Monday, June 30, 2008

Words without Music - the Opposite of Karaoke

The Guardian ran a series on "Great Lyricists" last week. Every day a hastily-printed badly-spelled 12-page supplement would honour a word-heavy songwriter.

The series led off with Bob Dylan. Big groan from Stan. Dylan is the single most over-rated lyricist bar none. I enjoy his melodies but his words are drug-addled drool worshipped by a certain sort of person who lived in the 1960s and still wants to live there.

I thought Germaine Greer would have been odds-on to be a fan, but I was delighted to see in her Guardian column that she is anything but.

She also makes sense when she says "To present the words without the music is to emasculate them." This is very much true with Morrissey as she describes (Morrissey without Johnny Marr's guitar ?? Perish the thought). It is even more true (if you allow that something than be more true than something else) for Chuck D whose sparse words are lessened without the full-force wall-of-sound from Public Enemy.

I was amused to see Alex Turner from The Arctic Monkeys on the list after a whole 2 albums (1 slightly disappointing). He wrote lyrics for one fine album - that hardly makes him a "Great Lyricist". Oh well, the Guardian has to sell papers somehow. I did giggle like a naughty schoolboy over the line I hadn't heard properly before - "Was it a Mecca Dobber or a betting pencil?". The boy shows promise certainly.

Of course Lennon & McCartney would have charged way too much for the copyright, as would Jagger & Richards, so they were never going to make the list. It's like those cheapo "Best of the Sixties" albums that don't include the Beatles or the Stones and so the title is breaching the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

The full Guardian list was as follows :-

(1) Bob Dylan
(2) Bruce Springsteen
(3) Morrissey
(4) Joni Mitchell
(5) Chuck D
(6) Patti Smith
(7) Alex Turner
(8) Leonard Cohen

Anyone else worth including ? Joe Jackson ? Amy Winehouse ? Dolly Parton ?

5 comments:

Kenny said...

You just knew I wouldn't be able to resist this didn't you? Worthy of a post in itself (maybe I should do the Telegraph version?).

I'm not sure Amy, Joe or Dolly make it up there although they are brilliant in their own rights.

For lyricists, I'd put forward Paul Simon as definitely at number one. Absolutely no question of a doubt at all. After that it starts getting a little tougher. I'll have a think.

Stan said...

Kicking myself for missing Paul Simon. Awesome use of language. "Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again".

I would also like to propose David Bowie and Tom Waits for your consideration.

Kenny said...

The one that always gets me:

"The Mississippi Delta was shining like a national guitar."

Absolute genius.

drummerdave said...

Definitely agree re Paul Simon.. but I'm also mulling around names like Richard Thompson, Ray Davies, Elvis Costello... also like a lot of the Squeeze songs done by Difford & Tilbrook..
but then, I'm only a drummer (and an old one at that)..

ben said...

Feminism has a vocal extremist wing which gives it a bad name.

Germaine Greer generally makes a lot of sense.

2p'th.