Mary Lucia: Song lyrics that grab you by the throat


Britt Daniel of Spoon
Britt Daniel of Spoon in The Current studio. (MPR / Nate Ryan)

For me, the appeal of a good song can come down to one line, one sentiment. one verse or one weird intonation. Unlike some tunes you need to let wash over you after repeated listens, there are those that instantly grab you by the throat. You immediately know you are buying whatever it is they're selling. Let me give you a few examples of some of my favorite musical chokeholds.

Spoon - "Do You"
"Do you wanna get understood? Do you run just when it's getting good?"
Thanks Britt Daniel, you've just remarkably summed up my life in two questions. Also, the opening moan on "Jonathan Fisk" has my full attention always and forever. "Jonathan Fisk Speaks with his fist" — SOLD!

Wilco - "Shot in The Arm"
This song slays with the opening line, "The ashtray says you were up all night…"
I've been there. Have you?

Elvis Costello - "All Grown Up"
"You haven't earned the weariness that sounds so jaded on your tongue."
You can always trust that Declan McManus is going to express a thought so beautifully, you can go ahead and give up the notion you'll ever come up with something half as on-point.

Guided By Voices - "Motor Away"
"When you motor away / beyond the once-red lips / When you free yourself / from the chance of a lifetime"
Sweet merciful Jesus, the bar is indeed open, I've got my valuable hunting knife and I call shotgun.

The Waterboys - "This is The Sea"
"That was the river, the river the river the river"
Mike Scott's delivery of these lines are a license to print money.

The Walkmen - "The Rat"
"When I used to go out I knew everyone I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all"
YES. Ouch. YES.

Death Cab for Cuties - "I Will Follow You Into The Dark"
"If there's no one beside you / When your soul embarks / Then I'll follow you into the dark"
Emo goes deep and nails a metaphor that if not translated literally, reminds you that maybe you're lucky enough to have a friend who will follow you into the dark.

Prince - "My Name is Prince"
"I did not come 2 funk around
Till I get your daughter I won't leave this town
In the beginning God made the sea
But on the 7th day he made me
He was tryin' to rest y'all when He heard the sound
Sound like a guitar cold gettin' down
I tried to bust a high note, but I bust a string
My God was worried 'til he heard me sing"

Attitude to spare.

Oasis - "Cigarettes and Alcohol"
"Is it worth the aggravation (Aggravaaaayyyshiuuunn)
To find yourself a job when there's nothing worth working for?
It's a crazy situation (Situuuwayyyyshiuuun)
But all I need are cigarettes and alcohol"

This isn't brainiac poetry, but that Manchestered twist on a few words is golden for me. That, and it's the best rip-off of the "Bang A Gong" riff in years.

Foghat - "Slow Ride"
"Slow down, go down / got to get your lovin' one more time / Hold me, roll me / slow ridin' woman you're so fine"
This is so stupid great, I can hardly breathe.

Rufus Wainwright - "Dinner at Eight"
"No matter how strong / I'm gonna take you down / With one little stone"
A lifetime of Daddy issues in the key of C.

Father John Misty - "Nancy From Now On"
"I can fend for myself / With what looks I have left
I'll put away a few / And pretty soon
I'll be breaking things like Howard Hughes"

The slinky-hipped hedonist nails it.

Ministry - "Jesus Built My Hot Rod"
"Soon I discovered that this rock thing was true
Jerry lee Lewis was the devil
Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet
All of a sudden, I found myself in love with the world
So there was only one thing that I could do
Was ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long"

Preach, Al — I've no idea what this means, but I agree.

Eels - "That Look You Give That Guy"
"That look you give that guy, I wanna see
Looking right at me.
If I could be that guy, instead of me
I'd never let you down"

Mark Oliver Everett is the coolest loser I know.

David Bowie - "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
"You're too old to lose it / too young to choose it"
Put that on a T-shirt and call it a day.

Brendan Benson - "What I'm Looking For"
"And you hear it from strangers / And you hear it from friends
That love never dies / and love never ends
And I don't want to argue / no I don't want to fight
'Cause you're always wrong / and I'm always right"

Brendan Benson is the Cole Porter of shaggy haircut pop music.

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers - "Roadrunner"
"Roadrunner once / Roadrunner twice
I'm in love with rock 'n' roll / and I'll be out all night"

Radio on!

What are some song lyrics that instantly grabbed you?

Related Stories

  • Mary Lucia: You can't put your arms around a memory This week, Mary Lucia reflects on the time she lost her entire record collection due to a burst water pipe. 'My lifetime collection of vinyl was now floating in sewage,' Mary writes. 'I felt like I had taken a tire iron to the side of my head. I couldn't even bring myself to unlock the padlock and inspect the carnage right away.' Read more about Mary's experience and the feelings it provoked.
  • Mary Lucia: Why I will always marvel at the mystery of Prince 'Am I the only person alive who has adored Prince my entire life but wants him to remain a mystery?' Mary Lucia asks. During the week we remember Prince one year after he left us, Mary thoughtfully describes her desire to be up close and personal with Prince's music but not his private life.
  • Mary Lucia: watch out for these conversation starters In this week's column, Mary Lucia explores some often-used phrases that portend something unpleasant. 'There are lots of ways to start a conversation,' Mary writes. 'Here are a few that make me want to run in the other direction.' See if you identify with these expressions and what frequently follows.
  • Mary Lucia: a chat with Jon Clifford of HiFi Hair and Records This week, Mary Lucia lobs a few questions at Jon Clifford, owner of HiFi Hair and Records in Minneapolis. 'Anyone who knows Jonny,' Mary writes, 'knows him for his unbridled support of all things local, his huge love of rock 'n' roll, his recognizable laugh, covetable wardrobe and a heart as big as his mouth.' Get to know more about Jon Clifford in his conversation with Looch.

comments powered by Disqus