Word Up!

Few people ‘in the know’ can have missed the recent return to the public eye of the massive punk/blues/off key karaoke phenomenon that is 4D Jones. If you did, then more fool you, because last Friday’s barnstormer of a gig will be spoken of in future years in hushed and revered tones by those that were there, in the same manner as those that claim to have seen the Beatles at the Star Club, 1961, the Pistols at the 100 club in 1976, or Roger de Courcey in West Runton Pavilion in 1983. Probably. And we raised a bit of cash for the wonderful institution that is Future Radio, so everybody was happy, unless you had particularly sensitive senses of smell. Very hot and sweaty those basement clubs, you know, and since those health Nazis banned smoking in our pubs and clubs, they do rather tend to smell of people, which is Not Always A Good Thing.

Anyhow, having been away from the singing in front of people game for a few years, I thought it might be an idea to share some thoughts with our adoring* fans between numbers**. So, I did a bit of digging around to find some appalling lyrics that have been foisted on the general public over the last few years. This is my resulting top ten:

Lucky that my breasts
Are small and humble
So you don’t confuse
Them with mountains
Shakira – Whenever, Wherever
I’m as serious as cancer, 
When I say Rhythm is a Dancer.
Snap – Rhythm Is A Dancer
Before he leaves the camp he stops,
He scans the world outside,
And where there used to be some shops,
Is where the snipers sometimes hide.
Human League – The Lebanon

I don’t want to see a ghost
It’s the sight that I fear most
I’d rather have a piece of toast
Watch the evening news
Des’ree – Life
And when their eloquence escapes me
Their logic ties me up and rapes me
De do do do, de da da da
The Police – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
“I am,” I said
To no one there,
And no one heard at all,
Not even the chair.
Neil Diamond – I am I said.
More sacrifices than an Aztec priest
Standing here straining at that leash
All fall down
Can’t complain, mustn’t grumble
Help yourself to another piece of apple crumble
ABC – That Was Then
You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte
You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

I drive my Mini Cooper,
And I’m feeling super-dooper.
American Life – Madonna
You’re the crop to my rotation,
You’re the sum of my equation.
Brand New Day, Sting

Note that Sting gets two mentions here. No less than he deserves.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to use the list at the gig, as my advancing years, a stage being lit by three 60 watt red bulbs and my decision to use a 10 point font to save paper, rather worked against me being able to read what I’d printed. Anyway, I reflected afterwards, that these were really obvious choices. In fact, if you google ‘crap lyrics’, chances are that these’ll be amongst the ones that everyone else has targetted. The real hidden gems are in the heart of some otherwise fabulous songs, where the writer has quite obviously, erm, dropped the ball in the third verse. Here are a few examples where I can’t help feeling that the song really needed to be finished before last orders in the nearby pub:

1. Speaking of which…
“I wish you’d listen to me
No I don’t want a cup of tea”
Jimmy Pursey wasn’t probably the most eloquent of lyricists, but he did rather plumb the depths with this one – other than trite lines like this, ‘Hurry Up Harry’ is just the best bit of energetic post punk nonsense you can imagine, before it all went Oi-wrong…

2. Mike Scott loses the plot
“Laura was my girl, when I first was in a group
I can still see her to this day, stirring chicken soup”
‘Bang on the Ear’ is one of the most infectious and all round fun songs you can imagine, putting the Waterboys into a whole new category of bands, years ahead of young folk wannabes like Mumford & Sons. And it’s all about neat couplets, so he was bound to make a few short cuts…but ‘stirring chicken soup’? Gawd help us.

3. Whisper who dares…our heroes are villains…
Since 1970, the Beatles have established a kind of gentle deity, whereby all that they’ve ever produced is considered masterful. There are exceptions to this way of thinking, for example, my friend N, who still considers them to be something of an average pub-rock group. But he’d probably admit to being in the minority. Anyway, they did write some astonishingly lousy words…
“I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
While my guitar gently weeps”
The thing that intrigues me about this is that George Harrison wrote it in 1968, when the Fab Four were at their absolute peak, so he must have known that every phrase would be picked over for inner meaning…and, umm, this one really, really doesn’t.

It’s a shame, because now I can’t really hear songs like these without thinking of the little flaws. I go from enthusiastic nod to sad and doleful shake of the head in one line. As lots of musos like to say – “third verse, same as the first”. Sounds like a good idea sometimes…

**ahem, again


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