Tag Archives: elvis costello

Lyrical Genius: 10 Great Snippets of Rock

22 Jan

Top 10One of the articles I’ve read about how to attract online readership suggests creating top 10 lists. I’ve avoided this for a long time, not for some noble reason like I don’t want to stoop to using gimmicks to trawl for readers … or to beg them to read and share … and post comments … pretty please?

Anyway, I don’t do top 10 lists because I’m a wimp. I can’t stand the pressure. I choose nine solid entries then panic. I don’t want to make a lame final choice and leave out something worthy. I don’t want to slight my other favorites by not including them. I can’t prioritize them, either; it would be like choosing which of my children is my favorite. (Don’t worry, honey: it’s you. Keep reading … pretty please …)

But hey, anything to attract online readership.

I tend to be drawn toward words and phrases rather than the sweep of an entire verse or the story of an entire song. Some are clever, others conjure up vivid images. I like what sticks in my brain.  So, in no particular order, here are my choices for ten of the best snippets of lyrics in rock.

Tom Waits1. “don’t you know there ain’t no devil that’s just god when he’s drunk” – Tom Waits, Heartattack and Vine
(First time I heard this, once I deciphered what Old Golden Throat was singing, I cackled.)

2. “I said, ‘I’m so happy, I could die.’ She said, ‘Drop dead’ and left with another guy” – Elvis Costello, (Angels Want to Wear My) Red Shoes
(Always has been one of my favorites … 1980s snark at its best)

3. “When I get 400 dollars, I’m goin’ to see Melinda” – Tom Petty, Melinda
(All that’s standing between him and this guy’s happiness? Four hundred dollars. Wow.)

4. “I bet there’s rich folks eating from a fancy dining car/ They’re probably drinkin’ coffee and smoking big cigars” – Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison Blues
(This one hits me for a similar reason. What describes freedom for this prisoner? Drinkin’ coffee …)

Cash and Petty flanking Carl Perkins who was no slouch in the lyric department, either

Cash and Petty flanking Carl Perkins who was no slouch in the lyric department, either

5. “Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks” – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Walls (Circus)
(Tom Petty said this line was inspired by something Johnny Cash said to him … no wonder it works)

6. “Life is what happens to you/ While you’re busy making other plans” – John Lennon, Beautiful Boy
(Word.)

7. “I could build me a castle of memories just to have somewhere to go” – John Prine, Clay Pigeons
(John Prine is one of those lyricists who tosses gems like this into so many songs, and his voice is so unassuming you don’t realize how beautiful they are at first.)

8. “I live my life like I wasn’t invited” – Wilco, Candyfloss
(Been there. Done that. May still be doing that.)

9. “I’m so broke I can’t even pay attention” – Jimi Hendrix, Taking Care of No Business
(Jimi probably stole this from some other blues guy. No matter – he delivers it with a smile)

And, oh hell, let’s just put this out there as #10:

“Now I walk with a man in my face/ Ooh, a woman in my hair
“I’ve got you all lookin’ out through my eyes/ My feet are a prayer”

The Who, Sister Disco
(All I can say is, Pete, what were you on?)

So, please read, share, post, discuss and let me know your favorites … pretty, pretty please!

See you on the flip side …

School of Rock

7 Aug

“The Boston gig has been canceled … I wouldn’t worry about it though, it’s not a big college town.”

My teenage daughter is going to be a senior in high school come September. Next week, I will accompany her up and down the East Coast for her first college tour … or as she sees it, the Bataan Death March of the Soul. As much as she wants to flee parental control, she is leery of jumping into the arms of the academic establishment due to the cost, the pressure, and the likelihood that she’ll have to do her own laundry.

I told her that going to college means one thing for certain: great music. Even dinky campuses get any number of bands traipsing through town to build up their rabid following, one underclassman at a time.  Occasionally, they spring up from the students themselves: Talking Heads at RISD, MGMT at Wesleyan, Vampire Weekend at Columbia.

To prove my point, and perhaps to make it worth her while to set foot in Providence, I looked up the concerts in the New York and Boston areas when we’ve got free nights. And there is NOTHING. No thing. Nada. (There is a Marina and the Diamonds concert in but it’s 18 and over. As her mother, I can’t exactly help her get a fake ID so we can catch a concert.)

Of course,  Bruce Springsteen is playing Fenway Park while we’re in Boston. Call me un-American, but I have absolutely no interest in seeing the Boss in concert.  I wish him no ill. I’m glad he’s in the world, and he is nothing if not sincere. If someone offered me tickets to his show, I’d go. But otherwise, it would be like me going to a Latin mass when I’m only a diffident Protestant: I might recognize some of the melodies and get the gist of what all the fuss is about. Not being a true believer, though, the fervor of the faithful would be dumbfounding. (Maybe if I had gone to Rutgers …)

I was looking forward to catching a show. I saw all of three concerts in the Boston area during the eight years I lived there:

  1. Elvis Costello and his ill-conceived “Spectacular Spinning Songbook”, where he spun a wheel to choose the next song, making the show seem like it went on for days. When 10 p.m. came around and he hadn’t landed on “Alison,” he gave up and just shoved the ticker over.
  2. David Bowie’s “Glass Spider” tour at Foxboro Stadium (speaking of ill-conceived).
  3. The Fine Young Cannibals’ only appearance at Great Woods; they performed their three songs respectably then promptly broke up.

Of course, I want to see a show with her for reasons beyond just redeeming my Boston-based concert roster. With the advent of her senior year, it’s hitting me that there aren’t that many more opportunities for my daughter and me to share music together here at home. I’ll start feeling the emotional impact as we head to the airport and I hand her my iPod to select what she wants to hear in the car. It’ll rear up again when we’re packing her turntable in bubble wrap so it’ll arrive on campus safely. And it’ll knock me flat when Airborne Toxic Event comes through Detroit and she’ll be seeing them on another stop on the tour.

There are still Marina and the Diamonds tickets left. Anyone know where in New York I can get my daughter a fake ID?

See you on the flip side …

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