Notepad on Life

May 30, 2012

Song lyrics the sleeping partner in modern music

Filed under: music,Nostalgia,Radio — - @ 8:28 am
Tags: , , ,

Sounds of the Sixties isn’t normally my type of music but it stopped me in my tracks last Saturday, as I was hauling myself out of bed.

As much as there is a very dated sound to Harry Secombe’s version of If I Ruled the World these days, I was suddenly struck by the lyrics: not because world domination is on my agenda but simply because they were worth listening to.

They told a story. They told it well, descriptively, in words that you instinctively knew hadn’t been rattled off on the back of a fag packet on the way into  work but had instead been toiled over with as much care as the melody itself.

Then it hit me, how often do modern lyrics do this? How often do I find myself listening beyond the tune and following the words because they command my attention?

I remember thinking how Eminem’s Cleanin’ Out My Closet was one of the saddest, most powerful songs I’d ever heard in recent years but even then, that was because of its theme – a man excoriating his mother in public – more than because of the words themselves.

The same thing happened a while ago with another Sixties number, Avenues and Alleyways, when lyricist Peter Callander had to describe the underworld that emerges in a city after dark and came up with a gem of a line – “all the low are living high” – that I’ve never forgotten.

Who lavishes that kind of attention to words these days, making them sing every bit as loud as the music? Maybe he or she is out there but I’m still waiting to hear them.

Take a bow, Leslie Bricusse:

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