November 16, 1998



  Mike's Comment
of the Week
  Cool Site of the Week
  Comment Archives
  Industry Links
  Send us e-mail
    Mail Us

Most of the late Laura Nyro's better known compositions--Wedding Bell Blues, Sweet Blindness, Save the Country, And When I Die--are accessible enough. With their straight ahead lyrics and sweet melodies, these songs, and others, made Nyro a 60's icon, if not exactly a star.

And yet, one of the hits, Stoned Soul Picnic, which peaked at number 3 in 1968 with the Fifth Dimension cover, is enigmatic and difficult.

The song opens with "Can you surry, can you picnic?"

"Surry" as a verb? Note that the word is rendered thus on lyric sheets. We could assume she meant "surrey," since the dictionary does not recognize "surry."

OK, then. We all know that a surrey is a four-wheel two-seated horse-drawn pleasure carriage. So Laura is just hearkening back to a simpler time. Fair enough.

One other thought is that "surry" could be a contraction of "Let's hurry," and that makes things a bit easier to handle.

Now for "stoned soul." Is she trying to describe a state where the soul, and not the body, gets high? This is surely hard to understand. Could it be a religious experience?

"There'll be lots of time and wine." Easy enough.

"Red yellow honey sassafras and moonshine". Moonshine is clear and sassafras is used as a flavoring agent and diaphoretic (agent to make one sweat). Perhaps Laura is just appealing to our senses here.

Now for the big concepts: "Rain and sun come in akin, and from the sky come the Lord and the lightnin'." It IS a religious experience. Our souls are stoned.

And then: "trains of blossoms, trains of music, trains of trust, trains of golden dust." Here "train" can be understood as a sort of aftermath, or accompanying or resultant circumstances. Think of a wedding dress train. This would be something that follows the Lord and the lightnin'.

Finally, we get a fade out with "surry" repeated many times. What is this obsession with "surry?"

Try this: Laura is combining "surrey" with "sorry," and "hurry" in a kind of triple entendre. Strip off the modern conveniences, hurry down to the Lord's picnic and be sorry for your sins. This is a good working definition of the Catholic sacrament of confession or reconciliation.

Whew!! Come to a picnic for your soul, and experience a religious event. Heavy going for the then 20 year old tunesmith. Heavy going, all right, but easily expressed just the same.

Laura revealed much of herself in the Eli and the Thirteenth Confession album, and the work still moves us, 31 years later.


Last Update:
Copyright ©1996 - 2000 Interscan Corporation. All rights reserved.
All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.