The best song lyrics ever
Poetry in music
Sometimes, I hear a song I love, but just cannot wait to get to the juicy bit. That one-liner or verse that makes you nod your head and sing along at the top of your voice. Hitting you right in the solar plexus, you shout, “yes indeed!” It is, simply, poetry in music. The best song lyrics ever.
This can be because the lines speak to your very soul, or it can be simply because you love the cleverness of the word-play. They might really make you think. Some of my favourites, I adore because they are realistic, down to earth and sum up a particular aspect of life so aptly.
Here, pop people, are some of my top picks. My list of contenders for the best song ever – lyrics wise, at least. No Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen in sight…
10 of the best song lyrics of all time
The Beatles – Penny Lane
Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she’s in a play,
She is anyway
The first of my best song lyrics quotes. I love this, because it sums up the track so very well. Penny Lane is just one street in suburban Liverpool. Apart from being immortalised in vinyl by the biggest band ever to grace the planet, it’s nothing special. I’ve lived in the area, during my early twenties – the graduate years – and apart from a nice, proper local pub called The Dovedale Towers, there is nothing else that I can clearly recall about the road at that time.
That, though, is the point of the song. Penny Lane isn’t about anyone or anywhere special, just day-to-day human life, with all the quirks and the mundanities that entails. It’s just people going about their business in one very small part of the world, yet it is poetry in motion. Life is the most precious of gifts, and joy can be found in the smallest of daily activities and in the pokiest corners of the globe.
Check out The Beatles Greatest Hits album here
INXS – Never Tear Us Apart
We could live
For a thousand years
But if I hurt you
I’d make wine from your tears
From everyday suburban life to the most fanciful of notions, now. One of the best song lyrics about love. I mean, as if? Who would make wine from tears? My Grandad made wine out of some odd ingredients – most memorably, dandelions – but I don’t think even he would have considered using someone’s eye emissions as an ingredient.
No-one lives for a thousand years either, Messrs Hutchence and Farriss. Of course they don’t. It’s the romance conveyed by these lines that strikes me. He wants to live with me for a thousand years! If he hurt me, he’d actually drink my tears! The words speaks of such passion, and prior to the INXS songwriters, only Heathcliff himself, surely embodied such strength of feeling. It may well have been this very intensity that led to Hutchence’s untimely death, too. So sad. I loved him. From the bottom of my heart – as well as other parts of my anatomy.
Never Tear Us Apart features on INXS Kick, which you can see here
Carly Simon – You’re So Vain
You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain,
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
It is, though isn’t it Carly? About ‘him’ – he, who is rumoured to be Warren Beatty, with whom Carly Simon had a fling some years ago? The singer has since confirmed that part of the song is indeed about Mr Beatty – but not all. of it. On this excerpt, the chorus, she was silent. Having dated several other high-profile men, including James Taylor (to whom she was wed) and Mick Jagger, we can but wonder who else might feature in You’re So Vain. Some of the best love song lyrics in my book, as they’re so refreshingly different.
We’ve all known one, or more, though, haven’t we, girls? (To be fair, the boys probably have known some, too.) Those individuals that think everything revolves around them? Or those who are simply acutely aware of the power bestowed upon them, being perhaps blessed with Greek God like looks. I’ve certainly known one of those. He was English, like me – but it was on holiday to a Greek Island… my lips are sealed.
Discover this fabulous Carly Simon track here
Oasis – Cigarettes and Alcohol
Is it my imagination
Or have I finally found something worth living for?
I was looking for some action
But all I found was cigarettes and alcohol
Cigarettes, admittedly, are less of a part of everyday life than in decades past – simply because of a rapidly dwindling population of smokers. But for some, the enjoyment in life could pretty much be grimly summed up by the opening verse of this song by one of Britain’s superbands. One of the grittiest songs on this list.
You might get through day, or the week, by the skin of your gritted teeth, but come the evening or weekend, it was playtime. Smoking and drinking, which often led to action of another kind, on the dance floor or in the bedroom. The very stuff of life, indeed; romantic the notion is not, but countless human lives have actually been created on the back of fags and booze – and many more made bearable by those simple pleasures.
Cigarettes and Alcohol can be found on Oasis’s greatest hits album, Time Flies, which you can see here
Pulp – Common People
You’ll never live like common people,
You’ll never do whatever common people do,
You’ll never fail like common people,
You’ll never watch your life slide out of view,
And dance and drink and screw,
Because there’s nothing else to do.
Another example of the best song lyrics about life. Very much leading on from the last listing, these words once again really reflect the grainy reality of survival for many folk. They dance, they drink, they fornicate – because where else do they find pleasure in the everyday matter of living?
I think it makes a great message to the monied classes, too. When you’ll always have back-up, then you simply cannot fail in the same way that those without can and do. If they take a big business risk, for example, they might lose everything and, for example, never be able to buy their own home again, becoming reliant on others – landlords – to house them. With family money and backing, someone more fortunate can give things a go without the stakes being so very high.
Common People comes from the Pulp album Different Class, which you can see here
George Michael – A Different Corner
Take me back in time, maybe I can forget
Turn a different corner and we never would have met
I love this, because it has real resonance for me and how my life has turned out so far. Literally, I turned a different corner – took another trip – earlier than planned when travelling in Australia. That led me to a hostel in Adelaide, where I almost immediately met my husband. It took us some years to figure it out, but here we are now, homeowners on the sunny south coast of England, with an elderly cat and a daughter at school.
I know for many there will not be such an extreme example, but I bet you there are some. This is why A Different Corner is among the top songs with meaningful lyrics. Who hasn’t gone to a party or even business event and met an important person or contact, that has somehow had an impact – huge or otherwise – on their life? Which leads me neatly onto the next one…
This song features on Ladies and Gentlemen: the very best of George Michael – one of my most played albums which you can see here
Pulp – Something Changed
Where would I be now, where would I be now if we’d never met?
Would I be singing this song to someone else instead?
I don’t know but like you just said
Do you ever wonder? You might have met the One, you might not; you may have been blissfully married to the One, who turned out not to even be the One after all… All it takes is one moment: one moment and your life is set onto a different track – for better or worse, richer or poorer. In sickness and in health, in particular. A split-second, an accident could mean you’ll be paralysed for ever; or living with the guilt of killing someone (albeit, perhaps unintentionally) for the rest of your days. One moment of losing it, and you might spend the rest of your days inside; one moment of passion and you could be bringing a child genius, a serial killer or a severely disabled child into the world.
Of course you could be luckier, and, thankfully, most of us are. You could live a long life with someone who makes you happy and be the proudest parent of the most beautiful, clever, kind child you could wish for. If you’re very fortunate, you could be successful and rich, attractive and the envy of the entire town. The point is – it can all change in the blink of an eye. Keep your eyes peeled, people. Not the most famous song lyrics on this list, perhaps, but among the most poignant.
This track also comes from Pulp’s Different Class album
Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Oh there ain’t no love no, Montagues or Capulets
Just banging tunes ‘n’ DJ sets ‘n’
Dirty dance floors and dreams of naughtiness!
I love loads of lines from this song, but the clever nod to Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers is my favourite. The cleverness of these lyrics belies the age of Alex Turner – who penned the ditty – when he wrote it. He was only 20 when the album from which it came – ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not’ – was released. Being the son of two teachers might possibly explain the shrewd nod to Romeo and Juliet.
The other line I particularly love, from this song, is:
Your name isn’t Rio, but I don’t care for sand
Calling to mind, of course, Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’. Love that cross-referencing of popular song lyrics.
You can see the Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not album here
Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
Out on the wiley, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green
You had a temper like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you, I loved you, too
This song always sends shivers up my spine. I’m not really a Kate Bush fan, so this song bypassed me when I read Emily Bronte’s masterpiece in my late teens. When I heard it, one day later in life, I was suddenly blown away by how well Bush had reflected the novel so completely in her lyrics and the music.
Cathy and Heathcliff are the absolute embodiment of the often cited fine line between love and hate, their relationship the very definition of tempestuous. As for the passion – wow. Just wow. The greatest lyrics set to a truly haunting melody.
See Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights song here
Electric Light Orchestra – Mr Blue Sky
Hey there mister blue
We’re so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you
Looking for happy songs with the best lyrics? Here’s one. As I write, we’re in the midst of that rarest of events in Britain – a heatwave. A big, bright sun is constantly shining, parks and beaches are crammed with unusually scantily clad bodies, desperate to soak up a few of those feel-good rays during a rushed lunch break or precious, sun-soaked day off.
The lyrics of this song just sum it up perfectly – look how happy we are to see the sun! A blue sky, too! No wonder people used to worship the sun; why these days a lack of sunshine is even recognised as the cause of a specific kind of mood disorder – SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Mr Blue – we are indeed very pleased to be with you. Which is why this tune makes it as one of my best ever song lyrics.
You can see Mr Blue Sky by ELO here
Several of these tracks also feature on The Soundtrack of my Life post.
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