Cars and girls are easy come by
In this day and age;
Laughing, joking, drinking, smoking,
Till I've spent my wage.
When I was young
People spoke of immorality;
All the things they said were wrong
Are what I want to be.
Over under sideways down,
Backwards forwards square and round... (2x)
When will it end? (2x)
I find comment 'bout my looks
Think I'll go and have some fun,
'Cos it's all for free.
I'm not searching for a reason
To enjoy myself;
Seems it's better done than argue
With somebody else.
Over under sideways down
Backwards forwards square and round (4x)
[Coda and fade]
Over Under Sideways Down was also the American title of an album released in Britain as The Yardbirds. But from the British cover (Chris Dreja's line drawing of sound engineer Roger Cameron) the album became popularly known in England as Roger the Engineer in recognition that audio engineers were becoming major players in the development of psychedelic music. [As such, it is the first of a few albums of the 1960s that became known by a name ascribed to them by the audience, most famously The White Album by the Beatles, and the Dylan bootleg, Great White Wonder.] On this album, the only Yardbirds collection consisting entirely of original material, Jeff Beck, the lead guitarist, further explored electric guitar possibilities for psychedelia. The album was released in the UK in June 1966 and in the US in August 1966, shortly after the Beatles' Revolver. As Revolver is a milestone in the development of psychedelic music, I think it important to emphasize Roger the Engineer preceded the release of the Beatles album in the UK.
On the song Over Under Sideways Down, Jeff Beck seems to strangle his guitar so that it sounds more like a snake charmer's reed pipe, or pungi, than a string instrument. The melody line of the guitar runs with easy circularity marked by the boogie-woogie steps of a double bass sound, which are interrupted periodically by a Gregorian-like chant When will it end? The melody of the chorus, accentuated by "Hey!" is something of a Hungarian legenyes, an athletic dance for young men with much emphasis on boot-slapping, an appropriate mood for the masculine hedonistic theme of the lyric. In the coda, the guitar melody goes off into a wild improvisation with the bass turning into a drone until fadeout.
Long hair, a topic much discussed in the press, makes it into the Yardbirds' lyrics again (see Mister You're a Better Man Than I), a matter of grooming that was rarely sung about at the time. The lyrics remark, in an awkward fashion, on the "irrelativity" of one's looks; "relevance" would turn out to be a frequent word of judgment in 60s thought, especially to indicate outmoded knowledge. The song counsels that there is no further reason required for pleasure, as it is its own reward; one shouldn't waste time trying to justify it. However, the ghostly When will it end?, which periodically breaks the mood, seems to suggest that Over Under Sideways Down is a dance of the devil which will leave one forlorn eventually. One cannot dance like this forever...but the moment should be enjoyed in youth while girls are easy to come by. If there are regrets later, it doesn't matter today. The song would prove to be the Yardbirds' last single to break the Top 20 in the American market.