Back in the mid-70s when The Boomtown Rats were first getting things together, Bob Geldof was heavily influenced by the opening line from the Dr Feelgood song All through the City. The words that had such a strong influence on him were “Stand and watch the towers burning at the break of day”. Bob was so inspired, that one of the first things he did when coming to England was to seek out the burning gas flares at the oil refinery at Canvey Island (photo above), that the Feelgood’s had waxed so lyrically about.
Bob seems to have been blown away by those words – proving if nothing else that the appreciation of lyrics is a personal thing. I like some of Dr Feelgood’s music, but that line doesn’t do it for me the way it did for Bob Geldof. What I am sure about though, is that anything the Feelgoods wrote has been surpassed many times over by Bob’s own song writing.
One of the best examples of this is from Bob’s solo song Thinking Voyager II Type Things, which is overflowing with beautiful imagery from start to finish. Perhaps the high-point of the song is the line “Let's traipse the high bronze of the evening sky like crack crazed kings”.
“The high-bronze of the evening sky….” it really doesn’t get better than that – though there are loads of examples were Bob keeps trying!!!
But an appreciation of song lyrics doesn’t have to seek out the inner poet. Sometimes complex emotions can be captured in a few simple words. For example, in Ian Dury’s What A Waste, we get the line “First-night nerves every one-night stand”. For me, this feels like a long treatise on personal insecurity and inadequacy, distilled into just seven simple words.
I could go on – most of the music I like is characterised by what the song is saying to me and the words the artist has used. What I’m wondering is how many wonderful examples of the song-writer’s craft are out there that I’ve never heard.
Please bombard me with your personal favourite lines from songs – it doesn’t matter why they are special to you – all that matters is you like them.