Friday, 20 June 2008

Lyrics versus Poetry

After reading "The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison" I found myself wondering about the differences between lyrics and poetry. Lyrics are more akin to classical or lyric poetry than to modern poetry in that they usually rhyme and have a clear structure of verses of equal legnth. They also tend to have less pretensions of goodness or worthiness than poetry (unless you're Bob Dylan or Billy Bragg of course). The words can be meaningless or about the most mundane things and it doesn't matter, no one really minds - what matters is how the lyrics scan, the pentameter, the rhyme and how they fit with the music. Just listen to the lyrics of Spandau Ballet, Black Sabbath or "My Sharona" by The Knack for examples of songs that work well but contain pretty meaningless lyrics.

It must be because of the way that the lyrics fit with music that we find songs easy to remember. I am a big poetry fan but know very few poems all the way through. However I can think of loads of songs that I know all the lyrics to and some of them I haven't heard for years. I might find it hard to remember people's names, important apointments or my shopping list but I can sing you the whole of "Spirit of Radio" by Rush without a moments hesitation! And they're not easy lyrics, if I tried to memorise them like a poem I think I would struggle.

Words by Neil Peart, Music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Inspired by 'The Spirit of Radio' in Toronto,

Begin the day
With a friendly voice
A companion, unobtrusive
Plays that song that's so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood

Off on your way
Hit the open road
There is magic at your fingers
For the Spirit ever lingers
Undemanding contact
In your happy solitude

Invisible airwaves
Crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle
With the energy
Emotional feedback
On a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price ---
Almost free...

All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It's really just a question
Of your honesty

One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity

"For the words of the profits
Are written on the studio wall,
Concert hall ---
Echoes with the sounds...
Of salesmen."

Todays reading: Jim Morrison - Wilderness, The Lost Writings
Frank O'Hara - Selected Poems
Simon Critchley - Things Merely Are

Album of the day: Station to Station - David Bowie

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