Tag Archives: The Who

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

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 …

A Little Is Enough

1 Jan

townshend memeI got some sad news over the holiday break: one of my favorite rock writers is calling it quits. On Christmas Day, Jason Wendleton announced he was closing down his rock blog Defending Axl Rose and, sadder still, stopping writing about music altogether:

I’m always going to be a music fan, but I’m not going to pursue writing about music any further.  The main reason being, I’m not really qualified to do so.  I know nothing about music and can’t play any instruments.  That’s a pretty big regret I have and maybe someday I’ll correct that, but for now I feel far too handicapped to really “be” a music writer beyond the amateur-level.  And that’s just not good enough.

This stung, not only because I’ll miss his perspectives, recommendations and sense of humor about this silly/serious thing called rock and roll. His belief that he’s somehow falling short puts me on the defensive as well. Considering bloggers write for love not money, we have to create our own yardsticks to gauge our success. If Jason believes he’s not measuring up to his own particular standards, I can’t tell him he’s wrong. Yet if you’re moved by music and can convey your joy in a way that resonates with others, what more do you (or I) need for our writing to be worthy?

The way I see it, just because you don’t play an instrument doesn’t mean you can’t be an engaging, insightful music writer. Likewise, just because you’re a rock god doesn’t mean you aren’t a wanker in print.

Pete Townshend ought to have written a great rock memoir. He has credentials to spare. A founder of The Who, keynote performer at Woodstock and Live Aid, one of popular music’s best composers/lyricists and a rock blogging pioneer: he should be able to capture the giddy energy, sharp danger and ineffable cool of being an authentic rock idol. He was even an acquisitions editor for Faber and Faber—for God’s sake, he ought to know how to tell a good story.

Must ... be taken ... SERIOUSLY!

Must … be taken … SERIOUSLY!

And yet, Townshend’s memoir, Who I Am, is a pretentious, insufferable slog of a book. He wallows in perpetual angst about his overweening artistic ambitions, his sexual uncertainties, his less-than-successful self-monitored sobriety and his proclivity for expensive recording equipment and boats. No detail is spared, so the trivial is given the same weight as the monumental. (He spills a lot of ink  over his real estate dealings without a word about how his single “Rough Boys”  reflected his coming to terms with his own bisexuality.) There is no arc to his life in his telling, no sense of lessons learned or great moments appreciated, no moments of grace or humility to offset the self-indulgence. Even the amusing anecdotes aren’t very amusing.

Silly me. I thought being a rock star was supposed to be fun.

That’s the danger of reading a memoir, I guess: if you want to meet the real person behind the persona, you run the risk of not liking him very much. The Pete Townshend portrayed in his book is obsessed with being taken seriously as an artist to the expense of all else. I had been hoping to learn more about the guy who wrote “Long Live Rock,” one of the funniest songs about rock-and-roll decadence ever.

Here’s a live performance of that song on British television, introduced by a hipster of the time underscoring the Importance of the Band … then Pete goes on to flub his own lyrics:

Pete, here’s hoping you find your sense of humor again soon … I’m sure Jason can help you.

See you on the flip side …

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