never seems to notice

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning ’round

And nobody seems to like him
They can tell what he wants to do
And he never shows his feelings

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning ’round, oh oh oh, ’round ’round ’round ’round

He never listens to them
He knows that they’re the fools
They don’t like him

The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning ’round

Oh, ’round ’round ’round ’round, oh

Song Lyric Sunday is hosted every Sunday by Jim Adams. If you would like to join in the fun, check out his blog for the rules and to take in all the other music posted by other bloggers.