A lot of you know that I love a good rock song.
In fact, in an earlier post, I let you know some of my favorite moments from particular songs.
And sometimes rock lyrics move beyond the realm of rock ‘n roll and into poetry. How does that happen? When words flow together well. When the words express things we had thought or felt but hadn’t been able to articulate. When a turn of phrase takes us by surprise.
With all that, here are my favorite lyrical moments in album-oriented rock.
1. Bruce Springsteen’s Brilliant Disguise. Throughout this folk-influenced confessional, the singer wonders if his new bride is really who she claims to be:
So tell me what I see, when I look in your eyes;
Is that you baby, or just a brilliant disguise?
But then at the song’s “brilliant” conclusion, the singer realizes that problem is more his than hers:
So when you look at me, you better look hard and look twice,
Is that me baby, or just a brilliant disguise?
The twist at the end gets me every time and makes it my favorite rock lyric of them all. Not my favorite song by any stretch, just the best, truest lyric I know. You can check the song out here.
2. The Eagles’ The Last Resort. Tucked away as the last song on the Hotel California album, this is one of the first “environmental” tracks in rock history. With a relentless yet delicate rhythm track behind it, The Last Resort traces the westward movement of the American people — starting with a girl from “Providence” and moving to developers in Southern California who “came and raped the land.” At each spot, it seems, Americans have a knack for taking paradise and making it (as Joni Mitchell had sung) into a parking lot.
But again, it’s the twist at the end that makes it so good. The “last resort” is Hawaii — Lahaina, to be specific. And the singer wonders why we church-goers sing the way we do in church.
And you can see them there, on Sunday morning,
Stand up and sing about what it’s like up there.
They call it paradise, I don’t know why,
Call someplace paradise . . . kiss it goodbye.
Ouch. But it’s true. And it’s so well done that in spite of the vitriol, it’s my second favorite lyric of them all. Check it out here.
3. U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” OK, this one is a bit more favorable to the faith than the Eagles. I just love the line that says,
I believe in the kingdom come,
when all the colors bleed into one
For a church going “full color,” isn’t that a great image? There is coming that time when all colors and peoples really will merge and meld into one. Here it is.
4. The Call’s “I Still Believe.” Talk about obscure. An almost-unknown 80s new wave band with a dated sound but passionate vocals. And this song did make a cameo appearance in the movie “The Lost Boys.” But when the singer declared in 1986 that in spite of his doubts, fears and sins, “I still believe” well, I decided that I did, too. Believe it or not, there’s a YouTube concert clip here.
5. John Mellancamp’s “Authority Song.” Who hasn’t lived this?
I fight authority but authority always wins.
It doesn’t hurt that the music behind those lyrics is just rollicking good fun. If Brilliant Disguise makes you think, then “The Authority Song” just makes you smile. And that’s good enough. Here’s a good watch and listen.