203. Reverse Engineering

I know nothing about the topic. Almost, I mean I can spell the term. I just like the sound of it, how it seems to suggest that I might be smart enough to follow it up with related meaty thoughts. I think the phrase means something like beginning with a finished  product and deconstructing it to figure out how it was made and then copying that product, often without permission. (Shhhh!!!  I believe the Chinese are skilled at this sort of thing, but I don’t want to be considered xenophobic, another favorite word of mine that I can’t often use in context. It’s just awkward for everyone when there’s a sneeze, and instead of “Gesundheit”, I say, “Xenophobia to you and your germs.”) I suppose the folks who do this are called reverse engineers. So the guys at the other end, the creators, should be known as forward engineers, I guess, but not in the social sense of “being forward” because we know engineers are mostly awkward, socially backward nerds. In fact, the only engineer joke I know was told to me by a backward, stuttering engineer.

The set up line went like this– “You know I-I-ifffff  engineers ra-ra-ran the wha-wha- world, ev-ev-rytha-tha-thing woo-w00-w0uld work and ruh-ruh-run on ta-ta-ta-ta-time.”

The punch line eventually followed– “Ba-ba-but nah-ha-no bah-bah-body woo-wooo-would have any fffffffun!”

I liked it with or without the stutter. Even if you stutter backwards.

This reverse engineering process has been very helpful for military purposes, I understand. For instance, if you find an unexploded Russian missile in your yard, and you successfully take it apart and duplicate each component, then put it back together, you wind up with two Russian missiles in your backyard. You can sell one or blow one up and keep the other for breeder stock.  Reverse engineering at last defeats the age old proposition that ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’. Well, yes you can if you are eating cell phones or computers or missiles. Hah! Take that you snarky old xenophobic naysayers.

Now I just need to find something to deconstruct, figure out, and then duplicate.  The only thing that comes to mind is a Marvin Gaye song, which may be because I heard it on the radio on my way in to work this morning.  HMMM, but as I ponder this process, I realize that Marvin already did this. He found the love missile in “What’s Goin’ On?” and duplicated it successfully in “Let’s Get It On” and then resurrected that song into “Keep On Getting It On”.  And we’re all better for it. Thanks, Marvin. Now let’s look carefully at the components he skillfully manipulated.

“What’s Going On”

Mother, mother There’s too many of you crying Brother, brother, brother There’s far too many of you dying You know we’ve got to find a way To bring some lovin’ here today – Ya
Father, father We don’t need to escalate You see, war is not the answer For only love can conquer hate You know we’ve got to find a way To bring some lovin’ here today
Picket lines and picket signs Don’t punish me with brutality Talk to me, so you can see Oh, what’s going on What’s going on Ya, what’s going on Ah, what’s going on
In the mean time Right on, baby Right on Right on
Father, father, everybody thinks we’re wrong Oh, but who are they to judge us Simply because our hair is long Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way To bring some understanding here today Oh
Picket lines and picket signs Don’t punish me with brutality Talk to me So you can see What’s going on Ya, what’s going on Tell me what’s going on I’ll tell you what’s going on – Uh Right on baby Right on baby
And now for the reverse engineering by Wikipedia.

What’s Going On” is a song by American recording artist Marvin Gaye, released in 1971 on the Motown subsidiary, Tamla. Originally inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, the song was composed by Benson, Al Cleveland and Gaye and produced by Gaye himself. The song, which focused on major seventh and minor seventh chords, and was oriented in sounds by jazz, gospel and classical music orchestration, was mainly viewed as a meditation on the troubles and problems of the world, proving to be a timely and relatable release, and marked Gaye’s departure from the Motown Sound towards more personal material. Later topping the Hot Soul Singles chart for five weeks and crossing over to number-two on the Billboard Hot 100, it would sell over two million copies, becoming Gaye’s second most successful Motown song to date.

The song topped Detroit‘s Metro Times list of the 100 Greatest Detroit Songs of All Time, and in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the fourth greatest song of all time, in its updated 2011 list, the song remained at that position. It is also included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame‘s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list, along with two other songs by the singer. It was also listed at number fourteen on VH-1‘s 100 Greatest Rock Songs.

So there you have it. Now, just go out and find a modern equivalent of police brutality and work it into a new sound that can appeal to all audiences. Have a silky voiced dude record it flawlessly but passionately. Release it during an unsettled period of history. Then wait for it to go platinum.  In the meantime bake two cakes and eat one.