We all have favourite lines in songs. I mentioned in my last post how ‘You can’t hurry love’ came on in a supermarket, and I waited to hear what for me is the best bit. It comes in the last verse, where Diana Ross sings No, love love don’t come easy/but I keep on waiting, anticipating/ for that soft voice to talk to me at night/ for some tender arms to hold me tight . Who knows why those particular lines are my favourite? Was it the optimism of the words which spoke to my adolescent self, and which still evoke the same teenage sentiments years later? Or perhaps it was some kind of instrumental technique, a drum riff, that primed a more intense response to that particular line.
Over the years there have been many favourite bits, lines I anticipate, parts I don’t want other people to talk over, because they give me particular pleasure. Recently, when Joe Cocker died, I went onto YouTube and found his second hit, ‘Delta Lady’, which came out in 1967. As I listened, I felt a sense of excitement as it peaked to ‘ oh when I’m back again in England/ I’ll think of you (think about you, oh think about you)/because I love you’. The lyrics of that song (check them out) are impenetrable (check them out), but that line touched a soulful nerve in my eleven year old heart, and still does today.
Other lyrics are memorable because they conjure up a bygone era. Who wasn’t affected by Don Maclean’s American Pie and its wistful refrain, the day the music died? For those of us who bought the single , the B side was even more exciting than the A side: ‘Helter skelter in a summer swelter/The birds flew off with a fallout shelter/Eight miles high and falling faaaaaast ‘
Often it’s the musical arrangement that hits the spot. The mournful mandolin riff which opens Rod Stewart’s ‘ You wear it well’ transports me as if in a time machine to the calico smocks and velvet skirts of 1970s rugby club dances. Sometimes the backing vocals of a song are as thrilling as the lyrics themselves. Motown singles were particularly good for this. Darling I’m /weak for you/ darling I’m /mad about you sang the Isley Brothers in This Old Heart of Mine. That word weak summed up beautifully the swoony feeling brought on by schoolgirl crushes.
No discussion of favourite lines can be complete, however, without a mention of my Romantic hero, the Man in Black, the guy who made it ok for men to cry, Roy Orbison. So many favourite lines here. The high romanticism of all the rainbows in the sky/ seem to weep and wave goodbye/ you won’t be seeing rainbows any more. Then there’s the yearning Pretty woman/ give your smile to me.
It’s too bad, a lonely thing/ it only happens in my dreams/ only in dreams/ In beautiful dreams