Waxing lyrical #4
All this week we've been blogging about our favourite lyrics. So far we've had Elbow, The Velvet Underground and Kings of Leon. Here are some more for you.
‘And I don't think that I ever loved you more / Than when you turned away / When you slammed the door
When you stole the car and drove towards Mexico / And you wrote bad checks just to fill your arm / I was young enough, I still believed in war’
Poison Oak, by Bright Eyes.
It’s the lyrics of this song I love as the singing’s not the best. They’re poetic. And they tell a story. When looking up the words (to make sure I hadn’t had them wrong all these years) I came across a few sites that offered up the meaning of the song. I don’t want to know the real meaning; I’d rather imagine my own. It’s like not wanting to see your favourite book made into a film.
Every time I hear this song, a bit older and maybe a bit wiser, I decipher more of the words, and piece it together. I could listen to it over and over again, and each time unravel more of its secrets. These lines speak of youthful impulsiveness. And the consequences of something decided in anger, and its finality. The rhyming structure leads you to expect a happy ending, but instead winds up with war. Having listened to it on repeat, I know this of course, but it still startles me every time.
‘I kissed the spikey fridge / And that’s the way she is’
I Kissed the Spikey Fridge, by King – written by Paul King.
It’s 1984. I’m 11. And I’m trying to figure women out. Duran Duran are not helping. Someone called Rio. And she’s dancing on the sand. I’m not getting it.
And then one cold night, I’m curled up in bed plugged into a large Telefunken valve radio – the one that my Dad used to use to hide bottles of rum in when he was in the navy, but which now conceals half-smoked cigarettes. And my treasure. Which I believe to be a) extremely important fossils, b) the philosopher’s stone and c) new elements I’ve discovered. Then these words squeeze their way out of the invisible radio world and attach themselves to my central nervous system: ‘I kissed the spikey fridge / And that’s the way she is’.
Goldfish are shimmering through my bloodstream. I know my destiny. I must find my own spikey fridge to kiss. And when I’ve found one, I won’t let her go. I’m going to be that man whose lover people gasp and point at: her spikeyness, her beautiful smooth sleek lines, her perfect freshness, her mind-bending ability to keep her cool and switch the lights on and off, her talent for humming, for making funny noises in the night (ahem), for staying plugged in and for just being there: solid, serene and hell, yeah, a prickly riddle with quills – and I’m going to be that man who stands there and says: that’s the way she is.
It took about 22 years.
‘Being smart can make you rich and bring respect and reverence / But the rewards of being pleasant are far more incandescent’
Waiting for the beat to kick in, by Scroobius Pip.
I was tempted to champion some earth-crunchingly titanic rock anthem here. But instead I want to focus your eyes on an unassuming spoken thought from this backwater of a b-side.
The line is advice as much as lyricism. Which is always a dangerous route to go down with any art form. As a rule, people don’t want to be told what to do or how to act in their art: they want to get behind something. A movement like Punk perhaps. Or the culture the music or the artist panders to, like the darker, more gothic styles of rock. But for me, Scroobius Pip has risen above cultural propaganda with this slice of songery.
The fact is, being pleasant over being smart is wonderful advice for almost anyone to follow. Particularly if you take ‘smart’ to mean ‘pretentious’ or ‘smart-mouthed’. If you’re an investment banker, or you’re a surgeon, I’d probably prefer it the other way round. But if not, I think the more people that take this advice the better. That way you’ll be less likely to constantly try to impress your friends, colleagues and everyone in between, more likely to say what you mean, and (is that a segue I see on the horizon?) more likely to write like you speak.
So bravo Scroobius Pip. Great advice. Great song. And another sound reason to write in a really confident and effective way.