26 loves… lyrics

To mark 50 years since Woodstock this August, I asked our members to share their favourite song lyrics, old and new.

For me, it had to be a snippet from The Jam’s A Town Called Malice – one of my favourite songs, and this lyric always stands out to me for how it conjures such touching images from the everyday.

Rows and rows of disused milk floats stand dying in the dairy yard
And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts
Hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
It’s enough to make you stop believing when tears come fast and furious
In a town called malice.

Jill Hopper’s favourite lyrics are by Morrissey, from The Smiths’ You Handsome Devil:

There’s more to life than books you know
But not much more.

‘I laughed when I first heard them because I’d never heard anyone voice my feelings so exactly before. And they often spring into my mind – my creed, in a song.’ – Jill Hopper

From Andy Hayes:

‘The lyrics that always spring to mind are from Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al

There were angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity’

Thinking about bands who played Woodstock, I’ve always loved Pete Townshend’s lyrics. Here’s a gem from The Who’s A Legal Matter:

I bet you thought you had me nailed
But I freed my head from your garden rails

And more from Substitute

I’m a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I’m just back-dated, yeah

I like a yeah’

And Francesca Baker:

‘I love lyrics by Jarvis Cocker. His attention to kitchen sink detail is superb. Take F.E.E.L.I.N.G C.A.L.L.E.D L.O.V.E:

The room is cold
And has been like this for several months
If I close my eyes, I can visualise everything in it
Right down
Right down to the broken handle
On the third drawer down of the dressing table


Martin Lee resisted the urge to quote Dylan and Cohen, opting instead for…

‘Marc Bolan of T. Rex was the person that showed me that you could just have pure fun with words – they didn’t have to make sense to make sense, if that makes sense. Or not. So the first lyric that did that for me was Metal Guru:

Metal Guru has it been, just like a silver-studded sabre-tooth dream I’II be clean you know pollution machine, oh yeah.

In more recent years, a single line of a song that I simply love, and less influenced by drugs I suspect, is from Head Home by American band Midlake:

Bring me a day of honest work, and a roof that never leaks, and I’ll be satisfied.

For what it’s worth, this is the only song I know of that overtly references Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, which gives it added distinction.’

From Sandy Wilkie:

‘I’d have to go with lyrics from the title track to this Paddy McAloon (Prefab Sprout) album

The lyrics are built from real conversations heard randomly on short wave radio. So they appear to be a coherent piece but they have been sourced disparately at a time when Paddy had eyesight issues and all he could do was sit in a darkened room and listen to the airwaves. They remind me that random, serendipity can create wonderful lyrics and writing.

It’s a 22min track, needs to be heard in full to appreciate its expansive beauty. But I have selected the following excerpt:

The plane comes down behind enemy lines
And you don’t speak the language
A girl takes pity on you
She is Mother Theresa walking among the poor
And her eyes have attained night vision
In an orchard, drenched in blue light
She changes your bandages and soothes you
All day her voice is balm
Then she lowers you into the sunset
Hers is the wing span of the quotidian angel
So her feet are sore from the walk
To the well of human kindness
But she gives you a name, and you grow into it
Whether a tramp of the low road or a prince
Riding through Wagnerian opera
You learn some, if not all, of the language
And these are the footsteps you follow
The tracks of impossible love.’

Unlike Martin, John Simmons couldn’t resist Leonard Cohen. And I don’t blame him for choosing this excerpt from Anthem:

There’s a crack, a crack 
in everything, that’s how 
the light gets in.

Richard Broadbent asked if he could ‘be greedy and nominate three’:

I am not your rolling wheels. I am the highway.
I am not your carpet ride. I am the sky.
I am not your blowing wind. I am the lightning.
I am not your autumn moon. I am the night.

– Audioslave, I am the highway.

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying.

– Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb

And I’ll dance with you in Vienna
I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder
My mouth on the dew of your thighs
And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook
With the photographs there, and the moss
And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty
My cheap violin and my cross
And you’ll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your wrist
Oh my love, oh my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz
It’s yours now, it’s all that there is.

– Leonard Cohen, Little Viennese Waltz.

Tim Rich opted for the opening verses from My Outstretched Arms by Half Man Half Biscuit:

I asked her to meet me outside the town hall
I had in my pocket a ring
I’d base-layered up, with the temperature being
Way below average for spring
But she’d read the timetable like I’d read her mind
And when she was late to arrive
My outstretched arms were at quarter to three
And hers were at five forty-five

‘Look at the concrete imagery in there! Actually, I’ll let this tale of love’s woes speak for itself. Listen to the song to get the wonderful visual comi-tragedy of the final verse. Those who share my marginal taste in music might enjoy the album this Biscuit track is from, Urge for Offal, which also contains the superb British holiday anthem Westward Ho!’ – Tim Rich

Julia Webb-Harvey adores David Bowie’s Wild is the Wind: 

Bowie’s breathy voice mirrors the feeling of the air moving around two people, and intensifying. The whole narrative builds in the song, like a wild wind, to a lover’s kiss… when the song and the music break. It is lyrical and music genius. 

With your kiss
My life begins
You’re spring to me
All things
To me
Don’t you know you’re
Life itself’

And Alex Fenton shared his musings on a lyric from Oasis’ Little by Little:

True perfection has to be imperfect

‘Please don’t judge me for choosing an Oasis lyric.

Yes, it’s overplayed, and yes, it makes the scientifically-minded cringe with its obviously flawed logic. But it’s always resonated with me, even 15 years after hearing it for the first time. 

Can anything organic be truly perfect? Evolution (a supposedly perfect system) is itself a serial mistake-maker – genetic mutations playing a game of trial and error in a seemingly random, and horribly flawed, way. 

In a world where we agonise endlessly over the tiniest details and consistencies, we’ve forgotten that everything humanity has ever done has been imperfect. I don’t mean in a ‘F*ck it, that’ll do’ kind of way, more in a ‘At some point I have to stop looking at this and get back to my life’ way.

It reminds me of the famous quote ‘films are never finished they’re just released.’ The same can be said of any song, book, TOV guidelines…etc

It’s almost because the creator could have gone on tinkering endlessly that makes the greatest works so brilliant. It’s in their flaws that we see our own, and it’s this human quality that makes us want to connect with the piece. I imagine something coldly perfect would be uninteresting for our primal ‘lizard brains’.

This has made me stop thinking in terms of perfection, and consider instead whether something works or not. I reckon humanity could solve many more problems much faster if it did the same. Just as the great is the enemy of the good, maybe perfection is the enemy of perfectly good solutions.

Is this what Noel was getting at when he wrote this? Whatever the case, it’s 6 words that have made me write 250-odd pondering them, so that’s got to mean something.

I’m not saying this is my favourite lyric, but it’s the one I’ve chosen today. I could have carried on scrolling through my Spotify ‘recently played’ ’til October, but I think Mr Gallagher’s words will do just fine for now.’

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