It's Only Words - 20 Great English Lyrics
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Here are 20 of my favourite lyrics, all of which capture a moment perfectly.
1. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
“So I broke into the Palace with a sponge and a rusty spanner, She said ‘Eh, I know you, you cannot sing’, I said ‘That’s nothing – you should hear me play piano’."
We did later hear Moz play piano (on Death Of A Disco Dancer) – he wasn’t lying. And whatever you think of him, this is a brilliant bit of imagery.
2. The Libertines – Time For Heroes
“There are fewer more distressing sights than that of an Englishman in a baseball cap."
I have never owned a baseball cap, and it will be a cold day in Hell before I do.
3. Elastica - Car Song
“In every little Honda there may lurk a Peter Fonda... ooh."
This made every little Britpop boy very excited back in the day.
4. The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight
“I first felt a fist, and then a kick, I could now smell their breath. They smelt of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs and too many right wing meetings”.
You almost feel like it’s you getting the kicking as you listen to this – strongly recommend NOT listening to this at midnight in a tube station – your paranoia levels may hit 11…
5. Elvis Costello – Alison
“I don’t know if you are loving somebody, I only know it isn’t mine”.
Elvis nails broken hearts and jealousy in 14 words.
6. The Sundays – Can’t Be Sure
“England my country the home of the free, such miserable weather”.
Sums up our ambivalent love for our country perfectly.
7. David Bowie – Five Years
“And it was cold and it rained, so I felt like an actor, and I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there”.
At the end of the world, we all just want to go home to mum.
8. Kirsty MacColl – In These Shoes
“He said ‘Let’s make love on a mountain top, under the stars on a big, hard rock’/I said ‘In these shoes? I don’t think so/Honey, let’s do it here’."
Sass, sexiness and cheek all in one hilarious and marvellous couplet. RIP Kirsty.
9. Arctic Monkeys – Fake Tales Of San Francisco
“And yeah, I’d love to tell you all my problem / You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham”.
Wise beyond their years at the time.
10. Laura Marling – Ghosts
“Lover, please do not fall to your knees. It’s not like I believe in everlasting love.”
Two lovers who are all too aware of the disappointments of love.
11. Elbow – One Day Like This
“Kiss me like a final meal/Yeah, kiss me like we die tonight.”
Sex and death is a heady mix, though I wouldn’t try it as a chat up line.
12. Kate Bush - Cloudbusting
“You’re like my yo-yo that glowed in the dark. What made it special, made it dangerous, So I bury it and forget”.
Surrealism and the burying of painful memories and loss. Like this song, she remains perfect.
13. Robbie Williams – Strong
“Early morning when I wake up, I look like Kiss but without the make-up and that's a good line to take it to the bridge”.
Robbie’s not my cup of tea these days, but this is is still a killer lyric.
14. Take That – Back For Good
“Whatever I did, whatever I said, I didn’t mean it”.
Speaking of Robbie....We’ve all been there – dumped and we don’t know why, but we’d do anything to fix things. This is a killer chorus.
15. Madness – Baggy Trousers
“All the teachers in the pub, passing 'round the readyrub, trying not to think of when the lunchtime bell will ring again”.
Our teachers drank in The Oddfellows Arms and we had The Rising Sun, until they moved there and kicked us out. I was quite pissed off at the time, but now I feel they deserved whichever pub gave them respite from all us little bastards...
16. The Sisters Of Mercy – This Corrosion
“On days like this, in times like these, I feel an animal deep inside. Heel to haunch on bended knees.”
This growled lyric is all killer, no filler. You feel like Eldritch is going to jump out and savage you.
17. The Beatles – When I’m Sixty Four
“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now. Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greetings bottle of wine?”
As I get nearer and nearer 64, I hope Mrs JO’B will bring me a bottle of wine still...I am sure she will!
18. The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset
"Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night".
You're just immediately at the station as Ray sings this, capturing the brilliance and romance of London.
19. Arlo Parks – Hurt
“Charlie melts into his mattress, watching Twin Peaks on his ones. Then his fingers find a bottle when he starts to miss his mum”.
A simple description of depression, loneliness and loss.
20. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - Jennifer She Said
"Jennifer, we can't go wrong, let's put it in writing".
Or why some tattoo parlours won't let people have boy/girlfriend's names tattoo'd on themselves...from the moment this opening lyric kicks in, you know it's all going to go wrong...