Tony Orlando And Stalk

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December 1, 2017 by T. Gregory Argall

In late 1970 Tony Orlando & Dawn launched their careers with a huge chart-topping hit in the song “Knock Three Times.” It reached number one on the charts in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, and became a perennial favourite for Scots to dance the Slosh to, as demonstrated by John Barrowman and his parents at a 2009 Glasgow concert.

And the lyrics are creepy as hell.

The song tells the story of a man who is obsessed with the woman who lives in the apartment below his. Feeling that actually speaking to her like a normal person would be a little too forward and presumptuous, he instead lowers a note on a string, from his window to hers. In the note he instructs her to knock on the ceiling three times to show her willingness to hook up, or tap twice on the pipes to indicate that she is not interested in pursuing a relationship with him.

And it gets worse.

Here are the lyrics for the first verse and chorus…

Hey girl what ya doin’ down there?
Dancin’ alone every night while I live right above you
I can hear your music playin’
I can feel your body swayin’
One floor below me you don’t even know me
I love you

Oh my darling
Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me
Twice on the pipe if the answer is no
Oh my sweetness
>nok-nok-nok< Means you’ll meet me in the hallway
Twice on the pipe >tap-tap< means you ain’t gonna show

Let’s examine this line by line.

Hey girl what ya doin’ down there?
This is not how one starts a note to a stranger. He’s making a poor first impression. I mean, even more so, after the weirdness of hanging the note outside her window.
More than anything else, the question sounds like random fellatio banter between lovers. A bold and inappropriate opening sentence for a letter of introduction.

(Side Note: Fellatio Banter was the original name of the Nathan Detroit character in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” He even had his own song –Do That Tongue-Tappin’ Boogie– but the producers interfered and said the name sounded “too ethnic.”)

Dancin’ alone every night while I live right above you
And he answers his own question, seemingly knowing things that he shouldn’t be able to know. Unless he’s watching her through the window, this woman he has never actually spoken to.

I can hear your music playin’
Maybe she’s one of those annoying neighbours that cranks up their music with no consideration for the people living around her. You almost feel sorry for him. Just for a moment.
The feeling doesn’t last.

I can feel your body swayin’
What? And she doesn’t notice? Did he mug some poor hobbit and steal his invisibility ring just to get disturbingly close to this unsuspecting woman? Well, no. That’s impossible. It’s more likely he’s touching himself while mimicking her dance moves as he watches through the window.
Makes your brain scream just reading that, doesn’t it?

One floor below me you don’t even know me
I love you
Two things going on here.
1/ Although yes, that’s how apartment buildings work, he’s also metaphorically reminding her that he views her as being beneath him. He is establishing a social hierarchy with himself in the dominant position.
2/ He’s declaring his love for this woman that he has never actually met, never spoken to, never heard her speak to him. For all he knows she could have a voice like Lina Lamont in “Singin’ In The Rain.” Maybe with her squeaky, nails-on-a-chalkboard voice she nothing but a constant stream of racist, hateful rhetoric. He doesn’t know. All he knows is what she looks like and based on that alone he has decided that he loves her.
That’s not love, that’s lust, that’s a desire to possess and control something beautiful simply because it’s beautiful.

Then he sings the chorus with arbitrary pet names –Oh my darling, Oh my sweetness– and issues instructions on how to submit to him.
Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me
Twice on the pipe if the answer is no
There is no midground here. There is no offer to meet over coffee, chat for a bit and get to know each other. There is only want or denial. It’s all or nothing. “Either you submit to my sexual demands tonight or you are dead to me.”
At least with the Yellow Ribbon song “ignore him and he’ll go away” was an option.
If I don’t see a ribbon ’round the ole oak tree
I’ll stay on the bus
Forget about us
Put the blame on me

It’s the mature, responsible thing to do. You know, if you’re working on a scale to “Petty” to “Petulant” but still…
Not so in this case. He is demanding that she make a choice. He repeats the options, but this time adds sound effects.
>nok-nok-nok< Means you’ll meet me in the hallway
Twice on the pipe >tap-tap< means you ain’t gonna show
The sound of a metal pipe is not-so-subtly intimidating. You just know what will happen if she says, “No.”

But keep dancing because the melody is kind of happy and uplifting.

In the second verse things really go off the rails.

If you look out your window tonight
Pull in the string with the note that’s attached to my heart
Read how many times I saw you
How in my silence I adored you
Only in my dreams did that wall between us come apart

There’s a lot to unpack there.

Viewing the song as a note, we can view this verse as the second paragraph of the note. So, in the second paragraph of his note, he begs her to look out the window, see the note on a string, and read what he has written.
If she has read far enough to– Nope, I can’t finish that sentence without lowering my IQ to shoe size level. Just thinking about it, I can hear brain cells exploding, popping like Rice Krispies.

This is some next-level stalker loopy thinking. The guy in this song has a serious disconnect with reality. He’s lost touch with the movement of time and has no understanding of sequential cause and effect. He’s living in a fantasy world where events around him cater to his whims and he he’s displaying classic predatory tendencies.
Dude is scary and she’s in obvious danger.

Fortunately, the song is about three minutes long, so maybe she’ll have time to escape while he’s singing his demands at her.

Anyway, enjoy the earworm.


Try to be nice to each other.



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