Certain Songs #919: Lee Michaels – “Do You Know What I Mean”

Album: Fifth
Year: 1971

Yes, while Lee Michaels had another top 40 hit — his cover of “Can I Get a Witness” got to number #39 on the coattails of this one — he really was the quintessential one-hit wonder.

And you know how you can tell he’s a one-hit wonder: you can’t name a single other song by Lee Michaels — and in fact, you didn’t even know he covered “Can I Get a Witness” until I just told you (and I sure as hell didn’t know until I read it on Wikipedia 10 minutes ago) — but if you listened to the radio at all in the early 1970s, you know every single word of “Do You Know What I Mean.”

Even if you hate it. Which I’m guessing that by the sparse instrumentation — basically just drums, bass, and Michaels’ Hammond organ — and the gleeful way he’s singing the song, a few of you probably do.

Been fourteen days since I don’t know when
I just saw her with my best friend
Do you know what I mean?
Do you know, know what I mean?

“Do You Know What I Mean” made it all the way to #6 in 1971 simply on the basis of the near-hypnotic repetition of the organ riff that powered the song, the interjections that Michaels snuck every time the song came to a rest, and the fact that every single person on the planet knew exactly what he meant.

And that’s the beauty of “Do You Know What I Mean:” it’s a near-carnivalesque song about getting your heart broken in two that is lyrically universal, but musically unique. At least as far as the radio goes: for all I know, all of Lee Michaels music sounds like this, but I’ve never heard any of his other songs. Do you know what I mean?

“Do You Know What I Mean”

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