10 October 2016, No. 200, Stevie Wonder, ‘All Day Sucker’

With today’s tune I don’t have yesterday’s problem. That is, I see the title “All Day Sucker” at No. 200 and I know exactly which Stevie Wonder tune it is. Probably because the hook follows a rhythm guitar line pretty precisely, though it could be the Clavinet playing that line; I’ve learned recently that the Clavinet plays wound strings in the same manner a guitarist performs a hammer-on, but I’m pretty sure the line I’m talking about bears the plucked character of a string picked with a plectrum. (In the same manner that I may be confusing a guitar for a Clavinet, I often confuse the words plectrum and plenum.) Obviously there was plenty of multitracking on this tune, but I’ll also point out that there are three guitarists credited, one lead and two rhythm, but only Stevie himself was handling keys, making it seem even more likely to me to be a guitar part. And there’s a little pitch bend on the last note, but apparently there’s also a Clavinet modification that adds a whammy bar. I hope it’s Michael Sembello (later of “Maniac” fame) laying down the plinky little guitar groove to which the refrain conforms. (Interestingly enough, Sembello has one of those Castlebar Clavinets in the “Maniac” video I was watching. Huh. Wonder if it’s the same one George Duke is shredding in another video I found.)

I always thought the vocal refrain was “all day sucker [now] for your love” or that now was girl, maybe, or some other single-syllable filler word, or even a rest in the vocal line. In looking up the lyrics, however, most sources have it as “all day sucker cup for your love.” Sucker cup? Like a suction cup? In my mind the metaphor’s vehicle is an enormous pinwheel lollipop. Not that the lollipop version of the metaphor makes much sense, but y’know, poetic license or somesuch.

Turns out the etymology of sucker as someone with an overabundance of credulity is far from clear. My favorite explanation is that it stems from the “pig in a poke” con, in which the mark thinks he is purchasing a suckling pig but in fact buys a cat in a sack. This con may also be the origin of the idiom “let the cat out of the bag.” We’ll have to settle for letting the sucker cup out of the bag. The lucky thing is it sticks around all day.