Greatest Song Lyrics: Whatcha Got?

Los Lobos’ A Matter of Time. Always poignant, more so in COVID times.

Speak softly, don’t wake the baby
Come and hold me once more
Before I have to leave
Because there’s a lot of work out there
Everything will be fine
And I’ll send for you baby
Just a matter of time

Our life, the only thing we know
Come and tell me once more
Before you have to go
That’s there’s a better world out there
Though it don’t feel right
Will it be like I hope
Just a matter of time

And I hope it’s all it seems
Not another empty dream
There’s a time for you and me
In a place living happily

And I hope it’s all it seems
Not another empty dream
There’s a time for you and me
In a place living happily

Walk quietly, don’t make a sound
Believe in what you’re doing
I know we can’t be wrong
Don’t worry about us here
It will be alright
And we’ll be there with you
Just a matter of time
And we’ll all be together
Just a matter of time
A matter of time
We’ll be together
In a matter of time
You and me, a matter of time
It will be like I hoped
A matter of time

For me, hands down, no once could write lyrics like John Prine - so many great songs…

"So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

I feel like nearly the entirety of Nick Cave’s output qualifies for me.

Here’s the opening to Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry:

I went out walking the other day
The heat hung wet around my neck
My head it rung with screams and groans
From the night I spent amongst her bones

And I passed beside the mission house
Where that mad old buzzard, the Reverend
Shrieked and flapped about life after you’re dead

Well, I thought about my friend, Michel
How they rolled him in linoleum
And they shot him in the neck
A bloody halo, like a think-bubble
Circling his head

And I bellowed at the firmament
Looks like the rains are hear to stay
And the rain pissed down upon me
And washed me all away

And I’m incapable of listening to his song Bright Horses without tearing up a bit.

The bright horses have broken free from the fields
They are horses of love, their manes full of fire
They are parting the cities, those bright burning horses
And everyone is hiding, no one makes a sound
And I’m by your side and I’m holding your hand
Bright horses of wonder springing from your burning hand

And everyone has a heart and it’s calling for something
And we are all so sick and tired of seeing things as they are
Horses are just horses and their manes aren’t full of fire
And the fields are just fields and there ain’t no Lord
And everyone is hidden and everyone is cruel
And there is no shortage of tyrants and no shortage of fools
And the little white shape dancing at the end of the hall
Is just a wish that time can’t dissolve at all

This world is plain to see
It don’t mean we can’t believe
In something and any way
My baby’s coming back now
On the next train
I can hear the whistle blowing
I can hear the mighty roar
I can hear the horses prancing
In the pastures of the Lord
Oh the train is coming
And I’m standing here to see
And it’s bringing my baby
Right back to me
Well there are some things
That are hard to explain
But my baby’s coming home now
On the 5.30 train

When California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing
Until I pay my bill.

Josh Ritter is the best lyricist of his (our) generation.

Radio waves are coming miles and miles
Bringing only empty boats
Whatever feeling they had when they sailed
Somehow slipped out between the notes

Out on the desert now and feeling lost
The bonnet wears a wire albatross
Monster ballads and the stations of the cross
Sighing just a little bit
– Monster Ballads

Joan never cared about the in-betweens
Combed her hair with a blade did the Maid of Orleans
Said Christ walked on water we can wade through the war
You don’t need to tell me who the fire is for

Oh bring me the love that can sweeten a sword
A boat that can love the rocks or the shore
The love of the iceberg reaching out for a wreck
Can you love me like the crosses love the nape of the neck?
– To the Dogs or Whoever

Mama got a look at you and got a little worried
Papa got a look at you and got a little worried
Pastor got a look and said, ya’ll had better hurry
Send her off to a little bible college in Missouri
And now you come back sayin’ you know a little bit about
Every little thing they ever hoped you’d never figure out
Eve ate the apple 'cause the apple was sweet
What kinda God would ever keep a girl from getting what she needs?
– Getting Ready to Get Down

^^^^^This^^^^^

Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this morning
Always look the same to me

I hate reading old love letters
'Cause they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they robbed me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs.

Souvenirs, John Prine

I love that song, and there are so many great lines in it. Just the wordplay and rhyme scheme in “oh no, next thing I know they’re calling triple-0/I’d rather die than owe the hospital 'til I get old”, it’s poetry.

Bungle In The Jungle

Walking through forests of palm tree apartments
scoff at the monkeys who live in their dark tents
down by the waterhole drunk every Friday,
eating their nuts saving their raisins for Sunday.

Lions and tigers who wait in the shadows,
they’re fast but they’re lazy, and sleep in green meadows.

Let’s bungle in the jungle
well, that’s all right by me.
I’m a tiger when I want love,
but I’m a snake if we disagree.

Just say a word and the boys will be right there:
with claws at your back to send a chill through the night air.
Is it so frightening to have me at your shoulder?
Thunder and lightning couldn’t be bolder.
I’ll write on your tombstone, “I thank you for dinner.”
This game that we animals play is a winner.

Let’s bungle in the jungle
well, that’s all right by me.
I’m a tiger when I want love,
but I’m a snake if we disagree.

The rivers are full of crocodile nasties
and He who made kittens put snakes in the grass.
He’s a lover of life but a player of pawns
yes, the King on His sunset lies waiting for dawn
to light up His Jungle as play is resumed.
The monkeys seem willing to strike up the tune.

Let’s bungle in the jungle
well, that’s all right by me.
I’m a tiger when I want love,
but I’m a snake if we disagree.

Our home, our rules, respect them or
Bitches receive stitches
Trolls receive 86’s

Stick around if you’re house broken
Can’t hold your shit, hold your tongue, you got to go
Should you choose to react like an imbecile
You’ll in turn be treated so

Yes, we’re being condescending
Yes, that means we’re talking down to you
With all that racket from your lips a-flapping
We assumed you didn’t notice

You speak like someone who has never been
Smacked in the fucking mouth
That’s OK, we have the remedy
You speak like someone who has never been
Knocked the fuck on out
But we have your remedy

The Remedy, Puscifer

I’m also a lover of great lyrics.

These by Tom Waits always chokes me up

She was fifteen years old
And never seen the ocean
She climbed into a van
With a vagabond
And the last thing she said
Was “I love you mom”

Roger Waters is a huge favorite and I could probably list a 100 songs. Here is a little known one I love

Button your lip and don’t let the shield slip
Take a fresh grip on your bulletproof mask
And if they try to break down your disguise with their questions
You can hide, hide, hide
Behind paranoid eyes

You put on our brave face and slip over the road for a jar
Fixing your grin as you casually lean on the bar
Laughing too loud at the rest of the world
With the boys in the crowd
You can hide, hide, hide
(I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you three blacks, and play you for five)
Behind petrified eyes

You believed in their stories of fame, fortune and glory
Now you’re lost in a haze of alcohol soft middle age
The pie in the sky turned out to be miles too high
And you hide, hide, hide
(Time gentleman!)
Behind brown and mild eyes

Someone newer to me who is a brilliant song writer is Jason Isbell. His Southeastern album has great lyric after great lyric.Easily my favorite album post 2000’s. He paints pictures with his songs\lyrics.

I quit talking to myself
Listening to the radio
Long, long time ago
Damn near strangled by my appetite
Ybor City on a Friday night
Couldn’t even stand up right

So high the street girls wouldn’t take my pay
They said come see me on a better day
She just danced away

Some recency bias, but this is one of the more clever ways to say “I love you”.

Like the Dead Sea
You told me I was like the Dead Sea
You’ll never sink when you are with me
Oh Lord, I’m your Dead Sea
-Dead Sea, Lumineers

While I’m on about the Lumineers
It’s a long road to wisdom, it’s a short one to being ignored.
-Flowers in Your Hair.

“The Gunner’s Dream” gets me every time. The imagery (and audio) have me floating with the gunner and walking alongside Max and Ma at the funeral.

Floating down, through the clouds
Memories come rushing up to meet me now
But in the space between the heavens
And the corner of some foreign field
I had a dream
I had a dream

Goodbye Max, goodbye Ma
After the service, when you’re walking slowly to the car
And the silver in her hair shines in the cold November air
You hear the tolling bell and touch the silk in your lapel
And as the teardrops rise to meet the comfort of the band
You take her frail hand
And hold on to the dream

A place to stay, enough to eat
Somewhere, old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud about your doubts and fears
And what’s more, no one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door
You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don’t blow holes in bandsmen by remote control
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no one kills the children anymore
No one kills the children anymore

Night after night, going 'round and 'round my brain
His dream is driving me insane

In the corner of some foreign field
The gunner sleeps tonight
What’s done is done
We cannot just write off his final scene
Take heed of the dream
Take heed

The Final Cut

Through the fish-eyed lens of tear stained eyes
I can barely define the shape of this moment in time
And far from flying high in clear blue skies
I’m spiraling down to the hole in the ground where I hide.

If you negotiate the minefield in the drive
And beat the dogs and cheat the cold electronic eyes
And if you make it past the shotgun in the hall,
Dial the combination, open the priesthole
And if I’m in I’ll tell you what’s behind the wall.

There’s a kid who had a big hallucination
Making love to girls in magazines.
He wonders if you’re sleeping with your new found faith.
Could anybody love him
Or is it just a crazy dream?

And if I show you my dark side
Will you still hold me tonight?
And if I open my heart to you
And show you my weak side
What would you do?
Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?
Would you take the children away
And leave me alone?
And smile in reassurance
As you whisper down the phone?
Would you send me packing?
Or would you take me home?

Thought I oughta bare my naked feelings,
Thought I oughta tear the curtain down.
I held the blade in trembling hands
Prepared to make it but just then the phone rang
I never had the nerve to make the final cut.

“Hello? Listen, I think I’ve got it. Okay, listen its a HaHa!”

The whole song is great, but I absolutely love the ending to All Along the Watchtower:

Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl

Death on Two Legs

You suck my blood like a leech
You break the law and you breach
Screw my brain till it hurts
You’ve taken all my money, and you want more
Misguided old mule with your pigheaded rules
With your narrow-minded cronies who are fools
Of the first division

Death on two legs
You’re tearing me apart
Death on two legs
You never had a heart of your own
Killjoy, bad guy, big-talking, small fry
You’re just an old barrow boy

Have you found a new toy to replace me?
Can you face me?
But now you can kiss my ass goodbye
Feel good, are you satisfied?
Do you feel like suicide? (I think you should)
Is your conscience all right? Does it plague you at night?
Do you feel good? (Feel good)

Talk like a big business tycoon
You’re just a hot-air balloon
So no one gives you a damn
You’re just an overgrown schoolboy
Let me tan your hide
A dog with disease, you’re the king of the sleaze
Put your money where your mouth is Mr Know All
Was the fin on your back part of the deal? Shark

Death on two legs
Tearing me apart
Death on two legs
You never had a heart (You never did)
Of your own (Right from the start)
Insane, should be put inside
You’re a sewer rat decaying in a cesspool of pride
Should be made unemployed
Then make yourself null and void
Make me feel good (I feel good)

Queen has a lot of great lyrics. The Prophet’s Song is another such.

I was just about to post that.

Oh-oh, people of the earth
"Listen to the warning, " the seer he said
Beware the storm that gathers here
Listen to the wise man

I dreamed I saw on a moonlit stair
Spreading his hand on the multitude there
A man who cried for a love gone stale
And ice-cold hearts of charity bare

I watched as fear took the old man’s gaze
Hopes of the young in troubled graves
"I see no day, " I heard him say
So grey is the face of every mortal

Ah-ah, people of the earth
"Listen to the warning, " the prophet he said
For soon the cold of night will fall
Summoned by your own hand

Ah-ah, children of the land
Quicken to the new life, take my hand
Fly and find the new green bough
Return like the white dove

He told of death as a bone white haze
Taking the lost and the unloved babe
Late too late, all the wretches run
These kings of beasts now counting their days

From mother’s love is the son estranged
Married his own, his precious gain
The earth will shake, in two will break
And death all round will be your dowry

Ah-ah, people of the earth
"Listen to the warning, " the seer he said
For those who hear and mark my words
Listen to the good plan

Ah-ah-ah-ah
And two by two, my human zoo
They’ll be running for to come
Running for to come out of the rain
Oh, flee for your life
Who heed me not let all your treasure make you
Oh, fear for your life
Deceive you not, the fires of hell will take you
Should death await you

Ah-ah, people can you hear me?
People can you hear me?
People can you hear me?
And now I know, and now I know
And now I know, I know, I know that you can hear me
And now I know, now I know
Now I know, now I know
Now I know, now I know
Now I know, now I know
Now I know, now I know
The earth will shake, in two will break
The earth will shake, in two will break
Death all around, around, around, around
Around, around, around, around
Now I know, now I know
Now I know, now I know
Now I know, now I know
Now I know, now I know
Now I know, now I know, now I know

Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah
Listen to the wise, listen to the wise, listen to the wise
Listen to the wise, listen to the wise man

La-la
La-la-la-la (la-la)
La-la (la-la-la-la)
La-la-la-la (la-la)
La-la (la-la-la-la)
La-la-la-la (la-la)
La-la (la-la-la-la)
La-la-la-la (la-la)
La-la (la-la-la-la)
La-la-la-la (la-la)
La-la (la-la-la-la)
La-la-la-la (la-la)
La-la (la-la-la-la)
La, la (la-la)
La-la (la, la)
La, la (la-la)
La-la (la, la)
La, la (la-la)

Come here (la, la)
I, you (Come here)
Come here (I, you)
I, you (Come here)
Come here (I, you)
I, you (Come here)

Ahh, aahh, ahh, aaahh
Listen to the man, listen to the man
Listen to the man, listen to the mad man

God give you grace to purge this place
And peace all around may be your fortune

Oh-oh, children of the land
Love is still the answer, take my hand
The vision fades, a voice I hear
“Listen to the madman”

Ooh, but still I fear and still I dare not
Laugh at the madman

I dunno about “best”, but I consider “Life on Mars” to be the song with the weirdest lyrics. I mean, I get it’s about movies and that’s why it’s like that, but still. Here’s just the 2nd verse and chorus:

It’s on America’s tortured brow
That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow
Now the workers have struck for fame
'Cause Lennon’s on sale again
See the mice in their million hordes
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads
Rule Britannia is out of bounds
To my mother, my dog, and clowns
But the film is a saddening bore
'Cause I wrote it ten times or more
It’s about to be writ again
As I ask you to focus on

Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man, look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

I’m going back to Bataan, back to Bataan
I wanna see that Japanese man
Back to Bataan, back to Bataan
I wanna see that Japanese man

On the beach in '48
When I first met my Japanese date
A jungle holdout since '45
A Hershey bar had kept him alive

I’m going back to Bataan, back to Bataan
I wanna see that Japanese man
Back to Bataan, back to Bataan
I wanna see that Japanese man

His little green hat all stained from sweat
He failed to tip it when we first met
He had a house fashioned from bamboo
He wore water moccasin shoes

I’m going back to Bataan, back to Bataan
I wanna see that Japanese man
Back to Bataan, back to Bataan
I wanna see that Japanese man

I asked his name, and he answered Bill
Remember then there wasn’t the Pill
We remained friends despite his slant
He even taught me a Japanese chant — it goes,

“Oh how’re you sir, can I open the blinds
the [?] are here but for a short time”

I’m going back to Bataan, back to Bataan
I wanna see that Japanese man
Back to Bataan, back to Bataan
I wanna see that Japanese man

What a man, back on Bataan
I’d phone him now if I had a tin can!
I’d phone him now if I had a tin can!
I’d phone him now if I had a tin can!