Like the Lyrics?

October 03, 2014  •  1 Comment

When Katharina & I met, we began exploring our common musical-tastes, and came up with Mark Knopfer as one (amongst others) who was jointly acceptable. We splashed out on a few of his post-Dire Straits CDs, one of which contained a track called "Donnegan's Gone". After several playings of this track, I realised that MK was paying a "tribute" to a dead Lonnie Donnegan. Had he died? How had I missed hearing of it? A quick Google confirmed that the "Godfather of Skiffle" had indeed died of a heart attack in 2002, an event that I had totally missed. 

This has no relevance to the rest of the post, except that I bought a boxed-set of Lonnie Donnegan's music so MK's lyrics had moved me to benefit LD's estate, marginally. It also set me thinking about really memorable song lyrics. I seem to have the words to thousands of songs buried in my memory, so the words are remembered ... but memorable?

I didn't come up with many if I exclude most of Meatloaf/Jim Steinman. I was going to exclude Leonard Cohen too, on the grounds of pretentiousness, but then I realised I don't actually know much about him, but I do actually like Hallelujah. No, my irritation comes from the "beard & berets brigade" (their men-folk are just as bad) who assume that you are not quite as far up the food-chain as they are if you can't read something deep & mystical into his every word. So LC is in with Hallelujah - choose your own bit of it.

A couple of others that sprang to mind were the two poetic lines by Chris Christopherson in his Bobby McGee, these being:

"freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose ...." and "I'd trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday ...". If the song is new to you, it has been covered by a huge number of singers but the best version is by Janis Joplin.

I also introduced Kath, and re-introduced myself, to the music of Billy Bragg - musician, poet, protester and song-writer. He's still out there, protesting about something or other, but the track that really demonstrated (to me) his immense talents was an old one - "Mother of The Bride". The song tells the story of a young man who is invited to a wedding. The recent "love of his life" is getting married to another man, so the young man has a very unhappy day. Later, he sees the "happy couple" together down-town and exorcises his ghosts by caustically commenting to himself that they have become just ".. two-up, two-down, two point five and a dish on the roof for the soaps...". Beat that for a put-down

I'd love to be able to highlight a line or two from another favourite, "Common People" by Pulp, but I can't - they're all too good. The song tells the story - (and that's the truth of great lyrics isn't it? be it in songs, poems, or books - they're telling a story) - of working class boy meets rich posing girl. 6 or 7 minutes without deviation, hesitation, or repetition except for the chorus.

I haven't come up with too many really memorable song lyrics so I'll have a stab at some other genres.

I used to spend my time (in India's Sunny Clime .. if anyone knows the poem) working in bankruptcy & company liquidations for the Official Receiver, and had to come up with something useful to say about the "cause of failure" in each case. One of my better, but wholly unappreciated efforts, was "the lights are on but no-one's home" until one glorious day I convinced a bankrupt that it was OK for him to attribute his failure to "I spent most of it (money) on alcohol, women and enjoyment and squandered the rest". But my attempts at humour to brighten my bosses day paled into insignificance alongside The Barnsley Poet.

I had listened to TBP many times on Radio 4 but had no idea what he looked like until recently, when he was in the re-run of a UK TV show on a satellite channel here in Sweden. I recognised his meliforous tones immediately and, I have to say, he looks a lot shorter than his voice.

I remembered hearing him read a short poem that summarise, far more succinctly than I could, the cause of most bankrupts that I dealt with having failed:

"Unemployed, divorced, usually pissed;

Aimed low in life, and missed".

Of course, all poetry is meant to be memorable and literature should be memorable, too. I discovered, recently, the glorious novels by Ford Maddox Ford - I can't understand how I have not read him before. So, having found him I read everything of his, starting with "The Good Soldier",  and often found myself looking round, mentally, to find a phrase or sentence chuckling behind my back as I'd missed their importance the first time round. I was reminded of Ford's commensurate skills when I saw the TV adaptation of Parade's End. The serially wayward wife was confronting her husband and blaming him for the failure of their marriage. She complained that, although she had given him plenty of ammunition, he never once blamed her or criticsised her, never showed any emotion. Instead, she complained "You forgave me, unmercifully"

So, I've not come up with too much that I find really, truly memorable. Any suggestions?





David Mottershead(non-registered)
Nice Grahame, very nice. Hope the NFA tour is going well, and the aurora photo on your last e-mail is super - and I'm immensely jealous :)
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