Waxing lyrical #2
Here's the second dose of our favourite lyrics.
One of my favourite bands of the eighties, The The, weren’t exactly poster boys for falling in love. (‘I've been deformed by emotional scars / And the cancer of love has eaten out my heart.’ Ouch.)
But that’s probably why we liked them so much. All that anguish made us feel terribly grown up and clever. And there was something comfortingly consistent about their world view. You knew where you were with The The (usually looking morosely into space).
So Uncertain Smile, from the album Soul Mining, is a bit of an anomaly. Not only does it feature a piano solo from a young and incongruously cheerful Jools Holland, but it’s also a love poem, as only The The could write one.
‘Peeling the skin back from my eyes, I felt surprised / That the time on the clock was the time I usually retired / To the place where I cleared my head of you / But just for today I think I’ll lie here and dream of you’
See what I mean? It starts off with a weird self-mutilation image, then goes almost slushy. But fear not – the chorus is a return to form: ‘I’ve got you under my skin where the rain can’t get in / But if the sweat pours out, just shout / I’ll try to swim and pull you out.’
Eew. It’s both gorgeous and gross. Which is pretty much how we felt about the opposite sex.
‘I wore my teeth in my hands / So I could mess the hair of the night / Well I’m beginning to see the light’
Beginning To See The Light, by The Velvet Underground. Written by Lou Reed.
I had these lyrics scrawled on the inside of my wardrobe as a teenager, in Miss Selfridge’s sparkly black nail varnish. (Later to be painted over with duck egg by my dad.)
People might interpret the first line as being about keeping shtum. But for me it conjured up an Edward Scissorhands-type figure with comedy dentures for pincers. In my mind he was roughing up the hair of the night, tangling it into a frenzy with dance moves of reckless abandon. The locks of hair were like a sea of spaghetti guitar strings. And I imagined them littered with trails of tobacco, smelling of sweat and whisky.
Lou Reed’s words were a teenage manifesto: do what you damn well want and sod the consequences. When you read them in context, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. But at the time, it didn’t really matter.