Rock poetry

Rock poetry


This post is about writing great lyrics. I’ve been musing on White Room off Cream’s Wheels Of Fire.

“At the party, she was kindness in the hard crowd.
Consolation, for the old wound, now forgotten.
This is how lyrics need to be written,
We’ve all had our hearts broken, and meeting up with your heartbreaker can be an interesting experience.
The rest of the song reveals a brief encounter, followed by a return to a melancholy existence of resignation to a past sense of longing.
Everyone has a chance to have meaning in their songs; don’t sell yourself short.


Here’s one from the Nobel Laureate of rock:

“Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
But you’re doing it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin’ for a new friend
A man in the coonskin cap, in the pig pen
Wants eleven dollar bills, you only got ten”


It’s beautiful, but I’m partial to saying a lot with a few words.


A couple of my favourites:

“I’ve got a match to light this up, but I don’t want to”

“If we live for just these 20 years, do we have to die for the 50 more?”


Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”? Just getting the feel of the lyric lines reminded me of this, I wonder if they got their inspiration from his song?


Ha, I didn’t even have to look that one up, Bowie in “Young Americans”. I loved that line too. I can’t find what the other one is.


Cool song, there’s a definite similarity to Mr. D!

Dylan got this style, called ‘talking blues’, from Woody Guthrie who learned it from Chris Bouchillon in the 1920’s. Here’s a very poor quality recording of the originator. Some call this the first example of rap.


Wow, that’s really interesting! It’s also probably the inspiration for Jim Stafford’s “Wildwood Weed”. This isn’t the studio/radio version (which is peppier), but probably closer to that Chris Bouchillon song.


I’ve always been drawn to the lines, “Once I rose above the noise and confusion. Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion.” Kansas had lots of great lyrics.

One of my favourite lyricists was Bon Scott from AC/DC. He would use simple language in a very witty, intelligent way. Alice Cooper’s 70’s era songs had some pretty witty lyrics too. The song “Go To Hell” has some funny lines.


Oh yeah, that was awesome! I believe I had a psychedelic/visionary experience when first hearing those lyrics (when the song was first on the radio), and not even necessarily (fully) chemically induced! :crazy_face: I literally felt myself transcending physical reality and dwelling in an astral plane of existence, observing life from an objective ‘witness’ consciousness. Very profound. That song always takes me to a strange place. I also got a very strong impression that the song was supposed to be about the life of Jesus (“there’ll be peace when you are done”) in some way. I think Kansas identified somewhat as a Christian band at the time too, so certainly in the realm of possibility I think.

Absolutely! He was very clever. Some of it was so much sexual innuendo I’m not sure I could even post it or explain it here. :wink:

I love the one where he says “You’d even force-feed a diabetic a candy cane”. :grin: That whole song is full of that kind of thing. The song “Muscle of Love” was … well, I think pretty obvious. :smiling_imp: “Welcome to my Nightmare” was very otherworldly and one of my favorites.


It’s definitely got a spiritual theme to it. I never associated religion with it but definitely spirituality. I always thought, “There’ll be peace when you are done”, was either a reference to the peace in death or a peace that will be achieved after a personal life battle has ended. Their song “Dust In The Wind” kind of suggests that the lyricist is a non-believer in God. “All we are is dust in the wind”, “Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky”. It also insinuates a hopelessness about the meaning/ purpose of life and mankind, with phrases like, “All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see.” Maybe at the time the lyrics were written they were atheist or agnostic…Then again, they’re just words. I know I write lyrics that aren’t really direct reflections of who I am. Sometimes we write lyrics as if we’re taking on a completely different persona.

Oh yeah, haha. Bon was the king of sexual innuendo. I love almost every lyric from the Bon era. I don’t consider myself a “lyric guy”. I tend to be more concerned with vocal melodies and vocal phrasing, but Bon Scott was such a stand out lyricist to me. He was brilliant!

Haha, yeah. I love that line.
Alice had some awesome lyrics!


I would see it a bit differently. Buddhism talks about “impermanence”, which refers to “conditioned phenomena” such as material reality. The whole basis of spirituality (and religion to some degree) is that there is an “unconditioned phenomena” which is “metaphysical” or beyond the physical, and beyond those laws of physics of material reality that our senses compel us to believe in. Buddhism and Shamanism teach that the 5 senses which we so much depend on and believe in to tell us the “truth” are actually the illusion (i.e. “Maya”). The truth of existence is transcendent and only available to those who shift their paradigm. Therefore, what we call a human body is merely a “flesh suit” to carry us through one incarnation, much like a rent-a-car gets you from one city to the next. :slightly_smiling_face: The journey is eternal, and your flights of fancy will be nearly endless, as the shifting sands of time witness your ethereal dance.

The title of the song is a Bible reference, paraphrasing Ecclesiastes:

“ I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth, and I concluded:

Everything he has accomplished is futile — like chasing the wind!”

A meditation on mortality and the inevitability of death, the lyrical theme bears a striking resemblance to the well-known biblical passages Genesis 3:19 ("…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.") and Ecclesiastes 3:20 (All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.) as well as to the famous opening lines of the Japanese war epic The Tale of the Heike ("…the mighty fall at last, and they are as dust before the wind.") and from a book of Native American poetry, which includes the line “for all we are is dust in the wind.”


I think spirituality is the most important aspect of the music I love. Not necessarily in the religious sense, but more in the sense of searching, or longing for something slightly out of reach.
Kansas was a great example of this.
There are a select few who can create this with only their instruments, and a few more who create it with words.
For me, that’s what separates the technicians from the artists. Artists create new languages, technicians rehash old stuff a little faster and flashier.


That’s a great way to explain it Bob!

I think of it also as some sort of soulfulness coming through, a search for meaning and relevance. A certain joie de vivre or je ne sais quoi that comes from a deep place, the “ground of being”, over and above nice sounding musical elements.