Favorite Lyrics

I tend to think that most people who like pop/rock music don’t really care too much about the lyrics. I know that’s kind of true for me. I know I can easily enjoy a song even when I can’t understand the lyrics. That’s probably more true than not. There are times when knowing the lyrics really adds a lot to my enjoyment, but many times that’s not the case.

How important are lyrics to you in enjoying music?

What are some of your favorite lyrics?

15 Responses to “Favorite Lyrics”


  1. Reid

    Up.

    The other way to think of this thread, especially for those of you who like music mainly for the lyrics, is to get other people into music, that they otherwise would not have, by introducing them to lyrics of good songs. You know who you are?

  2. Marc

    I don’t know that I get into music mainly for the lyrics but I’ll contribute.

    I hear that the Democrats used Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” tonight and that it may have been used in context as intended – a searing critique of post-war America from the viewpoint of disillusioned veterans which referred to Viet-Nam as written but could potentially be applied to Iraq today.

    I also see that the same song was played when the USA basketball team won the gold medal at this year’s olympics. I wonder if the line about “go and kill the yellow man” was understood at all.

  3. Reid

    Funny you should mention that song being played at the Olympics. John Ridley, of NPR, wrote a piece about that very subject.

  4. Mitchell

    Lyrics are important for me, but removed from the song, I find they often fall flat when they’re being shared. It’s not poetry; it’s song lyrics. It’s always disappointing to share a lyric you love and to know that it’s not going to be received as well as it should because it’s absent the context of the song itself.

    However, whenever this conversation turns up elsewhere, I always cite two lyrics that always blow me away.

    He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook’s
    Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein…

    Warren Zevon, “Werewolves of London.”

    Just the way that lyric kicks off a great song, and the complete unlikelihood that anyone could put that in a song and make it sound musical impresses me. By the way, there is a place in the Chinese Cultural Plaza, facing the stream, called Lee Ho Fook’s. Whenever I’m in the area, I look for werewolves or the ghost of Warren Zevon.

    2388024919_e113ac273d_m.jpg

    The present imperfect
    Is making me tense

    David Buskin, “Heaven is Free Tonight”

    Just another great snippet: so obviously meant to be a song lyric, but only one guy seems to have thought of it. This is a great song, too, with a great sing-along-in-a-tavern kind of chorus, but those two lines just WOW me every time.

  5. Mitchell

    Oh, okay. One more that almost always has me leaving the planet with musical joy:

    Sprawling on the fringes of the city
    In geometric order
    An insulated border
    In between the bright lights
    And the far unlit unknown

    Growing up it all seems so one-sided
    Opinions all provided
    The future pre-decided
    Detached and subdivided
    In the mass production zone

    Nowhere is the dreamer
    Or the misfit so alone

    Subdivisions —
    In the high school halls
    In the shopping malls
    Conform or be cast out
    Subdivisions —
    In the basement bars
    In the backs of cars
    Be cool or be cast out
    Any escape might help to smooth
    The unattractive truth
    But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
    The restless dreams of youth

    Drawn like moths we drift into the city
    The timeless old attraction
    Cruising for the action
    Lit up like a firefly
    Just to feel the living night

    Some will sell their dreams for small desires
    Or lose the race to rats
    Get caught in ticking traps
    And start to dream of somewhere
    To relax their restless flight

    Somewhere out of a memory
    Of lighted streets on quiet nights…

    Rush (lyrics by Neal Peart), “Subdivisions”

    I simply CANNOT BELIEVE how lovely and musical the band makes these lyrics sound, and I can’t believe that these are the words to a rock song they actually play on the radio. Holy cow. “Any escape might help to smooth / The unattractive truth / But the suburbs have no charms to soothe / The restless dreams of youth?” What? Are you kidding me? That’s a rock and roll song lyric? And people play that on the radio? Holy cow! Sometimes I wonder how “Rock Around the Clock” can possibly be in the same genre as “Subdivisions,” but that’s rock and roll. There’s room for them both, and there’s room for one person with an open heart to love them both, and I do.

    (I’ve recently been discovering Bill Haley and the Comets and really dig it, Daddy-O!)

  6. pen

    That lyric is by Bill Haley? That is awesome and goes perfectly with the book I’m currently reading called: “X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking” by Jeff Gordineier. Will write more about it when I’m done (almost) and in the appropriate thread. It’s a book Tony mentioned he was reading and the title intrigued me, so I picked it up.

  7. Reid

    Mitchell your concern about people not being able to fully appreciate the lyrics without the music is valid. What would be cool is if you could talk about the music and the way it accompanies and complements the lyrics. That’s challenging and possibly time-consuming, but it might help. Plus, it would be really interesting.

    I thought the lyrics to that Rush song, “Sub-Divisions,” were pretty cool. I was surprised that it was from Rush (not that I listened to a lot of their stuff).

  8. Mitchell

    No, that lyric is by Neal Peart. Bill Haley’s the guy who sang “Rock Around the Clock.”

  9. Reid

    OK, I listened to “Sub-divisions” twice. I was curious to hear the musical accompaniment, and I was a little disappointed. Then again, I don’t care for Geddy Lee’s voice, so much, so I’m sure that is part of it. The guitar solo with the bass and drum accompaniment starts sounding good, but gets cut short. Thanks for sharing that.

  10. Reid

    In another thread I talked about how I enjoy hearing people talk both passionately and informatively about music–I often gain a greater appreciation and sometimes even enthusiasm for the music discussed. I heard an NPR short that’s a good example of that (although the analysis is centered on the music more than the lyrics. Check out “‘Over the Rainbow’ From Kansas to Oz”

  11. mitchell

    I’m listening to Rush’s Signals album as I type this, and was going to share the lyrics to “Subdivisions,” which keep blowing me away, but then I re-read this steam of posts and saw that I’ve already shared them.

    🙂

    What a great song.

  12. Mitchell

    I can see her lyin’ back
    In a satin dress
    In a room where you do
    What you don’t confess.

    Gordon Lightfoot, “Sundown.”

    This is such a killer lyric. And what a great song.

  13. Reid

    Like^ (as in, I like that passage, too).

    (What does “sundown” refer to in the song?)

  14. mitchell

    No idea. I’ve always wondered, but I think I like the song better not knowing. I have intentionally not sought an answer.

  15. mitchell

    I already shared these lyrics nine years ago, but they’re so good I’m sharing them again. Because they’re in my ears right now.

    Sprawling on the fringes of the city
    In geometric order
    An insulated border
    In between the bright lights
    And the far unlit unknown

    Growing up it all seems so one-sided
    Opinions all provided
    The future pre-decided
    Detached and subdivided
    In the mass production zone

    Nowhere is the dreamer
    Or the misfit so alone

    Rush, “Subdivisions”

    EDIT: Oh. Haha. I see a few comments up that I was tempted to share them three years ago as well but exercised some restraint. I’m so predictable.

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