Favourite Lyrics

A couple of days ago it was revealed that the UK’s favourite song lyric is “One” by U2.

While it’s undoubtedly a beautiful song, it wouldn’t make my top ten.

I’m more inclined to go for the lyric that came in at number 2 in the poll by VH1: “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths.

While Morrissey’s genius is undisputed, in my opinion, that’s not my favourite Smiths song as it turns out.

Anyway, for a bit of fun, here’s my top ten all time favourite lyrics (though it’s an interchangeable ranking depending on my mood)

# 1 “Consolation Prize” Orange Juice

I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn
I was hoping to impress.
So frightfully camp it made you laugh
Tomorrow I’ll buy myself a dress,
How ludicrous.

Edwyn Collins tries to win a girl’s heart away from her macho boyfriend using a range of sartorial tactics. If there’s a more visually humorous lyric than this, then I’ve yet to hear it. He won my heart forever with this, that’s for sure 🙂

# 2 “Reel Around The Fountain” The Smiths

I dreamt about you last night
and I fell out of bed twice.
You can pin and mount me
like a butterfly.

Morrissey pinches dialogue from “A Taste Of Honey” and makes it his own. The subtlety of the homo-eroticism is brilliant.

#3 “Love Will Tear Us Apart” Joy Division

Why is the bedroom so cold
Turned away on your side?
Is my timing that flawed,
Our respect run so dry?
Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives
Love, love will tear us apart again

Have seven lines ever revealed as much about the death of love? Cold. Harsh. Painful. Unsentimental. Perfect.

#4 “Coin Operated Boy” Dresden Dolls

coin operated boy
sitting on the shelf he is just a toy
but i turn him on and he comes to life
automatic joy
that is why i want a coin operated boy

made of plastic and elastic
he is rugged and long-lasting
who could ever ever ask for more
love without complications galore
many shapes and weights to choose from
i will never leave my bedroom
i will never cry at night again
wrap my arms around him and pretend….

I want to visit Amanda Palmer’s world, just for a day. It must like some curious dusty attic, filled with weird and wonderful things that surprise and terrify you in equal measure. Like this mechanical boyfriend that’ll love you forever.

This song is just so eccentric and imaginative, and the delivery is genius. If you ever get a chance to see these guys live, then grab it, they’re amazing.

# 5 “That Song About The Midway” Joni Mitchell

I met you on a midway at a fair last year
And you stood out like a ruby in a black man’s ear
You were playing on the horses, you were playing on the guitar strings
You were playing like a devil wearing wings, wearing wings
You looked so grand wearing wings
Do you tape them to your shoulders just to sing
Can you fly
I heard you can! can you fly
Like an eagle doin’ your hunting from the sky

It’s the description here that does it for me. The way that ruby would mesmerise you and draw you in, attract you despite yourself. Joni hints at the dangerous predator behind the illusion, but encourages you to fall for his charms along with her. Genius.

# 6 “The Boy With The Arab Strap” Belle and Sebastian

Everyone suffers in silence a burden
The man who drives minicabs down in Old Compton
The Asian man
With his love hate affair
With his racist clientele

Weird wee song this. The coy sleaziness of the title has you expecting something else. So to find the lyrics taking such a turn and easing toward social commentary is delightful. The hidden goings on in a city, as imagined by the ever surprising Stuart Murdoch. What a world he sees!

#7 “Range Life” Pavement

Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins
Nature kids, I/they don’t have no function
I don’t understand what they mean
And I could really give a fuck.
The Stone Temple Pilots,
They’re elegant bachelors
They’re foxy to me are they foxy to you?
I will agree there isn’t absolutely nothing
Nothing more than me
Dreamin’ dream dream dream….

Stephen Malkmus gives us the low down on life on the road, the perils of rock stardom and his dreams of a quiet idyll.

He seems as perplexed with the whole shebang as anyone and it’s impossible not to giggle.

#8 “Lover You Should’ve Come Over” Jeff Buckley

Looking out the door I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners
Parading in a wake of sad relations as their shoes fill up with water
And maybe I’m too young to keep good love from going wrong
But tonight you’re on my mind so you never know

When I’m broken down and hungry for your love with no way to feed it
Where are you tonight, child you know how much I need it
Too young to hold on and too old to just break free and run

Sometimes a man gets carried away, when he feels like he should be having his fun
And much too blind to see the damage he’s done
Sometimes a man must awake to find that really, he has no-one

So I’ll wait for you… and I’ll burn
Will I ever see your sweet return
Oh will I ever learn

Oh lover, you should’ve come over
’cause it’s not too late

Guilt, regret and realism side by side. Jeff mourns his mistake at having his fun and yearns for a lover that will never return. Painful but strangely beautiful.

#9 “Animal Nitrate” Suede

Well he said he’d show you his bed
And the delights of the chemical smile,
So in your broken home he broke all your bones
Now you’re taking it time after time

Oh it turns you on, on, now he has gone
Oh what turns you on now your animal’s gone?

In the 1990s, while (the really quite posh) Damon Albarn sang smug songs about the working class in a fake estuary accent and Oasis swaggered about in a drunken haze mouthing off anthemic dull-witted nonsense, Suede scuttled around in the sordid hinterland of Britain telling tales of sex, drugs and general seedy misery. Which of course, made them far more interesting and attractive. 🙂

#10 “Sympathy For The Devil” The Rolling Stones

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

Inspired by Bulgakov’s masterpiece, Jagger makes the devil absolutely sexy as hell. A song that could make a heathen of anyone 😀

10 thoughts on “Favourite Lyrics

  1. Jen says:

    Hey Michael,

    Gee I’m not even going to begin with some of the memories these songs bring… 🙂

    Mo, how could I forget about Tom Waits? Damn is all I can say to that…. still, I reckon these lists have the lifespan of a may fly – roughly 20 seconds 🙂

  2. Jen says:

    Gee so you got a double hit from the Stones huh? Good for you! 😉

    I do like that line “they would give you the world for a toy”. Nice.

  3. Sympathy For The Devil is great. I had a teacher in the 7th grade, a lay teacher in a catholic school, who brought that song in on an old Wolensak reel to reel tape player and gave us all the lyrics from a mimiograph machine. That was before the xerox machines. The smell of the paper would get you buzzed, the fresher the better. Anyway, I thought that was rather progressive of him.
    I’ve always love this song too, “That’s All”. It has wonderful lyrics

    That’s All
    Music by Bob Haymes
    Lyric by Alan Brandt

    I can only give you love that lasts forever,
    And a promise to be near each time you call.
    And the only heart I own
    For you and you alone
    That’s all,
    That’s all…

    I can only give you country walks in springtime
    And a hand to hold when leaves begin to fall;
    And a love whose burning light
    Will warm the winter’s night
    That’s all,
    That’s all.

    There are those I am sure who have told you,
    They would give you the world for a toy.
    All I have are these arms to enfold you,
    And a love even time can’t destroy.

    If you’re wondering what I’m asking in return, dear,
    You’ll be glad to know that my demands are small.
    Say it’s me that you’ll adore,
    For now and evermore
    That’s all,
    That’s all.

  4. Hey great post!
    I only know three of the songs. The Smiths, Joy Division and The Stones.
    The other ones I don’t know and some groups I have never heard of. Like, Pavement en Dresden Dolls.
    I have to admit that ‘One’ probably would make my top ten list. How un-original!

    And Tom Waits would feature in it too, but which song to pick? They are all so fucking great, lyric-wise. I think Shore Leave.

  5. Michael Casey says:

    Oh Jen…Mick singing Sympathy, blasting from my car’s speakers, racing through a black night, 1986, sound traveling through humid air…sunroof open, windows down…her dark hair blowing across my face…what memories. Thank you.

  6. Jen says:

    Hey Soren,

    The The lyrics. Yeah that’s a crime not to mention “This is the day”.

    I love that song, now I come to think of it.

    Ooohh and “Uncertain Smile” too. Though that song is as much about Jools Holland letting rip on the piano as it is the lyrics.

    But my God yeah, what a beautiful song.

    Hey Atticus,

    The Dresden Dolls can do no wrong for me. I love their wee universe 🙂 Glad Edwyn is keeping you happy too. He writes songs to make you laugh that’s for sure 🙂


    I dunno why U2 topped the list either, especially when Mick Jagger ‘comes” up with lines like that 😀

    Anyway, it’s a weird thing to make wee lists like this, cos as soon as you write them you want to change them….so my song for today is “Gene Jeanie” by Bowie.

    They just played it on the radio and it got me stomping round the room…yey!

    I dunno why I have no Bowie in my list. Dumb cos I adored him when I was a kid.

    “Heroes” I mean EVERYONE loves that song.

    Oh well….

    Other songs that should also be there ?….

    “This Is The sea” The Waterboys

    “Ocean Rain” Echo and the Bunnymen

    “Kind Creole” Elvis Presley (just for the line: “I was born standing up and talking back”. Genius!)

    “Astral Weeks” Van Morrisson

    “London Calling” The Clash (“Phoney Beatle mania has bitten the dust” – great line that…..)

    “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” Led Zeppelin

    “Born of Frustration” James

    “Darklands” The Jesus and Mary Chain

    “Moving On Up” Primal Scream

    Aaaaggggggggggghhh! Okay enough, otherwise I’m gonna spend the rest of my life writing comments to this post and extending an impossible to compile list…

  7. Nah. My favorite lyrics have to be either Floyd or Doors. I like the song “one” by U2, but donno why it made “all time best lyric” …

    ‘You, you make a dead man come’
    — Rolling Stones
    [This lyric was censored in their recent China show]

  8. atticus says:

    hey jen,

    i loved your audio post of the door story!

    the video for “Coin Operated Boy” makes that song even better. i love it.
    and “Consolation Prize” is often on my iPod.

    i’m not sure what my favorite lyrics are. were i not so tired i’m sure they would leap to my meek little mind. alas, it is time for bed.


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