Awake at 3am

Photo adapted from one at

The things you hear

See update, 18-Feb-05.

My body clock is set for a different time zone, Iceland Standard Time, perhaps. When I was a youth, I was very much a night person, as seems biologically predetermined for youth. But now that I am a geezer, I am very much a day person, or at least I would be if I lived somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I wake up in the wee hours of the morning, at what my friend Patrick calls "the crack of stupid." For a long time I fought it, but I no longer do. I wake up when I wake up and that's that.

I keep the clock radio in my bedroom set at KCRW in Santa Monica. Actually, it's the repeater station in Indio, but you get the idea. This is by choice, but not exactly. You see, KCRW is one of only two FM stations that the radio can receive and that I will listen to. That is, not conservative talk radio, not religious radio, not country/western, not .... KCRW carries the main news programs from National Public Radio and also plays a very eclectic selection of music. The instruction to disk jockeys seems to be, Whatever!

This morning I awoke at about a quarter to three and on the way back from the bathroom pressed the button for an hour of radio. The music they were playing was something very modern, very electronic, very repetitive, very trance-like or trance-inducing. It went on an on. But every now and then, there was a refrain that came across the airways with crystal clarity.

My finger is on your butt!

I'm sure that's what the words were: "My finger [short pause] is on your butt!" (But see update below.) They were more spoken than sung and in a robotic, speech-synthesized manner.

I've never been good at understanding the lyrics of modern music. The sounds and words all just run together, and for me, listening to most songs is like listening to people speak a foreign language. There's an occasional word or syllable that makes sense, but that's it. The rest is just sounds.

My finger is on your butt!

I turned on the light. You can always hear better with the light on. Watch any movie or TV show: the people are sleeping soundly, they hear a sound, they immediately reach over and turn on the light.

My finger is on your butt!

There was no mistaking it. The words before and after were garbled gibberish, but the refrain could not be more clear.

My finger is on your butt!

According to the station's playlist, this song should have been "Galvanize" from the album Digital Ash in a Digital Urn by Chemical Brothers, or "Africa" from the album X Amounts of Niceness by Cottonbelly.

My finger is on your butt!

Digital Ash album cover

Come to think of it, the rest of the song sounds like something that would be done by a band calling themselves Chemical Brothers, although I've never heard of them before. But the name is suggestive.

My finger is on your butt!

What are you supposed to do with a refrain like that? Think about it— My finger is on your butt. Not my hand, my finger. Whose butt? Whose finger? Which finger? Is this accidental, or intentional? It's just all too much to puzzle out at 3am.

And then it was time for Morning Edition, with its insufferably perky co-hosts. Since NPR fired long-time host Bob Edwards to make-over Morning Edition the show has become almost unlistenable.

Oh, how I miss Bob Edwards.

A reader responds:


The track he's talking about IS in fact "Galvanize" by the Chemical Brothers. The actually lyric is "My finger / is on the button." The album is actually called "Push the Button" - the other album he is talking about, "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn," is in fact by Bright Eyes, aka Conor Oberst - who was born on the exact same day as me!

Looks like KCRW has corrupted playlist metadata!
— Justin

I'm grateful for the clarification, but my version of the lyrics was more fun. How fun it would be to meet Justin, who knows such an obscure track and album from a lyric so badly garbled—

It also looks like KCRW has fixed the playlist. It now attributes The Chemical Brothers with Galvanize from the album Push the Button. That, or my eyes were crossed at 3am.