Scene4 Magazine — Les Marcott
Les Marcott
Unforgettable Lines from Unforgettable Songs (Part 2)

In a continuation of last month's theme, I deem it prudent to include ten more song lyrics for your consideration.  For who can conclude such a list with only twenty songs?  Or fifty or one hundred for that matter?  And while I would be more than happy to write about one hundred more songs with memorable lyrics, the readership might become bored and feel compelled to visit their favorite karaoke bar.  I on the other hand will use the extra time to sing Irish drinking songs at my favorite Japanese steak house.  I know…it's complicated.

song:  Song For You
writer:  Leon Russell
memorable lyrics:
I've been so many places in my life and time
I've sung a lot of songs, I've made some bad rhyme
I've acted out my life in stages
With ten thousand people watching
But we're alone now and I'm singing this song for you

definitive version:  Leon Russell
Although Ray Charles made this one of his signature songs, the MOSAT (Master of Space and Time) Leon Russell's original version delivers the emotional intensity and intimacy I find irresistible.  

song:  That's Amore
writers:  Warren/Brooks
memorable lyrics:
When the moon hits your eyes like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore

definitive version:  Dean Martin
I know the lyrics are trite but hey they're memorable.  Besides its love Italian style and its Dino damn it!  I love it.
song:  Romeo's Tune
writer:  Steve Forbert
memorable lyrics:
meet me in the middle of the day
Let me hear you say everything's ok
Bring me southern kisses from your room
Meet me in the middle of the night
Let me hear you say everything's alright  
Let me smell the moon in your perfume
definitive version:  Steve Forbert
Forbert is perhaps America's most underrated singer/songwriter. Hailed as a "new Dylan" in the late 70's, Mississippi native Forbert has always followed his own muse.  But following that muse has not always guaranteed commercial success but what it has done is to create a loyal, faithful fan base that cherish thoughtful, incisive, and witty lyrics.  Romeo's Tune showcases all of that and more.  If you have the chance to see him in person, jump at the opportunity!
song:  Werewolves Of London
writer:   Zevon/Marinell/Wachtel
memorable lyrics:
I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fooks
Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein
definitive version:  Warren Zevon
A feel good rock n' roll song about werewolves. This masterpiece could only come from the mind of Warren Zevon.

song:  Time
writer:  Tom Waits
memorable lyrics:
Well she said she'd stick around until the bandages came off
But these mama's boys just don't know when to quit
And Matilda asks the sailors "Are those dreams or are those
So close your eyes, son, and this won't hurt a bit
definitive version:  Tom Waits
What do you get when you've been influenced by Kerouac, Lord Buckley, Charles Bukowski, and Bob Dylan?  Well you get incredible, meditative songs such as this. Although Waits has been on the fringe of pop music for the duration of his career, he is no stranger to those who appreciate a well written song.  Time conjures up the imagery and characters prevalent in Dylan's Desolation Row.
song:  On The Road To Calvary
writer:  Willie Nile
memorable lyrics:
I saw St. Christopher walking downtown on Main
with Black Madonna who was holding a flame
I saw an eagle rising out of the blue
I head a car crash, it reminded me of you

definitive version:  Willie Nile
Buffalo, NY native Nile's career trajectory parallels that of Steve Forbert.  While achieving limited commercial success, Nile none the less commands respect and adulation from the likes of U2's Bono, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen as well as other musical heavyweights.  Lucinda Williams, no slouch as a songwriter herself, has called this song "one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard".  A tribute to singer Jeff Buckley who died under tragic circumstances just like his famous dad Tim.

song:  Okie From Muskogee
writer:  Merle Haggard
memorable lyrics:
We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee
We don't take our trips on LSD
We don't burn our draft cards down on main street;
We like living right, and being free
definitive version:  Merle Haggard
A lot has been made and said about this 1969 hit down through the years.  Supposedly a satire, Haggard played it a little too straight and the song became an anthem for Nixon's silent majority.  Haggard became sort of an uber patriot with songs such as Okie  and Fighting Side Of Me.  However by 2008, Haggard's political views had changed so much that he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.  The song engendered a parody performed by Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys called Asshole From El Paso.

song:  If Drinking Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)
writers:  Sanders/Beresford
memorable lyrics:
If drinking don't kill me, her memory will
I can't hold out much longer, the way that I feel
With the blood from my body I could start my own still
But if drinking don't kill me her memory will

definitive version:  George Jones
I think the title says it all.  Another classic country song from the George Jones album I Am What I Am.

song:  Suzanne
writer:  Leonard Cohen
memorable lyrics:
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
definitive version:  Perla Batalla
This song has been tackled by the likes of the great Nina Simone, Judy Collins, and Peter Gabriel just to name a few. But unheralded Batalla's version provides the right mix of sweetness and spiritual longing that Cohen surely had in mind when he wrote it.  Batalla's repertoire of songs includes many Cohen covers but she also relies on her Mexican American heritage to provide some stunning numbers. She's another performer you don't want to miss!

song:  Whiter Shade Of Pale
writer:  Brooker/Fisher/Reid
memorable lyrics:
We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
definitive version:  Procol Harum
One of rock's enduring classics. Originally the song had four verses, but only two verses made it onto the recording.  And while the extra verses flesh out the song a little more, the lyrics are still open to interpretation.  What is Gary Brooker singing about?  The madness before a ship wreck?  A dream?  A night of excess? Or about the lover whose face turned that whiter shade of pale? Music that makes me think.  Gotta love it.

Also don't miss anything written by Tom Russell, Dave Alvin, John Gorka, Jimmy Webb (with the exception of MacArthurPark – I hate that part about the cake melting in the rain!), Curly Putnam, Jimmy Cliff, Michael Martin Murphy, Cole Porter, Paul Simon, Hoagy Carmichael, Van Morrison, Ian Tyson, Willie Nelson, Bruce Cockburn, James McMurtry (son of famed novelist Larry McMurtry), Cindy Walker, Loudon Wainwright III, Nick Cave, Butch Hancock, Townes Van Zandt and Judee Sill.  That's my list.  I'm sticking to it.  


View other readers' comments in the Readers Blog

©2009 Les Marcott
©2009 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Les Marcott is a songwriter, musician, performer and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4. His latest book of monologues, stories and short plays, Character Flaws, is published by AviarPress.
For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives
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September 2009

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September 2009

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