Timing is everything

I will admit to being a professional lurker. I constantly listen not only to what people say but how they say it. My wife has accused me of being a parrot, for trying out what I perceive as different formulas of speaking, both semantically and phonetically. But there are also the rhetorical components in how performers take credit for or rationalize behavior and its consequences.

One form of this deflection is well stated in Dr John’s 1973 “Right Place, Wrong Time”
I been in the right place
But it must have been the wrong time
I’d of said the right thing
But I must have used the wrong line
I been in the right trip
But I must have used the wrong car
My head was in a bad place
And I’m wondering what it’s good for

I been the right place
But it must have been the wrong time
My head was in a place
But I’m having such a good time
I been running trying to get hung up in my mind
Got to give myself a little talking to this time

Just need a little brain salad surgery
Got to cure this insecurity
I been in the wrong place
But it must have been the right time
I been in the right place
But it must have been the wrong song
I been in the right vein
But it seems like the wrong arm
I been in the right world
But it seems wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong

Slipping, dodging ,sneaking
Creeping hiding out down the street
See me life shaking with every who I meet
Refried confusion is making itself clear
Wonder which way do I go to get on out of here

I been in the right place
But it must have been the wrong time
I’d have said the right thing
But I must have used the wrong line
I’d a took the right road
But I must have took a wrong turn
Would have made the right move
But I made it at the wrong time
I been on the right road
But I must have used the wrong car
My head was in a good place
And I wonder what it’s bad for

But this rhetorical device is considerably older than Dr. John Creaux’s funk version. Consider the Cecil Mack and Chris Smith pop song from 1908, “Right Church, Wrong Pew”
Right Church, Wrong Pew

Ed Morton recorded the “The right church but the wrong pew” June 11, 1908 on Victor 5501 (B-6263). (Cecil Mack-lyr, Chris Smith-cm).

Now who’s dat a-knocking, at this hour it’s shocking, to be banging on a lady’s door.
Said ‘Lizabeth Thompson “Tain’t a soul but Jim Johnson,
I will fool him and pretend I don’t live here no more.
Miss Thompson’s done moved sir, and the fact’s easy proved sir, ’cause her trunk and little things ain’t here.
I’m done explaining so there’s no need remaining, I am sorry for to tell you dear.

Chorus:
You’re in the right church but in the wrong pew,
You’ve got the right neighborhood that’s true.
You’re in the right street and what’s more,
You’re in the right house but on the wrong floor,
Now when you’re out late get the name straight, before you attempt to call,
You’re in the right church but the wrong pew that’s all.

One night while a-sleeping I heard somebody creeping, T’was a burglar man had come to call.
It cert’ny was funny ’cause he thought I had money, and as broke as I was then he tried to make a haul.
I yelled and said, “Mister I have got a rich sister, but she’s living on the floor below,
To whom it concerns sir, she’s got money to burn sir, Now you know exactly where to go.

Chorus

unsung in this version
Goodbye if you’re leaving and I hope you ain’t grieving, have you any message for your friend?
I know of a lady who will call on your baby, shall I tell her that you left word, you would call again?
Said Jim to Miss Thompson, “You just say that Jim Johnson call around to be a last adieu.
Now what’s that you’re saying look here Jim quit your playing
I was joking when I said to you.

Chorus
I suspect that the comic effect of bad timing is a narrative device with many more examples.

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