During a 1981 interview, Peter Gabriel said: ‘Many great songs have really appalling lyrics, but no great songs have had appalling music. If you’re going to write lyrics, you might as well make them try and communicate something.’
Sadly, it was a maxim ignored by many of his contemporaries in the ’80s pop pantheon… But these sad wretches have our sympathies; anyone who’s ever tried to pen a song knows the potential pitfalls.
Got a good melody? Great, but you’ve got to sustain the lyrical narrative across the whole song in a cogent way (got that, Coldplay and Keane?). Got some words? Handy, but it can be very tricky to fit a melody to ‘poetic’ ramblings. Basically, for every ‘Talking Scarlet‘, there’s a ‘With Or Without You’.
So join us as we take a trip through a collection of the sometimes inane, occasionally coarse, often totally meaningless ramblings of the 1980s. And don’t forget – sometimes these lexical disaster-areas didn’t detract from the quality of the song at all. But sometimes they did…
‘Sittin’ on a mountain, looking at the sun/Plastic fantastic lobster telephone’.
THE CULT: ‘Electric’
‘Heart of mine, sewing frenzies of steel to the sky/By night, a child in a harvest of virginal mines’.
IT BITES: ‘Midnight’
‘This morning there was joy in my heart cos I know that I loved you so/Scrambled eggs are so boring, for you’re all, all that I want to know’.
PRINCE: ‘Life Can Be So Nice’
‘She’s got eyes like saucers, oh you think she’s a dish/She is the blue chip that belongs to the big fish’.
ELVIS COSTELLO: ‘Big Sister’s Clothes’
‘I know that I must do what’s right/As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti’.
‘Only time will tell if we can stand the test of time’.
VAN HALEN: ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’
‘I’m so bad I can suck my own d*ck’.
LL COOL J: ‘Clap Your Hands’
‘Late spring and you’re drifting off to sleep/With your teeth in your mouth’.
REM: ‘You Are The Everything’
‘Let’s go crazy, let’s get nuts/Look for the purple banana til they put us in the truck’.
PRINCE: ‘Let’s Go Crazy’
‘You set my teeth on edge/You think you’re a vegetable, never come out of the fridge/C-c-c-cucumber/ C-c-c-cabbage/C-c-c-cauliflower!’
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: ‘Thorn Of Crowns’
‘Where does it go from here/Is it down to the lake I fear/Ay-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya/Ah-ya/Ah-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya’
HAIRCUT ONE HUNDRED: ‘Love Plus One’
‘Oh babe/I wanna put my log in your fireplace’.
KISS: ‘Burn Bitch Burn’
‘A stripping puppet on a liquid stick gets into it pretty thick/A butterfly drinks a turtle’s tears/But how do you know he really needs it?’
ELVIS COSTELLO: ‘Deep Dark Truthful Mirror’
‘Every second counts when I am with you/I think you are a pig, you should be in a zoo’.
NEW ORDER: ‘Every Second Counts’