Bad Lyrics by Good Songwriters

8th January 1999

Even the best songwriters occasionally come up with some real stinkers. This page celebrates some of the worst moments of the likes of Lennon and McCartney.

The Gershwins

Let's start with this absolute gem from George and Ira Gershwin's classic show tune, But Not For Me:

I was a fool to fall, and get that way
Hi ho, alas, and also lack-a-day

And this from Biding My Time:

I'm biding my time
'Cos that's the kind of guy I'm

And this from I've Got A Crush On You:

Could you coo?
Could you care?
For a cunning cottage
We could share?

And this from Embraceable You:

But hang it!
Come on, let's glorify love
Ding dang it!
You'll shout, "encore!" if I love

I could do this whole page on the Gershwins. But instead ...


Here's a classic of a different kind. In the song Highway Chile, on the Jimi Hendrix Experience's seminal debut album Are You Experienced, we find this heart-rending, if somewhat unintelligible, story:

Now some people say he had a girl back home
Who messed him around and did him pretty wrong
They tell me it kind of hurt him bad
Kinda made him feel pretty sad

Deep Purple

In 1970, Deep Purple's In Rock album pretty much defined what heavy rockers would spend the next decade trying to imitate. Unfortunately, in among all the musical innovation lurked this gem, in the song The Flight of the Rat:

But now I'm free
And I can see
That I am me
Yes, I am me

The Beatles

And if we're talking classics, we just have to mention the Beatles. In the light of Revolver, Sergeant Pepper, Abbey Road and the rest, we all tend to forget just how clumsy, inarticulate and just plain bad some of those early Lennon-and-McCartney lyrics really were. For example, the Please Please Me album contained this, in the song Misery:

I've lost her now for sure
I won't see her no more
It's gonna be a drag

And this extract from song Ask Me Why (on the same album) leaves you with the strong impression that the Liverpudlian songsters didn't really know what they wanted to say at all:

It's true
that it really only goes to show
That I know that I, I, I, I,
should never never never be blue
And the following deathless couplet is lifted from the song Little Child, on the With The Beatles album:
If you want someone to make you feel so fine
Then we'll have some fun when you're mine
The title ``worst line ever written by a Beatle'', though, must surely go to this classic of prepositional redundancy from Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die James Bond theme:
... But in this ever-changing world in which we live in ...

Progressive Rock

Picking on the true progressive rockers is like fish in a barrel: so we'll be kind and restrict ourselves to just two fragments. The first is taken from the song Close to the Edge, on Yes's album of the same name:

As we move from side to side, we hear the Total Mass Retain

Yeah, right. When the seagulls follow the trawler ...

Our second prog-rock classic comes from Emerson Lake and Palmer's Still You Turn Me On, on the Brain Salad Surgery album:

Every day a little sadder
A little madder
Someone fetch me a ladder


Moving away a little from the mainstream of progressive rock, in the early years of UFO, their eponymous debut album contained an absolute dog of a song called Treacle People which opened with the following devastating insight:

I walked through a space that wasn't really there
And when I reached the other side, I didn't really care
I moved round a bit and started seeing people
But the people that I met were all covered in treacle

And if you'll allow me to stretch the definition of Progressive a little further, come with me if you will to 1972, when Deep Purple were touring, fuelled by the success of their In Rock album. On the coach between venues one day, they got bored and wrote a song called Highway Star on the back of an envelope. They rehearsed it at the soundcheck, and it was in the show that night. A great story, except that they never got around to revising the lyrics, so that when it appeared on the subsequent Machine Head album, it still contained the scintillating observation:

Oooh, it's a killer machine
It's got everything
Like driving power
Big fat tyres
And everything!

Thin Lizzy

Here is the opening line from the song Jailbreak, found on Thin Lizzy's album of the same name:

Tonight, there's going to be a jailbreak
Somewhere in this town.

I can just imagine the police pondering over this anonymous tip-off. ``Well, Inspector Harcourt, let's review what we know. There's going to be a jailbreak somewhere in this town. But where, damn it, where?!''

My guess would be, at the jail.

New Romantics

Moving from the seventies into the eighties - and, if I'm honest, moving a looong way from the ``good songwriters'' advertised in the title of this page - we encounter this piece of unmitigated claptrap in Duran Duran's Is There Something I Should Know?:

Don't say you're easy on me
You're about as easy as a nuclear war

Better still is the classic rhyming couplet from ABC's That Was Then But This Is Now:

Can't complain, mustn't grumble,
Help yourself to another piece of apple crumble

Famous Singers, Pants Songs

Two of my favourites here: I'm too lazy to do the minimal research necessary to find out who wrote these songs - which is ironic, because I probably could have looked it up on the web in the time it's taken me to type this sentence - but these are too good to miss.

First up is the bald assertion in Barry Manilow's atrocity Bermuda Triangle:

You got to see it from my angle
Bermuda Triangle
Bermuda Triangle
It makes people disappear

And then there's a wonderful song called The Christmas Waltz, which can be found on the Frank Sinatra's Christmas Album, and which proffers the observation:

Santa's on his way
He's filled his sleigh
With things

And Finally ...

Continuing the Christmas theme, we finish up with an extract from the little-known second verse of James Pierpont's Christmas classic, Jingle Bells:

The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And we, we got upsot

I don't think it's possible to beat that, so here I will let my theme rest. Thanks for listening.

Postscript. I received the following charming analysis of this page in an email from Michael Hughes <mhughes101 {at}> on Tuesday 25th October 2005: ``Only someone who did not understand creativity eg: the whole being greater than the sum of the parts (or who wished to suck the energy of others) would make the kind of comments contained on this site.'' Thanks, Michael!

Feedback to <> is welcome!