Saturday, September 09, 2006

Your Debutante Knows What You Need But I Know What You Want

Other people do these, and I humiliate myself, so, having had the misfortune to spend part of my Friday night watching VH1's attempt to find the 'Nation's Favourite Lyrics' - which was exactly as hideous yet compelling as you might imagine - I'm having a go. These aren't first lines, and they don't contain the title of the song, unless I particularly like them. They're just a collection of lyrics that I really like. None of the artists are repeated. Guess away. One person, who ought to know who they are, isn't allowed to guess 1, because I want to see someone else get it. Also, they're in alphabetical order by artist, because that's how my music is organised in ITunes, and I'm too lazy to muddle them up.

1. He drowned his stepson in the duck pond
He let the wifebeater out to make a pop song
Put razorblades in the icecream
Made nobody famous on the big screen - Bad Old Man, Babybird, Tom

2. In the end it took me a dictionary
To find out the meaning of unrequited
while she was giving herself for free
at a party to which I was never invited -The Saturday Boy, Billy Bragg, Rachele

3. And I say 'Oh come on now
You know, you know about my debutante'
And she says 'Your debutante just knows what you need
but I know what you want' - Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Bob Dylan, Liz/Phil

4. I took time to work it out in seats of higher learning
but I never understood a single thing they said to me
except 'son you know you think you've got a chance but let me tell you
we've worked you out and you've come here to fail' - Get Action, The Delgados

5. She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake - Watching The Detectives, Elvis Costello, Phil

6. He fills his head with culture
He gives himself an ulcer - At Home He's A Tourist, Gang Of Four, Phil

7. Oh make me over
I'm all I wanna be
a walking study
in demonology - Celebrity Skin, Hole Ben

8. Gertrude Stein said that's enough
I know that that's not enough now - Roseability, Idlewild, El

9. There's nothing left alive
'cept a pair of glassy eyes - Gimme Danger, The Stooges

10. And in any case it wouldn't be the same,
'Cause we've all grown up and we've got our lives
and the values that we had once upon a time, seem stupid now
'Cause the rent must be paid
and some bonds severed and others made - Burning Sky, The Jam, Phil

11. I’m flat-busted, wild-eyed and free
I couldn’t get arrested if I tried
A has-been at a mere thirty-five - Big Star, The Jayhawks, El

12. Wanted a woman
Never bargained for you
Lots of people talking
Few of them know
Soul of a woman
Was created below - Dazed and Confused, Led Zeppelin, Liz

13. Burn, Hollywood, burn
taking down tinseltown - Open Up, Leftfield, Ben

14. Sun came up
It was another day
Sun came up
You were blown away - Drunken Angel, Lucinda Williams

15. It's so hot in here
What are they trying to hatch? - Parade, Magazine, Phil

16. I was looking back to see if you were looking back to see me looking back at you - Safe From Harm, Massive Attack, El

17. We should go into town and get some money
We could go to the pictures and see something funny
Share a popcorn and we can go to the pub at night
Get right tanked up and go home and have a fight - R U Still In 2 It, Mogwai, Rachele

18. And they wished they'd dug a deeper hole to bury Sorrow - The Carny, Nick Cave, Rochenko

19. He danced for those at minstrel shows and county fairs throughout the South
He spoke with the tears of fifteen years how his dog and he travelled about - Mr Bojangles, Nina Simone, Rochenko

20. Lend me some sugar
I am your neighbour - Hey Ya, Outkast, El

21. Every night before I go to sleep
Find a ticket, win the lottery - Free Money, Patti Smith, El

22. 'Let's sit, let's talk, politics goes so good with beer
and while we're at it, baby
why don't you tell me one of your biggest fears'
and I said 'Losing my penis to a whore with disease' - I've Been Tired, The Pixies

23. I used to compose my own critical notices in my head
The crows gasp at [blank]'s masterful control of the bicycle
skilfully avoiding the dog turd outside the corner shop
Imagining a blue plaque outside the place I first ever touched a girl's chest - I Spy, Pulp, Oli

24. I read bad poetry into your machine - At My Most Beautiful, REM, Oli

25. She'd ask me to dance in a mansion on top of the hill
She'd ash on the carpet and slip me a pill
And she'd get me pretty loaded on gin - Ryan Adams, Sylvia Plath, Ben/Rachele

26. Think that I have caught it fast
Probably contagious
Think that I'm a winner, baby
Probably Las Vegas - Think I'm In Love, Spiritualized, El

Only four of these artists were, so far as I can remember, in VH1's parade of the stupidity of people prepared to vote in online polls: #5, #24, #9 and #3, but they are forgiven, particularly as it's not these songs. Which tells you something about the way the lyricist of #23, in particular, has somehow been totally erased from public consciousness.

Update: I'll announce all the remaining ones on Sunday.

Final Update: All announced.


Ben said...

I'd like to think I could get more if I thought about it, but I'd probably just resort to Googling them.

The only ones immediately obvious are 7 Hole 'Celebrity Skin' and the second 12 Leftfield's 'Open Up'. Some others are definitely familiar, but I can't place them right now.

Rob Jubb said...

Yeah, both of those are right. Those are probably amongst the easier ones.

Oli Cover said...

23 is Pulp's I Spy.

24 is REM's At My Most Beautiful, which, according to Michael Stipe, is the only love song that he's ever written - but I don't believe that for a minute. The lyrics "you are the greatest thing, the greatest thing since bread came sliced", in Imitation of Life disproves it brilliantly.

Rob Jubb said...

Indeed they are. It really was quite shocking that Pulp were totally absent from that VH1 thing: Jarvis Cocker's easily the best British lyricist of the nineties, and it's not like they weren't popular. I hadn't noticed that about 'At My Most Beautiful', either.

Anonymous said...

#2 is Billy Bragg, but can't remember which that I really like tho. R

rachele said...

...The saturday boy (and no, I didn't use Google)

Rob Jubb said...

Indeed it is. I probably could have found 26 examples of Billy Bragg lyrics I really liked...

Phil said...

I recognise eight of these, although one of them's 'Open Up'. I'll hold off for a bit on the other seven and give somebody else a chance.

El said...

no.8 Roseability by idlewild; 11 Big Star by the Jayhawks; 16. Safe from harm by Massive Attack; 20. Hey ya by Outkast; 21 Free Money by Patti Smith; 22. Levitate Me by the Pixies; 26 Think I'm in Love, Spiritulised.
Guess jarvis can take comfort in his first solo gig selling out immediately. Will let someone else get first one, but doubt they will.

El said...

as post-script, three is the Stones, but can't remember which one. Mama would know

Anonymous said...

El is disinherited. 3 is Bob Dylan, and 12 is Led Zeppelin. Liz

Phil said...

OK, that leaves five for me.

3: Bob Dylan, "Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again"

5: Elvis Costello, "Watching the detectives"

6: Gang of Four, "At home he's a tourist"

10: the Jam, "Burning sky"

15: Magazine, the last track on Real life (or is it the last track on Secondhand daylight?), possibly called "Parade", features the line "Sometimes I forget that we're supposed to be in love, sometimes I forget my position". That one.

Four of those are very much from my period - I can't think of an album that seemed to promise so much as Real Life, in the sense of seeming to make new kinds of music possible (not even Unknown Pleasures). Blonde on blonde is pretty extraordinary too, although for my money you've picked the one duff track on it - I hate that side of Dylan ("Oh, someone I've just thought of is standing somewhere improbable/Doing something or other with a strange assortment of equipment/But me, I've just got to complete this verse/Although I don't know what I'll rhyme with 'equipment'...")

Rob Jubb said...


so she ought to be. I'll be pushing you under a bus next time I'm home.


it's not 'levitate me' and if you're going to name tracks, you need to get them right. But I do doubt anyone else will get #1. It's very unfortunate that the artist concerned is best known for something quite, quite different. Thinking about it though, and armed with the evidence of that clean sweep of six of them, I think I should probably have banned you from guessing at all.


Although I know exactly what you mean, I like the absurdity of that Dylan track, and particularly those specifc lines: the temptation of them is quite perfect, I think (the need/want thing, the rejection of the debutante: all empty rebellion, no doubt, but fun nonetheless). And Rainy Day Women numbers whatever they are is definitely worse than it, mainly just because it's bad, whilst the open misogyny of Breaks Just Like A Woman has be fairly dubious. But Real Life is very good, and the late seventies/early eighties stuff is something of a pattern. Entertainment seems to me as musically radical as Real Life: someone wrote a long piece about Gang Of Four on Crooked Timber earlier in the week, and at the end recounted a story of emptying a room at a party by putting them on, people leaving asking whether it was music at all, which I can well believe: those wierd staccato jabbing discordant rhythmic slabs of noise didn't really sound like music to me the first time I heard them either. But I suppose Real Life is more diverse.

Rob Jubb said...

I'm intrigued, actually, which of the ones El and Liz got that you knew, Phil... And thinking about it El, they're in alphabetical order: #3 of 26 couldn't have been the Rolling Stones.

Rochenko said...

Jesus, I always get to these things so late in the day. But, for what it's worth:

#18 is Old Nick, 'The Carny',
#19 is 'Mr Bojangles'

Rob Jubb said...

Indeed they are. I suppose the joke in The Carny, which is of course why it's there, only works if you know the rest of the song.

rachele said...

Is 25 Ryan Adams? I don't actually know the song, but it's a combination of place in the alphabet, knowing his lyrics and knowing you...

Ben said...

Yes, 25 is Ryan Adams. Between it's place in the alphabet and your audio scrobbler I was fairly confident of that, so just Googled it and it's 'Sylvia Plath'

Ben said...

More artist guesses based on alphabet and audio scrobbler:

#1 Beck
#4 Delgados
#14 Mano Chao

Unfortunately, I don't really know them...

Phil said...

The other two were Spiritualized and Patti Smith (although I remembered the Penetration version first).

Yes, Entertainment was quite something. A friend of mine at college was in a band, and I remember him telling me that the guitarist was pretty good, but he could only dream of being as good as Andy Gill. Which surprised me, and made me listen to GO4 in a new light - is that stuff difficult? it's just a load of random spiky noise, isn't it?

Rob Jubb said...

#25 is Ryan Adams: I probably could have done better with the choice of lyrics, but was tired by that point. #4 is The Delgados, but I doubt anyone'll get the track without googling it. #1 is not Beck, and #14 is not Manu Chao: the tone of the lyric is all wrong for Beck - from time to time he does do nasty, but mostly in a kind of self-deprecating country-esque style - and Manu Chao rarely sings in English.

I didn't know anyone else had covered Free Money: I struggle to believe it could been as good as Patti Smith's version, but that's mostly because it's bloody amazing. That whole Spiritualized album is also wonderful. Of the ones that are left, I'll be amazed if anyone gets #1 - other than El - and probably #14, but #9 is probably reasonably well known. I'd have though its no more obscure than 'The Carny' say, for example. I might do this again: finding another 25 (I lost count) artists would be a potentially quite satisfying challenge, apart from anything else.

Rob Jubb said...

#17 is also a right bugger: if it's any help, it could be the first one if the person who sings it was taken as definitive rather than the band who played it.

Anonymous said...

This is far too addictive...but yes you should do another one :)
#17 is Mogwai - again, worked it out from a variety of things. But I had to Google it - it's R U still in 2 it. Good lyrics. R

Rob Jubb said...

Yeah, it is Mogwai (sung by the bloke, whose name I forget, from Arab Strap).

Tom said...

Number one is 'Bad Old Man' by Baby Bird.

It was stock terrifying music from my schooldays, along with the Specials, 'Ghost Town'

Rob Jubb said...

I suppose I ought to deduct points - or whatever the equivalent is - for the fact that we were talking about it in the pub, but, on the other hand, you do remember it, so... It's weird to think that it's the same person who did 'You're Gorgeous'.