Eleanor Rigby’s grave deeds to be auctioned with Beatles song score
Now the thing that bugs me in his songwriting is not bad lyrics, no, it’s his insistence on making sure things rhyme for the sake of rhyming within the internal logic of the song. Whats worse is how much of a poet, and fan of poetry, I know Paul is. So he knows things don’t have to rhyme to work or make sense, but Christ does he force some of these in. I’m not saying that any of the songs featured on this list are bad just because of the occasional bad lyric. On the contrary, Paul is the master of throwing a few words in to make a song to make a fantastic riff work; see ‘Oo You’ from McCartney (1970).
Look folks, you all know I love McCartney and I would never intentionally knock him down and spread a genuine sense of hate. This is just a fun little dig at some of Paul’s laziest, lamest and most trite, for the sake of it, rhyming couplets in his songwriting. When you write over 500 songs it is inevitable that not every lyric is going to be a home run, and I’m sure Paul is more than aware that some of his words are not exactly Chaucer.
So what this article is here to do is point out the times where Paul really probably should have gone back to the drawing board.
Here goes nothing…
- “Like a castle needs a tower, like a garden needs a flower. Like a second needs an hour, like a raindrop needs a shower.”– ‘Waterfalls’ (McCartney II – 1980).
This first entry comes from my good friend and fellow podcaster, Mr Tom Kwei (check out Alphabetallica), during his research for our upcoming McCartney II episode. The aptly named ‘Waterfalls’ shows us some of Paul’s most wet drip lyricism to date. Yes, we know this guy likes to rhyme all the time (see what I did there?) but the sheer number of phrases to rhyme with tower, seems more like a forced list than anything natural.
- “Oh honey pie my position is tragic. Come and show me the magic. Of your Hollywood song.”– ‘Honey Pie’ (The White Album – 1968).
You didn’t think Paul’s days in the Beatles were beyond reproach did you? Whilst the podcast itself may never tackle The Fab Four, this blog has no such restrictions. Honey Pie is the epitome of Paul’s granny music in this era, and whilst he is working within the restrictions of the genre, this one has always bugged me since my early teens.
- “I know I was a crazy fool for treating you the way I did. But something took hold of me and I acted like a dustbin lid”. – ‘The Other Me’ (Pipes of Peace – 1983).
The latest entrant to this list is an infamously popular one to bash on internet forums, yet comes from a song that is still surprisingly enjoyable. Who knew? Now, fortunately for me this lyric is the very first verse so Paul get’s it out of the way nice and fast, so by the time you hit the chorus you forget all about that stupid dustbin lid.
- ‘Ooh baby, you wouldn’t have found a more down hero. If you’da started at nothing and counted to zero.’– ‘Arrow Through Me’ (Back to the Egg– 1979).
To me this song is one of the most crystal clear images in my mind where Paul is tapping his lip with him pencil going “hmmmm, what rhymes with hero”. Like maybe he wrote himself into a corner with this one, but there seems little effort to get himself out of it.
- “Like gravy, down to the last drop, I keep mopping her up, yeah yeah yeah, she’s my baby”. – ‘She’s My Baby’ (Wings at the Speed of Sound – 1976)
Now I know Paul is a multi-millionaire, who by 1976 is probably losing his connection with regular people and how they really speak to one another. But in what country, on what planet would your lover, your baby, want to be compared to gravy, which is described as thus by Google…“a sauce made by mixing the fat and juices exuded by meat during cooking with stock and other ingredients”. Classy Paul, real classy. Especially when he and his partner were vegetarian at the time.
- “You gave me the answer to love eternally. I love you, and, you seem to like me”– ‘You Gave Me The Answer’ (Venus and Mars – 1964).
Yet again, we have another McCartney track whereby the idea that he is writing a song from the 1920’s seems to take away from solid lyricism. Songs from that time were corny and cheesy but that doesn’t mean it excuses you from writing something with a little more clout. Just because something is meant to be twee doesn’t mean you have to accept it. I mean, look at ‘English Tea’ and you will see what I mean.
- “Don’t you know that inside. There’s a love you can’t hide. So why do you fight that feeling in your heart?”– ‘Lazy Dynamite’ (Red Rose Speedway – 1973).
The first, and certainly not the last, song from the Red Rose Speedway medley. We all know that this song was written in one hell of a rush, probably on the back of a napkin, but wow he really doesn’t try to hide that fact does he?
- “Oh, baby, don’t let me down tomorrow. Holding hands we both abandon sorrow.” – ‘Tomorrow’ (Wild Life – 1972).
This one makes the list as it is just such a fine example of the audience being able to, with 100% accuracy, guess what rhyming words Paul will use to piece the song together. Now later on in the song he rhymes ‘tomorrow‘ with ‘beg and steal and borrow‘, which sounded much better in my opinion and felt like it fit much more naturally.
- “Say you don’t love him, my salamander. Why do you need him? Oh no don’t answer”.– ‘Getting Closer’ (Back to the Egg – 1979)
What a way to start off the album Paul. We know that ol’Macca has a love of silly and nonsensical lyrics but who want’s to be someones salamander? Yes, this could be a specific nickname that would make no sense unless you were in the relationship. I just can’t help but feel like he is pushing us to be irritated by him. We also, all know that Paul uses placeholder lyrics whilst writing a song, but here it feels like a clear cut case of him not bother to swap out the placeholders at all.
- “Well the night was beautiful and mellow, mellow. And the light of the night fell on me, fell on me. You Said Right, Made Me A Happy Fellow, Fellow” – When the Night (Red Rose Speedway – 1973).
Whilst working on the podcast I distinctly remember just finishing my original notes for ‘Tomorrow’ and then minutes later hearing Paul sing the word ‘mellow‘. And I’m sat there just praying that he didn’t rhyme it with ‘fellow‘ and then my heart sank as played directly into my expectations.
- “Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why won’t we?” – Ebony and Ivory – (Tug of War – 1982)
Any remotely negative list of Paul McCartney’s music is bound to contain this much reviled collaboration with Stevie Wonder. I almost couldn’t resist. The one thing that bugs me about this line, in particular, is that it actually doesn’t make sense. White and black keys played next to each other don’t actually harmonise, whoops. Though they do work when played together in a chord, and the fact that he could have addressed that and still have chord rhyme with keyboard feels like a massive missed opportunity.
- “Black, white, green, red. Can I take my friend to bed?”– ‘All Together Now’ (Yellow Submarine 1968).
This one has always been more of a pet peeve than anything. Following the logical progression found in the first verse, aka “one, two, three, four, can I have a little more?”, which in the childish, simple nature of the song fits quite well. This is then followed by some obvious on the spot rhyming. Can I take my friend to bed? It seems woefully out of place, unless it was meant to be subversive or something.
- “You’re my baby and I love you. You can take a pound of love and cook it in the stew.” – ‘Spirits of Ancient Egypt’ (Venus and Mars – 1975).
Now I already hear a bunch of you screaming “but thats a Denny Laine song”, well firstly I must respond by saying he and Paul share a songwriting credit on this track, and to think that all Wings lyrics don’t have to be first pre-approved by Paul would be naive. Paul, undoubtably, must shoulder some of the blame for this one.
- “Woah. She looks like snow, I want to put her on a Broadway show”.– ‘Letting Go’ (Venus and Mars – 1975)
Those stage lights on Broadway are pretty hot Paul, are you sure you want someone who reminds of you of snow under that kind of heat? Look, no one ever thinks when they look at their partner that they want them on Broadway. But saying he wants them to be in a movie or on the catwalk wouldn’t rhyme!!!
- “You won’t be going out tonight, candlelight. Make love to me and make it right” – ‘Hold Me Tight’ (Red Rose Speedway – 1973)
Poor Red Rose Speedway you really are taking a beating today aren’t you? And for good reason. This is the album that is most widely associated with Paul smoking far too much weed for his own good, so when you combine that with bashing out a medley to end an album in a single cigarette break, it just comes across as painfully lazy and underdeveloped.
- “I am the Backwards Traveller, lazy wool unraveller”. – ‘Backwards Traveller’ (London Town – 1978)
An unfinished song, with an unfinished lyric that makes no sense. Enough said.
- “Ooh ooh what do you do, no one else can dance like you. So what’s all the fuss, there ain’t nobody thats spies like us.”– ‘Spies Like Us’ (Non-album single – 1985).
I’ve truly cannot remember anything about this song, and with lyrics like this I really don’t intend to listen to it again to remind myself. Another widely hated McCartney song, ‘Spies Like Us’ feels far too much like a song for hire with words that rhyme than anything with any sense of heart or thought behind it.
- “Sleeping on a pillow, weeping on a willow, leaping armadillo, yeah”. – ‘Big Barn Bed’ (Red Rose Speedway – 1973)
Big Barn Bed is easily one of my favourite songs from Red Rose Speedway, and to this day it is still one of the best opening tracks from the Wings discography. Now for a song spawned from the RAM recording sessions to be sullied by this completely throwaway series of mindless babble really does the song a disservice and is a clear indicator of the different writing styles between the two albums. Note that there are no songs from RAM on this list, just saying.
- “The pound is sinking. The peso’s falling. The lira’s reeling. And feeling quite appalling”. – ‘The Pound is Sinking’ (Tug of War – 1982)
Aside from the fact that ‘quite’ is a weak word to use in songwriting, again, this just feels like Paul is sat, hunched over his writing desk, straining to try and find words that are going to fit this pattern. A song with Paul talking about economics should be intriguing, but it ultimately comes across as awfully trite which saps any true resonance and meaning in the listener.
- “There was a girl who loved a biker. She used to follow him across America. But the biker didn’t like her”.– ‘Biker Like An Icon’ (Off The Ground – 1993)
As mentioned in my latest podcast (London Town, check it out if you haven’t already), my guest Maurice Bursztynski, pointed out that the songs on the list of B-sides from Off The Ground were better than the actual album. And with lyrics like this it is becoming increasingly more difficult to disagree with him.
- So there we have it folks. That was my list of the 20 most trite, most annoying most enragingly obvious attempts by Macca at forcing his rhyme scheme agenda. Were there any rhyming couplets, or just bad lyrics in general that I have missed? If so, then please leave a comment or drop me an email to let me know which lyrics rub you the wrong way.
What a find, what a gem!
By Andy Greene, 2 days ago
Two years before joining Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder fronted the San Diego rock band Bad Radio. The group had a decent local following, but they never recorded anything besides a handful of demos and after a couple of years Vedder grew frustrated by their lack of progress. “We’d win ‘battle of the bands’ on intensity alone, but it was coming from me,” he later said. “I couldn’t get anybody else to give up their fucking bullshit. As far as songs and stuff, they weren’t reading, they weren’t living. They knew how big [Mötley Crüe drummer] Tommy Lee’s new drum kit was, but, you know, fuck that.”
The band did have at least one song in their repertoire that could have been a huge hit under the right circumstances: “Better Man.” Vedder wrote the song in high school and fiddled around with it for years, likely inspired by his desire to see his mother leave his stepfather for someone he deemed a better match. Bad Radio never recorded the song in the studio, but you can watch them play it at a 1989 gig right here. It’s nowhere near as powerful as the rendition that Pearl Jam eventually released, but the core of the song is definitely there.
Vedder would be in Pearl Jam for four years before he finally relented and let them release the song. After seeing early tracks like “Jeremy,” “Even Flow” and “Alive” blow up rock radio and MTV, he was very reluctant to put out another song with such obvious mass appeal. A rendition was cut for Vs in 1993 that producer Brendan O’Brien was anxious to include on the album, but it wouldn’t happen until they cut Vitalogy the next year. Even then though the group didn’t officially release it as a single, it still climbed to #1 on the Mainstream Rock Chart.
Pearl Jam has played the song in concert over 500 times, and it was one of four tunes they played during their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony set earlier this year. Clearly, Vedder no longer feels reservations about the song. He’d probably just rather nobody watch him play it with Bad Radio back in 1989, but in the era of YouTube that just isn’t possible.
Read about this and have been waiting since five years ago. Finally, if ever. The article is three years old. Hope it really doea surface soon.
Two years ago, SuperGrunt007 asked, “When something is good why cover it?” Then he also answered his own question, “This is why.”
Mark Sperry, a month ago, contributed, “sometimes it’s not about the song. sometimes it’s about artist who delivers it.”
One who comes to mind in answer to Mark Sperry is Ray Charles. But that’s for another day.
In this genre of jam bands, Govt Mule ranks second to the Grateful Dead for me. I was looking for some good music to download this morning and I found five full concerts of the band early this year. And these include Beatles covers.
Here is the one available in youtube, And Your Bird Can Sing.
And here are She Said, She Said and Tomorrow Never Knows. Govt Mule does what the Grateful Dead with Bob Dylan songs before – stretch them with beautiful guitar solos.