1. Boasting/bragging/bigging yourself up:
“I am the magnificent! I'm backed by the shack of a Soul Boss! Most turnin', stormin' sound of soul!”
The lyric continues in similar vein – as well it might. Musically irresistible too. Dave (the singer/shouter) wasn’t a Collins at all. At least not before they recorded this tune. Ansell/Ansel/Ansil (keyboards) was but couldn’t ever settle on a definitive spelling of his first name. They had both worked with Lee Perry before teaming up for this single which topped the singles charts in Jamaica and the UK.
2. Punky teen angst:
“Oh I don’t understand why I do what I do, I’m just a bored teenager, sniffing glue”
A declaration of knowing, slightly arch brattishness. Extra points for two references to previous classics of the genre. Band formed in 2012 according to Wiki. I was also slightly relieved to see that the girls all have different surnames and the guitarist is almost certainly not anyone’s dad.
“Oh is this the way they say the future's meant to feel? Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?”
Faux naive musing on the true meaning of rave culture for those outside its inner circles. Sounds like it’s being sung by a character from a Martin Millar novel. Caused controversy in the British press who pretended to believe that it was an unambiguous celebration of drug consumption.
4. Too much information:
“Neath the stars, at bazaars, often I've had to caress men. ….”
“Five or ten dollars then, I’d collect from all those yes men”. I beg your pardon, madam? Written by George and Ira Gershwin for the musical Funny Face in 1928. Like a lot of show tunes, it has an introduction which isn’t always included in cover versions. Without it, the first line would be “I could cry salty tears” which, admittedly, would be a strong opener too. This 1960 recording by Carmen McRae is a thing of beauty.
5. Wrong-footing the listener:
“I am not in love, but I’m open to persuasion”
An emphatic five word statement. Followed by the qualifier to end all qualifiers. There really wasn’t much chance of me not including this song. An instant classic about the difference between a friend and a lover. Has been covered by Sheena Easton. Shouldn’t have been.
6. The sacred and the profane:
“God said to Abraham “kill me a son”. Abe said “man, you must be puttin’ me on””
As with many Dylan songs from the mid-sixties period, each verse is a snapshot; a brief story linked to the others by a repeat line rather than a chorus. Of all the unlikely things to happen on Highway 61, a re-run of the Abraham and Isaac tale from Genesis probably tops the chart. In this version, Abe anticipates the “just kidding” ending – and gets it horribly wrong because God replies “no”.
7. Pure melodrama:
“Stop! In the name of love…”
Most of us have been in a situation where we really don’t want an affair or a relationship to end. Few of us have considered shouting anything as startling as the plea that begins this song, and which forms its chorus. Many years ago we did “songs about rallying cries”. How this failed to get itself listed, I shall never know.
“Sitting in a sleazy snack bar sucking sickly sausage rolls.”
Plus a spot of vivid scene-setting to be going on with. It’s clear from the word go that we are not dealing with a song about the high life here. The guy narrating doesn’t have much but the fog on the Tyne is all his, and “presently we’ll have a pint or two together” just to keep the alliteration going.
9. Sheer madness:
“The Head That Controls Both Right and Left Sides Eats Meats and Slobbers Even Today.”
Or is it? Could be an accurate, if grotesque, description of what a person’s head actually does. Well, some people’s heads, anyway. The music sounds suitably deranged too but there’s an underlying skill and tightness that you don’t get from every combo who venture into the “noise rock” area.
10. No – definitely too much information:
“Son, I’m thirty. I only went with your mother cos she’s dirty.”
Well, at least we know where we stand. Also features lines like “I don't have a decent bone in me”, and “I never help or give to the needy”. Just as well the music is so compulsively danceable. And Rowetta’s on it of course.
11. Drawing the listener in:
“On the day that I was born Daddy sat down and cried.”
If that was the opening line of a novel, you would know from the start that the guy telling the story was either dogged by misfortune or just plain “bad news”. The guy in this song is the latter. Has the “mark of Cain” on him. Doesn’t stick around for too long. Drinks down his whiskey and he’s gone. Toodleoo..
12. A metaphor for life:
“I rowed the whole night only to find in daylight I hadn’t moved at all”
Conjures up images from dreams where you want to move forward but constantly find yourself in the same place. This recording, a mixture of a traditional folk song and a Bollywood classic, is sung as if by a boatman. A rather beautiful ten minute musical epic to end our journey. Sometimes you don’t need to speak the language.
Dave and Ansell Collins – Double Barrel
Priests - And Breeding
Pulp – Sorted for Es and Wizz
Carmen McRae – How Long Has This been Going On?
Joan Armatrading – Love and Affection
Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
The Supremes – Stop! In the Name of Love
Lindisfarne – Fog on the Tyne
Bleach - The Head That Controls Both Right and Left Sides Eats Meats and Slobbers Even Today
Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro
The Grateful Dead – Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo
Shaan & Saurav Moni – O Majhi Re
Original studio recording of Bob song here.
The Teardrop Explodes – Reward
David Bowie – Rebel Rebel
Tom Waits – In The Neighbourhood
The Beatles – Ticket to Ride
Etta James – The Blues Is My Business
Me'Shell NdegéOcello – Who Is He and What Is He To You?
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish
The Smiths – Nowhere Fast
Jacques Brel – Au Suivant (Next)
Frank Sinatra – These Foolish Things
Beck – Loser
Scott Walker – Plastic Palace People
Guru’s Wildcard Pick:
Well, I’m not missing out on a chance like this:
“Feelin' like a lollipop forgot in Pyongyang, Dancin' to the voodoo beat boom bam bam!”
Katzenjammer – Le Pop
Bonus lines …
For what it’s worth, this is the poem I constructed from nominations on a different but similar topic in the past. And posted again a couple of years ago. So – for one more time.
First Lines (trad arr severin - aged 52 and a quarter*)
Oh, I just don’t know where to begin
I know you want to leave me but I won’t let you go.
It’s not what you thought when you first began
I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands
What a difference a day made, twenty-four little hours
Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away
It’s four in the morning the end of December
At my door the leaves are falling, a cold hard wind will come
In this land of broken dreams
Broken windows and empty hallways
There must be some way out of here
Standing in the shadows of love
Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You used to get it in your fishnets
The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
I am just a poor boy
Skinny white sailor
In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey.
I am angry, I am ill and I’m as ugly as sin
So, you think you can tell heaven from hell?
Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine
Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody
Sup up your beer and collect your fags
I’m going down to the river
I’m a street walking panther with a heart full of napalm
I am not in love
(But I’m open to persuasion)
*well, I was then.
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Take a deep breath: songs with arresting opening lines. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
New to comment? It is quick and easy. You just need to login to Disqus once. All is explained in About/FAQs ...
Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.