Waxing lyrical #10
We've come to the end of our waxing lyrical blog series where each of us dug through our music collections to choose our favourite lyrics. To end it in style we're doing a bumper batch. So have a read, sing the lyrics if you're feeling crazy, and enjoy our final bunch of blogs.
‘Karl Marx squeezed his carbuncles while writing Das Kapital / And Gaugin, he buggered off, man, and went all tropical / While Philip Larkin stuck it out in a library in Hull / And Dylan Thomas died drunk in St Vincent’s hospital’
There She Goes My Beautiful World, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is ultimately about a writer’s muse deserting him. And yet it has quite the opposite effect on me. Often when I have writer’s block, or I simply need to clear my head before tackling the next section of a proposal or the next chapter of my book, I go for a run. And always, this track is on my playlist.
There’s something about being reminded of those great writers’ and artists’ hardships that really helps to put my own writer’s block in perspective. (‘What do you mean you can’t think of an opening line for that shampoo bottle? John Wilmot penned his poetry riddled with the pox!’)
And frankly, anyone who can squeeze Karl Marx’s carbuncles into a song is an inspiration to us all.
I like songs with lists in: REM's End of the World As We Know It; Rodgers & Hammerstein's A Few of My Favourite Things; Paul Simon's Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.
I also like songs that use English place names for mild comic effect: Billericay Dickie by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, and the classic Darleydale, Meesham and Droitwich by Charlie Says to name just two. (Much better than the American habit of using place names like they possess a mystical aura: Georgia on My Mind; Sweet Home Alabama; California Dreamin; LA Woman and so on.
Which of course means that I find songs which contain both lists and funny-sounding place names completely irresistible. I give you Billy Bragg's A13 Trunk Road to The Sea. Genius:
‘It starts down in Wapping / There ain't no stopping
By-pass Barking and straight through Dagenham / Down to Grays Thurrock / And rather near Basildon
Pitsea, Thundersley, Hadleigh, Leigh-On-Sea, / Chalkwell, Prittlewell / Southend's the end
If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness / Take the A road, the okay road that's the best / Go motorin' on the A13’
By Nick P
‘Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy / Get that dirty shirty clean / Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy
Make those cuffs and collars gleam / Everything clean and shiny / Washing machine’
That’s Kate Bush singing about a woman watching her clothes go round and round in a washing machine in Mrs Bartolozzi.
It’s also Kate Bush wresting the right to be a fully fledged member of the outlandish, barmy, eccentric, Artist-with-a-capital-A brigade away from the sole domain of men.
I love her for opening that door – and leaving it open for the next generation of bonkers women in pop music.
Are you still with us? Here are the final two.
‘Girl, I’m in love with you, this ain’t the honeymoon, we’re passed the infatuation phase / Right in the thick of love, at times we get sick of love / It seems like we argue every day’
Ordinary People by John Legend, co-written by Will.i.am.
This song’s a real, honest take on being in love. It makes a change to the two-dimensional fell-in-love-on-the-dancefloor message we get from every other pop song today. Those songs put the concept of love on a pedestal (probably in the middle of a nightclub).
Ordinary People is a raw depiction of love. It scraps the versions we get fed in romcoms and pop songs. Instead, it brings a realistic element to the surface, the we-don’t-know-what’s-going-to-happen feeling that keeps us awake at night.
And there are some less ordinary rhymes you don’t hear in everyday ballads, like ‘thick’ and ‘sick’, that suggest the all-consuming nature of love. And the loose line ‘I know I misbehaved and you made your mistakes’ shows that every word was thought about and not just stuck in for rhyme’s sake.
Write about your favourite lyrics, our Harry said.
Well ‘favourite’ is a big word. I couldn’t pick. So in a hopelessly stereotypically male way, I came up with some categories (OK, I made up some categories to fit a few front-runners). And these were the winners.
It can only be Hal David’s line in I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, can’t it?
‘What do you get when you kiss a guy? / You get enough germs to catch pneumonia / After you do, he’ll never phone ya’
Genius. (I recommend the smoky Bobbie Gentry version.)
Two belters in one song here, Want You Gone, by Jonathan Coulton:
‘She was a lot like you / Maybe not quite as heavy’
Ouch. If that didn’t sting enough, he tops it off with this:
‘Goodbye my only friend / Oh, did you think I meant you?!’
I guess we like the songs that say the things we’d never dare utter in real life.