Some Favorite Lyrics

I couldn’t even tell you the lyrics to a lot of my favorite songs. I usually fall in love with the music itself, even if the lyrics are a muddled blur.

But there are a few songs I love for the lyrics. Below are fragments from some of my favorites. I’d be curious to know how many of you recognize them (without Googling of course) and I’d love to hear some of yours.

Hair blowing in the hot wind
Time hanging from a clothespin
There’s no sorrow that the sun’s not gonna heal

Bowel shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse
Assail him, impale him, with monster truck force

Shooby Doo, rock steady crew
Find him an octoped ingenue

I killed my dinner with karate
Kick ’em in the face, taste the body;
Shallow work is the work that I do.

Socrates and Milhous Nixon
Both went the same way—through the kitchen

I nuked another Grandma’s Apple Pie
and hung my head in shame

‘Cause this guy don’t dance
And word’s been passed, this is our last chance

He looks up from World War Two
Then you catch him catching you
…catching his eye.

They said you were hot stuff
And that’s what Baby’s been reduced to…

Everybody got their Black & Decker
Blood and fettucine everywhere

You can call me Aaron Burr
From the way I’m droppin Hamiltons

And you couldn’t see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all

You can raise welts
Like nobody else

Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take your hand
In the land that our grand-children knew

Discussion (40)¬

  1. David Goldfarb says:

    I recognize exactly one — #13. (Here I thought I was going to have a clean sweep.)

  2. jltopkis says:

    Oh man, I don’t recognize any of those. I wonder if I know the songs — it’s possible I’ve never really *listened* to the lyrics.

    Obviously, I can think of tons, but the first lyric that I wanted to write was this:
    “I don’t have to go by plane
    I ain’t gotta go by car
    I don’t care just where my darling is
    People I just don’t care how far
    I’m gonna crawl”

    -Led Zeppelin — “I’m Gonna Crawl”

  3. AKMA says:

    Wow, Scott, I’m startled by how similar our taste is.

    2 – Cake, “Going the Distance”

    3 – Moxy Früvous’s version of the Spiderman theme

    5 – Clash, “The Magnificent Seven”

    6 – Ben Folds, “Army”

    7 – Bruce Springsteen, “Meeting Across the River”

    9 – Brian Eno, “Baby’s on Fire”

    11 – The Lonely Island, “Lazy Sunday”

    12 – Joni Mitchell, “Refuge of the Road”

    13 – Tom Lehrer, “The Masochism Tango”

    I’ll think about my own favorites, but I’m sure subsequent readers will supply more than enough.

  4. Ivy says:

    Numbers 10 and 14 are two of my favorite songs (well, you know, Ivy’s 100 top 10).

    Everybody wants to feel romantic,
    Everybody knows what this entails

    Your mother’s eyes from your eyes cry to me

    Love. Pure love. (hmm, think this calls for another music post on my blog, but it will have to wait for me to wake up…)

  5. MooseBerry says:

    Have you listened to Audacity of Huge by Simian Mobile Disco?

    “I got that Bob Fosse
    I got that Joey Ramone
    A bag of Bill Murray
    Damien Hirst Telephone
    Check got that gold-thronged studded alligator leather
    Digital-video picture frame of us together”

    In the music video, during the bag of Bill Murray part, there’s a girl throwing a bag of red dust…

  6. Ann says:

    #4 is Joanna Newsom – The Book of Right-On!

  7. kbp says:

    I know #4 only. (I’m like you — I almost never notice lyrics, but I spend like 10 hours a day listening to music.)

  8. Yauami says:

    I get that a lot. I remember telling someone how much I loved Philosophy by Ben Folds Five and she quoted back to me the middle bit – “I pushed you cos I loved you guys…” and I did not recognise it.

    I think there is something really different about reading things on paper.

    It would be very interesting if you could get all the lyrics to say, you 500 most played songs, and randomly select couplets, and see how many you would get.

  9. Dembol says:

    14 is Queen’s “’39”. Only one I know. Actually one of my favourite Queen songs.

    • Scott says:

      The lyrics for that whole song are wonderful puzzle worth solving, aren’t they?

    • IronChuck says:

      As noted, #14 is Queen’s “’39″… Brian May wrote it about space travel and time dilation while traveling at the speed of light.

      I got to say that I was shocked; I figured I was, like, the only person who knew the song, let alone liked it. Of course, look where I am and who I’m talking to.

  10. Royston says:

    Got Ben Folds Five and Brian Eno. Both great tunes. Struggling with the rest! A fun diversion, thanks.

  11. Ouch. I thought I had eclectic taste. And I thought I knew quite a few unusual lyrics snippets. But hey! It’s okay. I’m only SLIGHTLY humiliated to know none of yours.

  12. Phyllis J. O'Rourke, M.A. says:

    “I aint fattening no more frogs for snakes.” –Sonny Boy Williamson

  13. Jesse Haller says:

    I only got number two. Cake – The Distance

    • Jeff Miller says:

      Likewise, only Cake, though I should have recognized Joni Mitchell and Tom Lehrer.

      The Band seems to have plenty of little lyrical hooks to laugh or puzzle over.

  14. Robynne Blume says:

    I only recognized 11. Actually, I usually listen to songs just because of the lyrics, and don’t really notice the music.

    A couple of my favorite lyrical bits:

    Never entertain those visions, lest you may have packed your baggage.

    Searching on mountains of wisdom and fears
    Searching in forests of feathers and snow
    Traveling through valleys of secrets and tears
    Where only the brave or the foolish will go

    • Scott says:

      Well I sure don’t know those!

      Anyone want to guess Robynne’s?

    • Robynne Blume says:

      Oh no! I just realized that in my effort to get it down to two lines, I grabbed the first and last line from a verse, omitting the ones in between! In the interest of fairness, the entire verse for the second one is,

      Searching on mountains of wisdom and fears
      Searching in forests of feathers and snow
      Traveling through valleys of secrets and tears
      Where only the brave or the foolish will go.

      Not that I expect that to help much.

  15. Kurt Busiek says:

    I only got 7, 11 and 14, though those are some of my favorites, too. I’ve explained the Aaron Burr reference to people, probably tiresomely…


    • Scott says:

      I go back and forth between that and the “Mr. Pibb and Red Vines” line as my favorite.

      Our whole family has totally fallen for Andy Samberg lately.

  16. Tater Tot says:

    # 9 is babys on fire by brian eno!!

  17. I got 2, 6, and 14, and am embarrassed that I did not also know 5, at the very least.

  18. Rand All says:

    #9 is from the soundtrack to “Velvet Goldmine.”

  19. fedora says:

    God, I don’t know any of them, even though I always care more about the lyrics than the music. But I’d like to share my ever favourite lyrics about the meaning of life:
    On 6-6-66 I was little I didn’t know shit about
    7-7-77 eleven years later still don’t know any
    better by 8-8-88 it’s way too late for me to
    change and by 9-9-99 I hope I’m sittin’ on the
    back porch drinkin’ red wine singin’ Ohhhhhh
    French Fries with Pepper!

    • Scott says:

      Well, you got me, though it does sound vaguely familiar.

      • fedora says:

        It’s one of my favourite morphine songs, surprisingly called french fries with peppers. It’s filled with that sarcastic ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude that I love about their songs. On a different note I wanted to thank you for blogging about The Mummers; it became my current favourite.

  20. I picked up four of them (Cake, TMBG, The SNL Narnia song, and Queen- all favorites of mine as well)

    I am now drawing a blank on any songs of my own and want to go listen to some Queen.

  21. Morgan says:

    My current favorite lyrics:

    In bar light she looked alright.
    In daylight she looked desperate.
    That’s alright, I was desperate too.
    I’m getting pretty sick of this interview.

    Lyrics that have stuck with me a long time:

    In the paper today.
    Tales of war and of waste,
    But you turn right over to the TV page


    Who’s gray sky was this?
    Or was it a blue one?
    At night there was breezes,
    I’ve heard records of breezes,
    And you tell me you’ve felt one.

  22. ZenNihilism says:

    Yup, I got exactly two, and those were CAKE and SNL, so I feel suitably humbled. Like you though, I tend to listen more to the music than the lyrics. So, when I hear lyrics that stick with me, they really stick with me. Like the following:

    Strike up the band
    Here comes the storyline
    Of the usual struggle
    Between fear and love

    Any takers?

  23. chatsworth says:

    No. 14 is one of my all-time favorites: it’s a sci-fi song that actually demonstrates a scientific concept.

  24. Steve says:

    I knew #3 right way. Moxy Fruvious is in heavy rotation on my iPod!

  25. catty says:

    The only one I knew was ’39. That said, it’s worth its weight in other songs.

    Here’s a couple:
    1. Did a large procession wave their torches
    as my head fell in the basket,
    and was everybody dancing on the casket?

    2. and just like after she heard the word ‘iridescent’
    and everything was iridescent for awhile,
    it wasn’t long before she exalted out of nowhere,
    ‘Isn’t this exquisite?

    3. went back to bed this morning
    and as I’m pulling down the blind
    the sky was dull and hypothetical
    and falling one cloud at a time.