Listen To The Words

The fiendish Adam asks us this week:

What are your 5 favorite lines from any song? Not the song itself, but specific lyrics that you dig, and find yourself repeating in your head.

Oh, now, that’s just not fair. I listen most of the time to instrumental music, man! I mean, no singing, no words… Well, I’m gonna have to cheat a wee bit, choosing songs that were at some point important to me, however brief that moment was; so please, please bear with me.

  • The complete lyrics of the Nat King Cole song It’s ONly a Paper Moon, which I’ll reproduce here:

    It is only a paper moon
    Hanging over a cardboard sea,
    But it wouldn’t be make believe
    If you believed in me.

    It is only a canvas sky
    Sailing over a muslin tree,
    But it wouldn’t be make believe
    If you believed in me.

    Without your love,
    It’s a honky-tonk parade.
    Without your love,
    It’s a melody played on a penny arcade.

    It’s a Barnum and Bailey world,
    Just as phony as it can be,
    But it wouldn’t be make believe
    If you believed in me.

    That has got to be one of popular music’s most profound meditations on identity, role, relationships and affirmation, and all the other stuff that makes us function as social beings. It blows me away, especially since it’s often so upbeat. My favorite rendition is by John Pizzarelli’s album of Nat King Cole songs.

  • Somewhere on this Hwang Shin Hae album is a song for which the lyrics basically consist of chanting “Dwing-gul-Dwing-gul!” interspersed with all kinds of other crazy stuff. The main word, “Dwing-gul-Dwing-gul!” (and it is, in its completeness, a single verb) means “to laze about.” When Lime wants to kill time just lazing about, she says, “Dwing-gu-dwing-gul haja!” (Let’s laze around!) Anyway, the song is hilarious. At one point, the guy yells out “I’m a household linoleum designer!”, which made no sense to me until Lime pointed out that, like me, the singer probably sleeps on the floor, not in a bed, and so he probably lazes about—as do we when we do dwing-gul-dwing-gul—on the floor, which he claims gives him an expertise in floors. This guy is insane and hilarious.
  • A short one from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aenaeas, where Dido’s about to die:

    When I am laid in earth,
    May my wrongs create,
    No trouble in thy breast.
    Remember me!
    But ah! forget my fate!

    This is one of those examples where lyrics popped onto a computer screen do the use of the lyrics in the song no justice. This piece is so beautiful that for a time I wanted it for my funeral. I may still want it—I’ve not put so much thought into that lately—but now I simply marvel at the way melody and words convey so much pain and beauty. Go find a copy and listen to it.

  • My baby, named Jeonju Zoo for the CD we put out though it’s really called Jeonju Jew, originally went like this but has been revised and now runs something more like this:

    The Jeonju Jew

    verse 1: people stopped me in the street
    to suggest to me this jeonbuk treat
    they say it to everyone who’s new —
    you gotta visit the jeonju jew
    it took a while to penetrate
    the accent but i got it straight
    a few hours later then i knew
    they meant not jew but jeonju zoo

    chorus: Ringlets! Black hat!
    Hasidic shouts of oy!
    Torah in hand in this unpromised land!

    verse 2: an elephant without a trunk
    a balding obese chimpanzee
    two tigers sulking in a funk
    nothing much to see
    a wolf lacking a lower jaw
    a quadriplegic polar bear
    one featherless schitzoid macaw
    you’re better off not going there


    sax solo

    verse 3:
    cages, cages, row on row,
    persistent in my memory
    no matter what you make me do,
    don’t take me to the jeonju zoo
    i’d rather go to gyeongijeong
    when I’ve got nowt to do,
    and wander through the crowd down there,
    hunting the jeonju jew


    Okay, it’s a little cheesy to cite my own song as one of my favorites, but it did sit there in my mind for a long time, getting repeated over and over and over again. And really do like it the best out of all the songs I’ve written for the band. (Which is only about six or seven songs, only three of which have gotten anywhere past, “Hey, I got this song, sorta, guys.”

  • Another Korean song, this one by Uh Uh Boo Project band, which is Korea’s closest thing to a native version of Tom Waits. The song is called Sosaeji Kkkakddugi. These are the names of two very common side dishes, the former being fried sausage and the latter being cubed, spicily pickled radish. The song is one of those many food songs that you hear in Korea, but it’s brilliant. The morning, the guy wakes and craves sausage side dishes with his breakfast, and hates the idea of eating radish. Somewhere along the course of the song, he’s reversed and decides the radishes are a wonder of the world while sausage side dishes are vomitously disgusting. The tone, mood, and music all fit this very well. It’s a brilliant song on a very rare EP I managed to buy (everything by that band seems ridiculously rare), and I can follow just enough of the words to bust a gut every time I hear it.

Wow, I managed to come up with five. I’m amazed. If I had room for a sixth, there’s a song I sing along with (and so does Lime, though only a bit of the verse) by George Brassens about couples who kiss on public park benches. But, I’m limited to five and too lazy too google anything else tonight. So there you are.

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