For today’s birthday guest post, musician and blogger Ian Lipthorpe has decided to examine a subject I am sure many of us will have an opinion on – when you listen to a song, what is more important, the music or the lyrics? And why? I have to admit I go with both, depending on the song, but you may disagree with me – or with Ian. Have your say in the comments below!
If you’d like to read more, Ian blogs about music over at Harmony Corruption. He also curated the unofficial Manic Street Preachers Top 50 site New Chart Riot and you can hear some of his music (under the name Beneath Utopia) on Soundcloud.
In the world of modern music the majority of songs we listen to contain lyrics in one form or another. So it got me thinking, how much importance do we put on lyrics in songs compared to the music? Do we listen to the music first and the lyrics second, if at all? Do the lyrics make a difference as to how much we like a song? Does anyone like a song because of the lyrics but aren’t especially keen on the music?
There are obviously varying degrees of all of the above, but the subject does intrigue me. You see, I’m a music man through and through. I know the lyrics, I sing the lyrics, but to paraphrase Nirvana on ‘In Bloom’, I don’t necessarily think about what it means. Even stranger, you might think, given my well-known Manics tendencies. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the capacity to read them and understand what they mean, I just generally don’t bother (shame on you, you cry!).
Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard… (X-Ray Spex – ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’ 1977)
Like many punk fans of all ages – and although I never met her – I was genuinely upset to hear of the untimely death yesterday of the former X-Ray Spex vocalist Poly Styrene at the age of only 53. Tributes have been springing up all over the internet to an inspirational, much liked woman from fans and fellow musicians alike. Ex-Slits guitarist Viv Albertine was one of many who tweeted a poignant memory of her friend:
Much like The Slits’ inimitable Ari Up, who died last October, Poly was not afraid to speak her mind. A feminist and a supporter of Rock Against Racism, she wrote fiercely impassioned songs about consumerism and the environment – the lyrics to early single Oh Bondage, Up Yours! were about “being in bondage to material life. In other words it was a call for liberation” she told punk chronicler Jon Savage.¹
“You never told me he was that fucking good!” – a gobsmacked Eric Clapton on first jamming with Jimi Hendrix.
In the mid-1960s, mysterious graffiti began appearing on walls around London. ‘Clapton is God’, these simple messages said, but their writers meant it very seriously indeed. This painted phrase was the work of the legendary rock and blues guitarist Eric Clapton’s legion of devoted fans, who completely idolised their talented hero to the point of such deification.
However, as good as Clapton was (and he was – his groundbreaking work with Cream and The Yardbirds still sounds amazing today), he was soon to be eclipsed by the arrival in London of the man who was eventually to become the greatest guitar god of them all…
Born in Seattle in November 1942, Johnny Allen Hendrix (later renamed James Marshall Hendrix by his father) was fascinated by the guitar from a very early age. As he was growing up, his family life became more and more difficult and disrupted, which must have made music an important and necessary escape for the young Jimi.