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The Melody Lingers On: From Daft To Dazzling

Tony Thornton compares the drivel written by today's so-called songwriters to the sensationally clever word play of of great writers such as Irving Berlin aand Oscar Hammerstein, whose words and music seem to get better the more times you hear them.

For more of Tony's foot-tappingly enjoyable columns click on The Melody Lingers On in the list on the right-hand side of this page.

The time before last, I remarked on the poor quality of todayís popular song lyrics. Coincidentally, the following week a letter appeared in the Daily Mail highlighting some ridiculous lines. Such as:

Marc Bolan (Tyrannosaurus Rex):
I drive a Rolls Royce
Cos itís good for my voice

Desíree (Life):
I donít wanna see a ghost
Itís the sight I fear the most
Iíd rather have a piece of toast

From Red Hot Chilli Peppers:
Can I smell your gasoline?
Can I pet your wolverine?
On the day my best friend died
I could not get my copper clean

The writers of this kind of drivel will tell you how proud they are to be Ďsongwritersí.

Contrast them with:

Irving Berlin (Cheek To Cheek):
The cares that hang around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gamblerís lucky streak

Sammy Cahn (Come Fly With Me)
Come fly with me, letís fly down to Peru
In Llama land thereís a one-man band
Who will toot his flute for you

So why is there such disparity between the two styles? Simple. The great songwriters were gifted wordsmiths who recognised that theirs was a craft to be practiced and honed during many years. Todayís scribblers are mere teenagers with no talent and scant command of the English language.

The worst example of bad grammar came from Elvis Presley (One Night With You):
I ainít never did no wrong

The most meaningless from the Beatles (I Am The Walrus):
Semolina pilchards climbing up the Eiffel tower

However, one reader cited this from Burt Bacharac and Hal David:
What do you get when you kiss a guy
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
After you do heíll never phone ya
Iíll never fall in love again

This isnít the least bit ridiculous. It makes sense and itís clever. Iím sure Lorenz Hart (who rhymed Ďcourt you galí with ĎPortugalí) would have approved.

But for sheer magic:

Oscar Hammerstein (Hello Young Lovers)
You know how it feels to have wings on your heels
And to fly down the street in a trance
You fly down the street on the chance that youíll meet
And you meet - not really by chance

Apart from the sensational word play, the hidden sentiment in these words is overpowering.

Thank goodness for these songwriters, whose words and music seem to get better the more times we hear them.

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