Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Homemade Music

As most of you know, I'm a die hard Mark Knopfler fan - I think he's one of the great musicians of all time and I can listen to his music, both his thought provoking lyrics and incredible guitar, over and over without ever getting bored.

But, since I've got Beastly spending the summer here at Stonekettle Station, I try to vary the music in the shop a bit more than I usually do when I'm alone out there.

Today it's been mostly a Jimmy Buffet kind of day.

You know, it's been a while since I listened to the old Parrot Head, and I'd forgotten just how great some of his lyrics are.

Take this one from A Pirate Looks at Forty:

Yes, I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

But I've done a bit of smugglin',
I've run my share of grass

Made enough money to buy Miami,
but I pissed it away so fast

Never meant to last, never meant to last

I've always loved that song, but now that I'm well into my late forties it really strikes a chord with me.

Another all time favorite is this bit from My Heads Hurts:

My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don't love Jesus
It's that kind of morning
Really was that kind of night
Trying to tell myself that my condition is improving
And if I don't die by Thursday, I'll be roarin' Friday night

See, that's the thing about Buffet, we've all been there. And really only Jimmy Buffet could come up with this:

So, anyway today's question is this: Who do you consider a great lyricist and why. Give two examples.

Oh, and yeah, try not to be an asshole.


  1. Springsteen, of course:

    We gotta stay cool tonight, Eddie
    `Cause man, we got ourselves out on that line
    And if we blow this one
    They ain't gonna be looking for just me this time

    And all we gotta do is hold up our end
    Here stuff this in your pocket
    It'll look like you're carrying a friend
    And remember, just don't smile
    Change your shirt, `cause tonight we got style

    Second Example:

    Workin' in the fields
    till you get your back burned
    Workin' `neath the wheel
    till you get your facts learned
    Baby I got my facts
    learned real good right now

  2. Thank you, Nathan, you've identified the start of tomorrow's line up :)

  3. There are so many to chose from, but I'll limit it to three:

    Bob Dylan:

    It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
    That light I never knowed
    An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
    I'm on the dark side of the road
    Still I wish there was somethin' you would do or say
    To try and make me change my mind and stay
    We never did too much talkin' anyway
    So don't think twice, it's all right


    Disillusioned words like bullets bark
    As human gods aim for their mark
    Made everything from toy guns that spark
    To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
    It's easy to see without looking too far
    That not much
    Is really sacred.

    While preachers preach of evil fates
    Teachers teach that knowledge waits
    Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
    Goodness hides behind its gates
    But even the president of the United States
    Sometimes must have
    To stand naked.

    An' though the rules of the road have been lodged
    It's only people's games that you got to dodge
    And it's alright, Ma, I can make it.

    Then there's Leonard Cohen:

    Everybody knows that you love me baby
    Everybody knows that you really do
    Everybody knows that you've been faithful
    Ah give or take a night or two
    Everybody knows you've been discreet
    But there were so many people you just had to meet
    Without your clothes
    And everybody knows


    Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc
    As she came riding through the dark;
    No moon to keep her armor bright,
    No man to get her through this very smoky night.
    She said, I'm tired of the war,
    I want the kind of work I had before,
    A wedding dress or something white
    To wear upon my swollen appetite.

    Well, I'm glad to hear you talk this way,
    You know Ive watched you riding every day
    And something in me yearns to win
    Such a cold and lonesome heroine.
    And who are you? she sternly spoke
    To the one beneath the smoke.
    Why, I'm fire, he replied,
    And I love your solitude, I love your pride.

    Then fire, make your body cold,
    I'm going to give you mine to hold,
    Saying this she climbed inside
    To be his one, to be his only bride.
    And deep into his fiery heart
    He took the dust of Joan of Arc,
    And high above the wedding guests
    He hung the ashes of her wedding dress.

    It was deep into his fiery heart
    He took the dust of Joan of Arc,
    And then she clearly understood
    If he was fire, oh then she must be wood.
    I saw her wince, I saw her cry,
    I saw the glory in her eye.
    Myself I long for love and light,
    But must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?

    Finally, Al Stewart:

    On a morning from a Bogart movie
    In a country where they turn back time
    You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
    Contemplating a crime
    She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
    Like a watercolor in the rain
    Don't bother asking for explanations
    She'll just tell you that she came
    In the year of the cat


    The wands of smoke are rising
    From the walls of the Bastille
    And through the streets of Paris
    Runs a sense of the unreal

    The Kings have all departed
    There servants are nowhere
    We burned out their mansions
    In the name of Robespierre

    And still we wait
    To see the day begin
    Our time is wasting in the wind
    Wondering why
    Wondering why, it echoes
    Through the lonely palace of Versailles

    Inside the midnight councils
    The lamps are burning low
    On you sit and talk all through the night
    But there's just no place to go

    And Bonaparte is coming
    With his army from the south
    Marat your days are numbered
    And we live hand to mouth

    While we wait
    To see the day begin
    Our time is wasting in the wind
    Wondering why
    Wondering why, it echoes
    Through the lonely palace of Versailles

    The ghost of revolution
    Still prowls the Paris streets
    Down all the restless centuries
    It wonders incomplete

    It speaks inside the cheap red wine
    Of cafe summer nights
    Its red and amber voices
    Call the cars at traffic lights

    Why do you wait
    To see the day begin
    Your time is wasting in the wind
    Wondering why
    Wondering why, it echoes
    Through the lonely palace of Versailles

  4. Tom Waits

    Well you play that tarantella all the hounds will start to roar
    The boys all go to hell and then the Cubans hit the floor
    They drive along the pipeline, they tango 'til they're sore
    They take apart their nightmares and they leave them by the door
    Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
    Deal out Jacks or Better on a blanket by the stairs
    I'll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
    And send me off to bed for evermore

    Make sure they play my theme song, I guess daisies will have to do
    Just get me to New Orleans and paint shadows on the pews
    Turn the spit on that pig and kick the drum and let me down
    Put my clarinet beneath your bed 'til I get back in town
    Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
    Deal out Jacks or Better on a blanket by the stairs
    I'll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
    So send me off to bed for evermore

    Well, they call me William the Pleaser
    I sold opium, fireworks and lead
    Now I'm telling my troubles to strangers
    When the shadows get long I'll be dead

    Now, her hair was as black as a bucket of tar
    Her skin as white as a cuttlefish bone
    I left Texas to follow Lucinda
    Now I'll never see heaven or home

    I made a wish on a sliver of moonlight
    A sly grin and a bowl full of stars
    Like a kid who captures a firefly
    And leaves it only to die in the jar

    As I kick at the clouds at my hanging
    As I swing out over the crowd
    I will search every face for Lucinda's
    And she will go off with me down to hell

    I thought I'd broke loose of Lucinda
    The rain returned and so did the wind
    I cast this burden on the god that's within me
    And I'll leave this old world and go free

    The devil dances inside empty pockets
    But she never wanted money or pearls
    No, that wasn't enough for Lucinda
    She wasn't that kind of girl

    Now I've fallen from grace for Lucinda
    Whoever thought that hell be'd so low
    I did well for an old tin can sailor
    But she wanted the bell in my soul

    I've spoken the god on the mountain
    And I've swam in the Irish sea
    I ate fire and drank from the Ganges
    And I'll beg there for mercy for me

    And to add a chick into the mix -

    Polly Paulusma. I don't think she's great - yet. But she has potential.

    One day
    I'll take a bottle with a good strong base
    And a cork that fits it
    No label, no marker's mark
    And I'll shout the bile and anger and plain disappointment in until I've almost filled it
    And then I'll squeeze the cork down hard

    I'll need a boat with a good strong sail
    To weather all the storms and the gales
    I'll grab the bottle, grip the rail and say my prayers

    And then I'll throw that bottle out
    Into the deep blue sea
    And then I'll sail away
    Yeah I'll throw that bottle out
    So far it can't hurt me
    One day, one day, one day
    One day, one day, one day

    One day
    I'll take some canvas with a good strong seam
    And a hot air burner
    A basket, some sandbags and rope
    And I'll float above the earth in my balloon of steam Drifting further and further
    Over plains and mountain slopes

    I'll fly 'til I find the deepest lake
    A volcano about to awake
    I'll grab that bottle by the neck and say my prayers

    And then I'll hurt that bottle down
    Into the deep ravine
    I'll never hear it hit the ground
    Yeah I'll hurt that bottle down, so far it can't hurt me
    One day, one day, one day
    One day, one day, one day
    One day, one day, one day

    One day
    I'll build a rocket with a thick blunt nose And a megatonne engine
    A window to look at the moon
    And I'll burn through the stratosphere with fire in my tail
    A comet ascending
    'Til I float in weightless gloom

    I won't turn back 'til I see the lunar plains
    The detail of the rugged terrain
    I'll grab that bottle full of pain and say my prayers

    And then I'll hurt that bottle down onto the arid sea
    And then I'll fly away
    Yeah I'll hurt that bottle down
    So far it can't hurt me
    One day, one day, one day

    It started slowly.
    First a finger then a thumb.
    Matilda started disappearing,
    in front of everyone.
    No one noticed how translucent she'd become.
    As one by one.
    It started softly.
    First a fumble then a kiss.
    In all his dreams he'd never seen,
    perfection like this.
    No one noticed her hand tug at his.
    As one by one,
    the walkers left the park.
    And one by one,
    the electric lights went dark.
    And one by one.

    He buried her down in this hole.
    I've got nothing to fear.
    Somebody knows,
    that I'm hiding down here.
    If I wiggle my toes,
    they're gonna come find me.
    If I wiggle my toes,
    I'm gonna get free.

    It started slowly,
    like a joining up of dots.
    A dolly on a doorstep,
    and an empty cardboard box.
    That quiet yearning,
    as the final penny draws.
    As one by one,
    we called her name out loud.
    And one by one,
    we strain to hear the sound.
    And one by one,
    our tourch beams shorn.

    Down in this hole,
    I've got nothing to fear.
    Somebody knows,
    that I'm hiding down here.
    If I wiggle my toes,
    they're gonna come find me.
    Somebody knows,
    that I'm under these stones.
    There gonna come find me.

  5. BTW - since Vince has weighed in, it will be interesting to see what Eric's suggestions will be. Since they seem to be our two premier audiophiles. I am almost in the "It has a nice beat and you can dance to it" category or music listener.

  6. Coincidentally, I was randomly doing some research into odes yesterday, and it occurred to me that Billly Joel's Leningrad is an ode:

    Viktor was born in the spring of '44
    And never saw his father anymore
    A child of sacrifice, a child of war
    Another son who never had a father after Leningrad
    Went off to school and learned to serve the state
    Followed the rules and drank his vodka straight
    The only way to live was drown the hate
    A Russian life was very sad
    And such was life in Leningrad

    I was born in '49
    A cold war kid in McCarthy time
    Stop 'em at the 38th Parallel
    Blast those yellow reds to hell
    And cold war kids were hard to kill
    Under their desk in an air raid drill
    Haven't they heard we won the war
    What do they keep on fighting for?

    Viktor was sent to some Red Army town
    Served out his time, became a circus clown
    The greatest happiness he'd ever found
    Was making Russian children glad
    And children lived in Leningrad

    But children lived in Levittown
    And hid in the shelters underground
    Until the Soviets turned their ships around
    And tore the Cuban missiles down
    And in that bright October sun
    We knew our childhood days were done
    And I watched my friends go off to war
    What do they keep on fighting for?

    And so my child and I came to this place
    To meet him eye to eye and face to face
    He made my daughter laugh, then we embraced
    We never knew what friends we had
    Until we came to Leningrad

    ... then the song shifts into a third melody for an epode.

    (lyrics copied from lyricwiki.org)

    Second example would have to be Downeaster Alexa, seeing as how I'm a big fan of fish and the ocean and all... ;)

    Well I'm on the Downeaster Alexa
    And I'm cruisin' through Block Island Sound
    I have charted a course to the vineyards
    But tonight I am Nantucket bound.

    We took on diesel back in Montauk yesterday
    And left this morning from the bell in Gardiner's Bay
    Like all the locals here I've had to sell my home
    Too proud to leave I worked my fingers to the bone

    So I could own my Downeaster Alexa
    And I go where the ocean is deep
    There are giants out there in the canyons
    And a good captain can't fall asleep

    I've got bills to pay and children who need clothes
    I know there's fish out there but where God only knows
    They say these waters aren't what they used to be
    But I've got people back on land who count on me

    So if you see my Downeaster Alexa
    And if you work with the rod and the reel
    Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis
    And I still have my hands on the wheel

    Now I drive my Downeaster Alexa
    More and more miles from shore every year
    Since they told me I can't sell no stripers
    And there's no luck in swordfishing here

    I was a Bayman like my father was before
    Can't make a living as a Bayman anymore
    There ain't much future for a man who works the sea
    But there ain't no island left for Islanders like me


    (lyrics from lyricwiki.org)

  7. Sorry, I tend to be move more by music than lyrics. In fact, I can listen to a song just for an awesome bass line.

    Though I am awfully fond of Elvis Costello's lyrics...

    Take the chorus of "This Town"

    You’re nobody in this town
    You’re nobody in this crowd
    You’re nobody ‘til everybody in this town
    Thinks you’re poison,
    Got your number knows it must be avoided
    You’re nobody ‘til everybody in this town
    Thinks you’re a bastard

    And I'm also inordinately fond of Cracker...

    Well, lucky number seven passed me by
    Lucky number seven called my name and passed on by
    Well he came back don't you know
    with his brother six in tow
    And that is how number thirteen wound up by my side.

    And that is how I got these Lonesome Johnny Blues
    How I got these Lonesome Johnny Blues
    Got the Lonesome Johnny Blues
    and there's nothing I can do
    'Cept sing these sad old weary Lonesome Johnny Blues

    Grim Reaper he pulled up into my drive
    Grim Reaper pulled his little old Chevrolet
    right up onto the goddamn drive
    "Johnny, I haven't come for you
    but I want someone who's dear to you
    and the price you pay is to remain alive"

    And I'll stay here with these Lonesome Johnny Blues
    Stay here with these Lonesome Johnny Blues
    With the Lonesome Johnny Blues
    and there's nothing I can do
    'Cept sing these sad old weary Lonesome Johnny Blues

    Woah, no more trouble send him down
    the road, won't you please.
    No more trouble won't you beat him up,
    won't you send him down the road
    Trouble dumped out the trash
    Ransacked the place for cash
    and he wound up taking much more than I own

    And he left me with these Lonesome Johnny Blues
    Left me with these Lonesome Johnny Blues
    With the Lonesome Johnny Blues
    and there's nothing I can do
    'Cept sing these sad old weary Lonesome Johnny Blues

    Though the music really makes "Lonesome Johnny Blues".

    And then there's the chorus of the Posies "My Big Mouth"

    Don't make me explain myself - you don't need to know
    What's going on in my big head right now
    It could appear that I could want to defend me, but
    Don't make me open my big mouth

  8. I was sort of reluctant to comment for some reason, especially since Nathan, Vince and Tania already hit several of my top picks: Springsteen, Dylan, Cohen and Waits.

    Let's see who else I could throw in? Well, I'm a huuuge Michael Penn fan:

    In "Denton Road," a man comments on his own funeral:

    I've heard people say they’ve come for miles
    To pay their due respects
    (for mileage, each expects).
    "A pillar of community and style".
    "At heart, a family man
    Who'd had a change of plan".

    Goodbye Sally, Simi Valley,
    Denton Road, The Roosevelt Hotel
    For my own farewell
    And if you don't show, that's fine.

    What's it say about me that I'm bored?
    Don't need another speech
    To know I'm out of reach....

    In "Me Around," things don't seem to be going too well:

    The fire that this town can see
    Is me alight in effigy
    I suppose baby don't want me around
    She threw my stuff into a pit
    And laughed aloud as I dove after it
    I suppose baby don't want me around

    Is this the place you want to be?
    Out of the woods
    Out of control
    And is it really only me
    Who never gets here with you

    She changed the number, changed the lock
    A rubber door in case I knock
    I suppose baby don't want me around

    I also love Jeff Tweedy's lyrics. Wilco's "Via Chicago" is a sad, brutal, heart-breaking song:

    I dreamed about killing you again last night
    And it felt alright to me
    Dying on the banks of Embarcadero skies
    I sat and watched you bleed
    Buried you alive in a fireworks display
    Raining down on me
    You cold, hot blood ran away from me
    To the sea

    I painted my name on the back of a leaf
    And I watched it float away
    The hope I had in a notebook full of white, dry pages
    Was all I tried to save
    But the wind blew me back via Chicago
    In the middle of the night
    And all without fight
    At the crush of veils and starlight

    I know I'll make it back
    One of these days and turn on your TV
    To watch a man with a face like mine
    Being chased down a busy street
    When he gets caught, I wont get up
    And I wont go to sleep
    I'm coming home, I'm coming home
    Via Chicago

    From Uncle Tupelo's "Black Eye," an early Tweedy lyric:

    he had a black eye
    he was proud of
    like some of his friends
    it made him feel somewhere outside
    of everything and everywhere he'd been

    like his brothers
    he emptied himself
    and played it safe
    like their father
    he wanted to remember
    but he almost always
    forgot what he was gonna say

    Honorable mentions might be sent off to Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons. Jackson Brown in his time and place could write odes to dead friends better than anyone but gets pretty spotty after his first three or four albums. Tori Amos can be a brilliant lyricist when she writes in English: "Playboy Mommy" brings me near tears almost everytime I hear it and "Waitress" is a wonderful little assassination--unfortunately, she sometimes gets just a little nuts (which is also sometimes brilliant: "Space Dog" is an awesome song, but I have no idea what the fuck she's talking about--"racing turtles/the grapefruit is winning..."--whaaaa?). I could probably go on and on and on, but I'll cut my comment there.

  9. I think George Harrison has some amazing messages that he delivers in his lyrics.

    All Things Must Pass
    Sunrise doesn't last all morning
    A cloudburst doesn't last all day
    Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
    It's not always going to be this grey

    All things must pass
    All things must pass away

    Sunset doesn't last all evening
    A mind can blow those clouds away
    After all this, my love is up and must be leaving
    It's not always going to be this grey

    All things must pass
    All things must pass away
    All things must pass
    None of life's strings can last
    So, I must be on my way
    And face another day

    Now the darkness only stays the night-time
    In the morning it will fade away
    Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
    It's not always going to be this grey

    All things must pass
    All things must pass away
    All things must pass
    All things must pass away

    Brainwashed in our childhood
    Brainwashed by the school
    Brainwashed by our teachers
    And brainwashed by all their rules
    Brainwashed by our leaders
    By our Kings and Queens
    Brainwashed in the open
    And brainwashed behind the scenes

    God God God
    A voice cries in the wilderness
    God God God
    It was on the longest night
    God God God
    An eternity of darkness
    God God God
    Someone turned out the spiritual light

    Brainwashed by the Nikkei
    Brainwashed by Dow Jones
    Brainwashed by the FTSE
    Nasdaq and secure loans
    Brainwashed us from Brussels
    Brainwashed us in Bonn
    Brainwashed us in Washington
    Westminster in London

    God God God
    You are the wisdom that we seek
    God God God
    The lover that we miss
    God God God
    Your nature is eternity
    God God God
    Your are Existence, Knowledge, Bliss

    The soul does not love, it is love itself
    It does not exist, it is existence itself
    It does not know, it is knowledge itself
    How to Know God, pag 130

    They brainwashed my great uncle
    Brainwashed my cousin Bob
    They even got my grandma
    When she was working for the mob
    Brainwash you while you're sleeping
    While in your traffic jam
    Brainwash you while you're weeping
    While still a baby in your pram
    Brainwashed by the military
    Brainwashed under duress
    Brainwashed by the media
    You're brainwashed by the press
    Brainwashed by computer
    Brainwashed by mobile phones
    Brainwashed by the satellite
    Brainwashed to the bone


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