Saturday, March 28, 2009

Five favorite song lyrics

This is another fun idea from Elisabeth, who got it going on Facebook. I posted a pared-down, lyrics-only version there, but thought I'd add a few explanations on this post.

I did this more or less off the top of my head, because anything definitive would take me, say, the rest of my life? So these are just lyrics that I think are particularly well done and that mean a lot to me.

I noticed that three ended up being about the theme of youth and age; none were love-angst lyrics: appropriate enough for where I'm at in my life.

1. Now that you've found your paradise
Is this your kingdom to command
You can go outside and polish your car
Or sit by the fire in your Shangri-la.

(Shangri-la, The Kinks)

The opening to one of The Kinks' most beautiful songs; I could have chosen other extracts from the same song, because there are so many touching passages. Also, it's not directly a "lyrics" issue, but Ray's pronunciation/accent on "command" makes me go to pieces.

2. Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, make me feel dizzy
Taxi lights shine so bright

(Waterloo Sunset, The Kinks)

This one is more or less here by definition: it's the opening lines to my favorite song in the world. Maybe it is kind of a love song for me, because I thought I would never fall in love again, but then I went back to London a few years back and became enamored of the city.

3. Good and bad, I defined these terms
So clear, no doubt somehow
But I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

(My Back Pages, Bob Dylan)

It always amazes me how young Dylan was when he wrote this sort of thing.

4. And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their world
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware what they're going through.

(Changes, David Bowie)

In other words, the reason why most younger people, including myself "back then," won't really get the lyrics of "My Back Pages" until later down the road.

5. Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,
return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning,
blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle,
light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh,
this means no fear - cavalier. Renegade and steer clear! A tournament,
a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline.

(It's the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine) R.E.M.

When I was coaching high school debate in the USA, the rumor got around that this song was about cross-examination debate. At that time, REM lyrics were pretty much unavailable, so I remember my team transcribing the lyrics and being very excited to think that they were, indeed, about debate. I have read about this interpretation on the Internet, and it is "debatable," but this song and particularly this passage, will always remind me of my four wonderful years coaching and the crazy, caffeine-pumped atmosphere at the tournaments...of lies.

Feel free to give this a try, and tell me if you do...


rockandrollguru said...

I'm shocked to see that your first two are the Kinks:-)

My forthcoming book (Everything I Know I Learned from Rock and Roll: Timeless Wisdom from Aerosmith through ZZ Top) is all about taking my favorite lyrics and explaining how they have affected my life.

Cool post, Betty.

Betty Carlson said...

That is one book I'll be buying for sure. I'll try to help you promote it a bit too, in my modest, online way.

Randal Graves said...

Now that's a book I would read. And let me second the utter shock at the presence of the Kinks in this post. ;-)

I have a few lyrics that come to mind, but I'd have to think about this one.

Betty Carlson said...

Yes, Randal, I'm sure you do have a few morbid, depressing and/or bloody lyrics that you would like to share with us all.

Bar L. said...

I am so glad you found my blog because I can tell I am going to like yours a lot! And check this out....I have a friend from Washington who raised her family in France for 7 years! Wild. I can't wait to read more here, I'll be back SOON!