Of Ear Worms and Pop Philosophy: My Favourite Song Lyrics

I was listening to classic songs on the radio this weekend while cooking. I was singing and jiving along, when two things occurred to me:

  1. There is a part of the brain uniquely specialised in song lyrics you acquired as a child and teenager. You will remember them and be word-perfect even decades afterwards.
  2. No other songs since have quite captured that uncertainty and angst which threatened to overwhelm you back then… and which have periodically reared up their ugly heads. You vaguely realised back then that life is unfair and hard, but you have to keep trudging on. Now you know for sure. And, just occasionally, there are some moments which make it all worthwhile.

So here are my favourite songs from those teenage years. Little wonder I turned to noir novels and dark, emotionally-wrenching poetry later in life… [I hope it’s OK to use these excerpts, by the way, I know that copyright for song lyrics are very, very tricky in books and the like.]

Album cover, from soundcheck.wnyc.org
Legendary album cover, from soundcheck.wnyc.org

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here

We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Pink Floyd: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Well you wore out your welcome with random precision, rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

GloryDaysSpringsteenBruce Springsteen: Glory Days

… I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

 

 

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes

talkingheadsTalking Heads: Once in a Lifetime

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?

And how could I leave out my favourite Mr. Bowie?

David Bowie: Changes

And every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test…

Finally, just in case you thought it was getting all too masculine and self-important, here’s one of the wittiest songs in existence (and so true of me and my passion for shoes):

From KirstyMacColl.com
From KirstyMacColl.com

Kirsty MacColl: In These Shoes?

Then I met an Englishman
“Oh” he said
“Won’t you walk up and down my spine,
It makes me feel strangely alive.”

I said “In these shoes?
I doubt you’d survive.”

If you know these songs, I’d encourage you to remind yourselves how gorgeous they all are. And if you don’t know them, you should set to discovering them at once.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Songs of My Life

There is a website where you can enter your year of birth and get to ‘see’ the top music tracks of each year of school, the soundtrack to your early life, as it were. Which got me thinking… what are the songs that meant most to me in my life? They weren’t necessarily the ones that were the greatest hits at the time, nor are they trendy, cool, or chosen for their artistic merit. I probably should be embarrassed to death about at least half of them. I’m certainly somewhat surprised and frustrated that they are so often related to ‘other people’, to falling in love and such things. But, like it or not, these are the songs to which I developed a personal connection and which are vivid reminders of certain periods of my life.

1982 – The Wall – Pink Floyd

Is there any school child who did not rise up and sing ‘We don’t need no education…’? Even though I actually rather liked school. At least in those early years.

DavidBowieScaryMonstersCover1983 – Scary Monsters (Super Creeps) – David Bowie

The first single I ever bought. Then I bought the album; then some of his earlier albums. This was David Bowie of the Serious Moonlight Tour, the pastel suits, the ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Little China Girl’. But I preferred his earlier music… and his film roles in The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and his cameo in Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo. I was completely besotted with him and convinced that he’d wait for me to grow up and we’d get married. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

1987 – I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight – Cutting Crew

Cutting Crew
Cutting Crew

My first big love affair with a boy with turquoise eyes… who vaguely resembled the lead singer of this band and taught me nearly everything I know about skiing.

1989 – I Want to Break Free – Queen

A secret anthem during my teenage years and my difficult relationship with my parents. But also the year that all of us young people finally broke free in my country – or at least found democracy and capitalism. For better, for worse…

1990 – She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals

I was interpreting for international television crews during the first free elections in Romania. I was often the only (young) woman in a gaggle of (older) men, but I think I managed to make them toe the line. This was the song that they said reminded them of me. It reminds me of the world of possibilities that was opening up to me just then.

1992 – Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba

One of the happiest years of my life, when I did my M.Phil. in Cambridge. I learnt ballroom dancing for the first time and fell completely in love with it – this was our cha-cha music. This was also the year that I met the great love of my life. Sadly, it didn’t last very long.

2003 – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Andy Williams

The song I used to croon to my first-born, waltzing with him in a kangaroo pouch up and down the living room. How can a mother not identify with these words? ‘You’re just too good to be true/ can’t take my eyes off you/ You’d be like heaven to touch/ I wanna hold You so much/ At long last love has arrived/ And I thank God I’m alive…’

2014 – Sweet Darling – Frero Delavega

This is a really silly (and somewhat sexist) song, but it’s the one that my boys have adapted to sing to our beloved cat when she is debating whether to go outside in the wet, cold or snow: ‘Oh, my sweet darling Zoe/ don’t go!’ It perfectly captures all their humour, tenderness and silliness – and their affection for their ‘little sister’.

Will 2015 bring any memorable songs? I intend this to be a year of movement, of leaving lethargy behind and getting stuff DONE. So it’s either full circle to Pink Floyd and ‘Shine On, You Crazy Diamond’ or else… I’m rather tempted by this: