“Go Back (You’re Going The Wrong Way)”, from Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s 1968 LP Wake Up… It’s Tomorrow, is perhaps the silliest song the band ever released, musically speaking. Mostly in 3/4 time, with slight, circus-like organ flutters emphasizing the goofiness of the waltz, the track tells a simplistic tale that takes, as usual, an unexpected, unexplained, and often-overlooked dark turn.
Without context or background, the ridiculous but well-arranged vocals tell of a land where people didn’t know how to make love. One couple figured it out, everyone caught on, and they all became “experts at love”. So far so good, if you can overlook the inconsequential feel of the whole thing.
Then there comes a few bars in 4/4 time, and when the song returns to 3/4, the lyrics are suddenly, and unaccountably, talking of “clouds in the sky” (of the dark, foreboding variety, that is) and how the people are no better off than they were when they started. Whence came these clouds? What is the nature of the trouble in these people’s lives? Who knows. By way of vague explanation, the lyrics explain that, having let love take over their lives, the ‘populace’ saw it grow too big and become a problem, though this is not explained further. Applying the lesson of the song to the modern world, the singers lament that
“The same thing is happening now
And still you will wonder how
Love can destroy what you love”
For a band with such a sunny pop reputation, and within such an otherwise forgettable song, the sentiment is an odd one: be careful with that love stuff, y’all — too much is too much. Quite what the band was going for here is elusive, at least to this writer, but the duality of the album’s happiest song (aggravatingly so) having the nonchalantly pessimistic outcome gives even this two minutes of tripe an intriguing dissonance that warrants further pondering. At least a little, maybe.
LP: Wake Up… It’s Tomorrow (1968)