Poetry in music: 10 of the best song lyrics

Sometimes, I hear a song I love, but I just cannot wait to get to the  juicy bit in the song lyrics – that one-liner or verse that makes you nod your head and  sing along at the top of your voice. Its hits you right in the solar  plexus and you shout, “yes indeed!”

It can be because the lines are poetry that speak to your very soul,  or it can be simple because you love the cleverness of the word-play.  Some of my favourites, I love because they are realistic, down to  earth and sum up a particular aspect of life so aptly.

Here, pop people, are some of my top picks.

The Beatles – Penny Lane

Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she’s in a play,
She is anyway

I love this, because it sums up the song so very well. Penny Lane is  just one street in suburban Liverpool; apart from being immortalised  in vinyl by the biggest band ever to grace the planet, it’s nothing  special. I lived in the area during my early twenties – the graduate  years – and apart from a  nice, proper local pub called The Dovedale  Towers, there is nothing else that I can clearly recall about the road.

That, though, is the point of the song. Penny Lane isn’t about anyone  or anywhere special, just day-to-day human life, with all the quirks  and the mundanities that entails. It’s just people going about their  business in one very small part of the world, yet it is poetry in  motion. Life is special – joy can be found in the smallest of daily  activities and in the pokiest corners of the globe.

INXS – Never Tear Us Apart

We could live
For a thousand years
But if I hurt you
I’d make wine from your tears

From everyday suburban life to the most fanciful of notions, now. I  mean, as if? Who would make wine from tears? My Grandad made wine out  of some odd ingredients – most memorably, dandelions – but I don’t  think even he would have considered using someone’s eye emissions as  an ingredient.

No-one lives for a thousand years either, Messrs Hutchence and  Farriss. Of course they don’t. It’s the romance conveyed by these  lines that strikes me. He wants to live with me for a thousand years!  If he hurt me, he’d actually drink my tears! It speaks of such  passion, and prior to the INXS songwriters, only Heathcliff himself,  surely, really embodied such strength of feeling. It was probably this  very intensity that led to Hutchence’s untimely death, too.

Carly Simon – You’re So Vain

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain,
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

It is, though isn’t it Carly? About ‘him’ – he, who is rumoured to be  Warren Beatty, with whom Carly Simon had a fling some years ago? The  singer has since confirmed that part of the song is indeed about Mr  Beatty – but not all. On this excerpt, the chorus, she was silent.  Having dated several other high-profile men, including James Taylor  (to whom she was wed) and Mick Jagger, we can but wonder.

We’ve all known one, or more, though, haven’t we, girls? (To be fair,  the boys probably have known some, too.) Those individuals that think  everything revolves around them? Or those who are simply acutely aware  of the power bestowed upon them, having been blessed with Greek God  like looks. I’ve certainly known one of those. He was English, like me  – but it was on holiday to a Greek Island… my lips are sealed.

Oasis – Cigarettes and Alcohol

Is it my imagination
Or have I finally found something worth living for?
I was looking for some action
But all I found was cigarettes and alcohol

Cigarettes, admittedly, are less of a part of everyday life than in  decades past – simply because of a rapidly dwindling population of  smokers – but for some, the enjoyment in life could pretty much be  grimly summed up by the opening verse of this song by one of Britain’s  superbands.

You might get through day, or the week, by the skin of your gritted  teeth, but come the evening or weekend, it was playtime. Smoking and  drinking, which often led to action of another kind, on the dance  floor or in the bedroom. The very stuff of life, indeed; romantic the  notion is not, but countless human lives have actually been created on  the back of fags and booze – and many more sustained by those simple  pleasures.

Pulp – Common People

You’ll never live like common people,
You’ll never do whatever common people do,
You’ll never fail like common people,
You’ll never watch your life slide out of view,
And dance and drink and screw,
Because there’s nothing else to do.

Very much leading on from the last listing, the lyrics once again  reflect the grainy reality of survival for many folk. They dance, they  drink, they fornicate – because where else do they find pleasure in  the everyday matter of living?

I think it’s a message to the monied classes, too. If you’ll always  have back-up, then you simply cannot fail in the same way that those  without can and do. If they take a big business risk, for example,  they might lose everything and, for example, never be able to buy  their own home again, becoming reliant on others – landlords – to  house them. With family money and backing, someone more fortunate can  give things a go without the stakes being so very high.

George Michael – A Different Corner

Take me back in time, maybe I can forget
Turn a different corner and we never would have met

I love this, because it has real resonance for me and how my life has  turned out so far. I literally turned a different corner – took  another trip – earlier than planned when travelling in Australia. That  led me to a hostel in Adelaide, where I almost immediately met my  husband. It took us some years to figure it out, but here we are now,  homeowners on the sunny south coast of England, with an elderly cat  and a daughter soon due to start school.

I know for many there will not be such an extreme example, but I bet  you there are some. Who hasn’t gone to a party or even business event  and met an important person or contact, that has somehow had an impact  – huge or otherwise – on their life? Which leads me neatly onto the  next one…

Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor

Oh there ain’t no love no, Montagues or Capulets
Just banging tunes ‘n’ DJ sets ‘n’
Dirty dance floors and dreams of naughtiness!

I love loads of lines from this song, but I the clever nod to  Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers is my favourite. The cleverness of  these lyrics belies the age of Alex Turner – who penned the ditty –  when he wrote it. He was only 20 when the album from which it came,  ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not’, was released. He is  the son of two teachers though, which possibly  explains the shrewd  nod to Romeo and Juliet.

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights

Out on the wiley, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green
You had a temper like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you, I loved you, too

This song always sends shivers up my spine. I’m not really a Kate Bush  fan, so this song bypassed me when I read Emily Bronte’s masterpiece  in my late teens. When I heard it, one day later in life, I was  suddenly blown away by how well Bush had reflected the novel so  completely in her lyrics and the music.

Cathy and Heathcliff are the absolute embodiment of the often cited  fine line between love and hate, their relationship the very  definition of tempestuous. As for the passion – wow. Just wow.

ELO – Mr Blue Sky

Hey there mister blue
We’re so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you

As I write, we’re in the midst of that rarest of events in Britain – a  heatwave. The sun is constantly shining, parks and beaches are crammed  with unusually scantily clad bodies, desperate to soak up a few of  those feel-good rays during a rushed lunch break or precious,  sun-soaked day off.

The lyrics of this song just sum it up perfectly – look how happy we  are to see the sun! A blue sky, too! No wonder people used to worship  the sun; why these days a lack of sunshine is even recognised as the  cause of a specific kind of mood disorder – SAD (Seasonal Affective  Disorder).
Mr Blue – we are indeed very pleased to be with you.



This article was written by our guest blogger Polly Taylor @ BloggerByTheSea.com

Check out Polly’s very eclectic blog……There are some very entertaining and informative articles on a diverse range of subjects & topics. For instance her home made recipes are mouth watering and delicious!!


What are your favourite song lyrics? Let us know in the Reply Box below.
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