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  1. #1
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    Lyrics that tell stories

    I've always been interested in songs that tell complete stories or provide really strong vuisual images. I thought it would be fun (and inspirational) to have a thread where we share lines and lyrics from songs that would make a great movie or novel...lyrics that seem to capture an entire story in just a few lines.

    So here's a starter:

    That pure American brother, dull-eyed and empty-faced
    Races Sundays in Jersey in a Chevy stock super eight
    He rides `er low on the hip, on the side he's got Bound For Glory in red, white and blue flash paint
    He leans on the hood telling racing stories, the kids call him Jimmy The Saint
    Well the blaze and noise boy, he's gunnin' that bitch loaded to blastin' point
    He rides head first into a hurricane and disappears into a point


    Springsteen; "Lost in the Flood"; Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. ~! 1973

    Full lyrics here

    Edit: And this just how fucking cool this song is...Live 1975
    Last edited by JeffX99; May 24th, 2012 at 04:24 PM.
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    My favorite song for story telling is
    Everything Went Numb by Streetlight Manifesto

    The only song I've heard that's flat out about robbing a bank which I found interesting
    not really a full movie worth of imagery but at least a bank robbing scene lol.


    and the story goes like this: everything went numb for the money and the guns
    and everytime he'd think it out: "there's nothing to worry about
    get in the van, don't deviate from the plan
    if everything goes smooth then you'll walk away a rich man"
    so it begins, everybody walks in
    could this be the way or the day that the underdog wins?
    i think not, so i bet on the feds because the black hat men never win in the end

    ski mask (check)
    sawed off (check)
    guilty conscience, fear of death (check check check)
    everything went numb when he stumbled upon what he thought
    was going to be another means to the end
    silence
    sirens
    it all went down like his nightmare the night before
    i don't want to hear
    i don't want to be near
    i do what i got to do just to keep my nose clean



    there's more but I don't want to post really long lyrics here.
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    How about The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?


    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
    The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the skies of November turn gloomy

    With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
    Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
    That big ship and true was a bone to be chewed
    When the gales of November came early.


    Lyrics:
    http://www.gordonlightfoot.com/wreck...tzgerald.shtml

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    Definitely Vineris!
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    Here are some.

    Good ol' Tom Waits:

    Operator, number, please:
    It's been so many years
    Will she remember my old voice
    While I fight the tears?
    Hello, hello there, is this Martha?
    This is old Tom Frost,
    And I am calling long distance,
    Don't worry 'bout the cost.
    'Cause it's been forty years or more,
    Now Martha please recall,
    Meet me out for coffee,
    Where we'll talk about it all.

    And those were the days of roses,
    Poetry and prose and Martha
    All I had was you and all you had was me.
    There was no tomorrows,
    We'd packed away our sorrows
    And we saved them for a rainy day.

    And I feel so much older now,
    And you're much older too,
    How's your husband?
    And how's the kids?
    You know that I got married too?
    Lucky that you found someone
    To make you feel secure,
    'Cause we were all so young and foolish,
    Now we are mature.

    And those were the days of roses,
    Poetry and prose and Martha
    All I had was you and all you had was me.
    There was no tomorrows,
    We'd packed away our sorrows
    And we saved them for a rainy day.

    And I was always so impulsive,
    I guess that I still am,
    And all that really mattered then
    Was that I was a man.
    I guess that our being together
    Was never meant to be.
    And Martha, Martha,
    I love you can't you see?

    And those were the days of roses,
    Poetry and prose and Martha
    All I had was you and all you had was me.
    There was no tomorrows,
    We'd packed away our sorrows
    And we saved them for a rainy day.

    And I remember quiet evenings
    Trembling close to you.




    And some of you may find this disquieting (because frankly it is) but it's hard to beat the lyrical virtuosity of Scott Walker. He works on these lyrics for years and years and in the chanson tradition all of the music is entirely composed to fit the lyrics, not the other way around.

    Birds
    Birds
    This is not a cornhusk doll
    Dipped in blood in the moonlight
    Like what happen in America
    This is us
    Our eyesides snagged
    Dipped in mob in the daylight
    Like what happen in America
    The breasts are still heavy
    The legs long and straight
    The upper lip remains short
    The teeth are too small
    The eyeside is green
    The hair long and black
    Still coming through
    Still coming through
    She knows this room
    She can navigate it in the dark
    She entered the Palazzo at night by a side door
    To ascend to a lift in the upper floor
    She lies on the bed
    Looking up not yet seeing
    The signs of the zodiac painted in gold
    On the blue vaulted ceiling
    His enormous eyes as he arrives
    Coming nearer in the surrounding darkness
    His strange beliefs about the moon
    Its influence upon men of affairs
    The danger of its cold light on your face
    While you were sleeping
    She'll eclipse it with her head
    Stroke him while he sleeps
    Until he has nothing to do among men of affairs
    Sometime before dawn
    Her bare feet cross the floor
    She gazes from the window
    At the fountain in the courtyard
    Sometimes I feel like a swallow
    A swallow which by some mistake
    Has gotten into an attic
    And knocks its head against the walls in terror
    This is not a rabbit skinned
    With a body of silver
    Like what happen in America
    The breasts are still heavy
    The legs long and straight
    The upper lip remains short
    The teeth are too small
    The eyeside is green
    The hair long and black
    Still coming through
    Still coming through
    The mood soon changed
    In the clear morning air
    A man came up towards the body
    And poked it with a stick
    It rocked swiftly
    And twisted around at the end of the rope
    Finer than a hair from every side
    Finer than a hair
    Birds
    Birds
    This is just a cornhusk doll
    Dipped in blood in the moonlight
    This is just a cornhusk doll
    This morning in my room
    A little swallow was trapped
    It flew around desperately
    Until it fell exhausted on my bed
    I picked it up
    So as not to frighten it
    I opened the window
    Then I opened my hand




    And here's an old one from Scott, based off of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal.

    Anybody seen a knight pass this way
    I saw him playing chess with Death yesterday
    His crusade was a search for God and they say
    It's been a along way to carry on

    Anybody hear of plague in this town
    The town I've left behind was burned to the ground
    A young girl on a stake her face framed in flames cried
    I'm not a witch God knows my name

    The knight he watched with fear
    He needed to know
    He ran where he might feel God's breath
    And in the misty church
    He knelt to confess
    The face within the booth was Mr. Death

    My life's a vain pursuit of meaningless smiles
    Why can't God touch me with a sign
    Perhaps there's no one there answered the booth
    And Death hid within his cloak and smiled

    This morning I played chess with Death said the knight
    We played that he might grant me time
    My bishop and my knight will shatter his flanks
    And still I might feel God's heart in mine

    And through confession's grille Death's laughter was heard
    The knight cried No you've cheated me!
    But still I'll find a way
    We'll meet once again and once again
    Continue to play

    They met within the woods the knight his squire and friends
    And Death said now the game shall end
    The final move was made
    The knight hung his head
    And said you've won I've nothing left to play

    The minstrel filled with visions sang to his love
    To look against the stormy sky
    The knight his squire and friends
    Their hands held as one
    Solemnly danced toward the dawn

    His hourglass in his hand his scythe by his side
    The master Death he leads them on
    The rain will wash away the tears from their faces
    And as the thunder cracked they were gone


    Last edited by OldJake666; May 24th, 2012 at 08:50 PM.
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    The first time I heard Hero of War by Rise Against, it told a powerful story to me and continues to do so today.

    He said, “Son,
    Have you see the world?
    Well, what would you say
    If I said that you could?
    Just carry this gun and you'll even get paid.”
    I said, “That sounds pretty good.”

    Black leather boots
    Spit-shined so bright
    They cut off my hair but it looked alright
    We marched and we sang
    We all became friends
    As we learned how to fight

    A hero of war
    Yeah that's what I'll be
    And when I come home
    They'll be damn proud of me
    I'll carry this flag
    To the grave if I must
    Because it's flag that I love
    And a flag that I trust

    I kicked in the door
    I yelled my commands
    The children, they cried
    But I got my man
    We took him away
    A bag over his face
    From his family and his friends

    They took off his clothes
    They pissed in his hands
    I told them to stop
    But then I joined in
    We beat him with guns
    And batons not just once
    But again and again

    A hero of war
    Yeah that's what I'll be
    And when I come home
    They'll be damn proud of me
    I'll carry this flag
    To the grave if I must
    Because it's flag that I love
    And a flag that I trust

    She walked through bullets and haze
    I asked her to stop
    I begged her to stay
    But she pressed on
    So I lifted my gun
    And I fired away

    The shells jumped through the smoke
    And into the sand
    That the blood now had soaked
    She collapsed with a flag in her hand
    A flag white as snow

    A hero of war
    Is that what the see
    Just medals and scars
    So damn proud of me
    And I brought home that flag
    Now it gathers dust
    But it's a flag that I love
    It's the only flag I trust

    He said, “Son, have you seen the world? Well what would you say, if I said that you could?
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    Memory comes when memory's old
    I am never the first to know
    Following the stream up North
    Where do people like us float

    There is room in my lap
    For bruises, asses, handclaps
    I will never disappear
    Forever, I'll be here

    Whispering
    Morning, keep the streets empty for me

    I'm laying down eating snow
    My fur is hot, my tongue is cold
    On a bed of spider web
    I think of how to change myself

    A lot of hope in a one man tent
    There's no room for innocence
    Take me home before the storm
    Velvet mites will keep us warm

    Whispering
    Morning, keep the streets empty for me

    Uncover our heads and reveal our souls
    We were hungry before we were born
    It's about a deer.



    Obvious



    A great warrior laments about how even with all his conquests, he still hasn't found peace in life. In order to "cross the river" he must forgo the use of all the things that won him earthly battles.
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    This one always makes me want to giggle.

    Barenaked Ladies- Bank Job
    ...I was the driver; you ran the show
    You had the last word, the go or no go
    I knew every laneway in Ontario
    But it's not what you're sure of, it's what you don't know
    It should have been filled with the usual ones
    Throwing their cash into mutual funds
    We all had our ski masks and sawed-off shotguns
    But how do you plan for a bank full of nuns?

    Well, I guess we panicked - we all have taboos
    And they were like zebras; they had us confused
    We should be in condos with oceanfront views
    Instead we're most-wanted on the six o'clock news...
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    Artist: Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
    Album: Wanted: Dead or Alive
    Song: Streets of New York

    In the streets of New York
    Dope fiends are leaning for morphine
    The TV screen followed the homicide scenes
    You live here, you're taking a chance
    So look and I take one glance, there's a man inside an ambulance
    Crowds are getting louder, I wonder how the
    People want to go fight for the white powder
    People hanging in spots
    They waited until the blocks got hot
    And got raided by the cops
    I'll explain the man sleeping in the rain
    His whole life remains inside a bottle of Night Train
    Another man got his clothes in a sack
    Cause he spent every dime of his rent playing blackjack
    And there's the poor little sister
    She has a little baby daughter
    Named Sonya and Sonya has pneumonia
    So why's her mother in a club unzipped though?
    Yo that's her job, Sonya's mommy is a bar stripper
    Drug dealers drive around looking hard
    Knowing they're sending their brothers and sisters to the graveyard
    Everyday is a main event, some old lady limps
    The pushers and pimps eat shrimps
    It gets tiring, the sight of a gun firing
    They must desire for the sound of a siren
    A bag lady dies in an alleyway
    She's seen the last of her days inside the subways
    More and more down the slope, the kid couldn't cope
    So he stole somebody's dope and a gold rope
    Now my son's on the run, he's a wanted one
    Had fun then was done by a shotgun
    Upstairs I cover my ears and tears
    The man downstairs must have drank too many beers
    Cause every day of his life he beats his wife
    Till one night she decides to pull a butcher knife
    Blind man plays the sax
    A tune called “The Arms on My Moms Show Railroad Tracks”
    Many lives are cut short
    That's when you're living
    In the streets of New York



    Baby needs new shoes
    But his papa uses all the money for booze
    A young girl is undressed in the back seat of a Caddy
    Calling some man Daddy
    Three men slain inside an apartment
    All you could see was the sparks when it darkened
    Daylight broke, cops roll on the scene
    The drug war, daily routine
    Gambling spots, just a poor man's jackpot
    You winning a lot, you get shot
    The drug dealing fanatics
    But you don't want no static
    Cause they got crack addicts with automatics
    Shoot-outs for a desire for territory
    A kid got caught in the crossfire
    A tired mother can't take no more
    She grab the bottle full of sleeping pills and took about 24
    Human beings are laying on the pavement
    Cause they're a part of a mental enslavement
    The cop snipers, little babies in dirty diapers
    This type of life is making you hyper
    People scouting a torched-out building
    And got killed when the cold air filled in
    Is hell really suggested?
    No more persons arrested, a child molested
    A little kid says, "Yo
    I got a color TV, CD player and car stereo
    And all I want is a castle
    I also got a .38, don't give me no hassle"
    One kid heads straight for the top
    And gets stopped and popped by a crooked cop
    Look behind you when you walk
    That's how it is in the streets of New York
    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    I always thought Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner would make a good CA Character of the Week challenge.

    Warren Zevon, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"

    Roland was a warrior from the Land of the Midnight Sun
    With a Thompson gun for hire, fighting to be done
    The deal was made in Denmark on a dark and stormy day
    So he set out for Biafra to join the bloody fray

    Through sixty-six and seven they fought the Congo war

    With their fingers on their triggers, knee-deep in gore
    For days and nights they battled the Bantu to their knees
    They killed to earn their living and to help out the Congolese

    Roland the Thompson gunner...


    His comrades fought beside him - Van Owen and the rest

    But of all the Thompson gunners, Roland was the best
    So the CIA decided they wanted Roland dead
    That son-of-a-bitch Van Owen blew off Roland's head

    Roland the headless Thompson gunner

    (Time, time, time for another peaceful war)
    Norway's bravest son
    (But time stands still for Roland 'til he evens up the score)
    They can still see his headless body stalking through the night
    In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun

    Roland searched the continent for the man who'd done him in

    He found him in Mombassa in a barroom drinking gin
    Roland aimed his Thompson gun - he didn't say a word
    But he blew Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg

    Roland the headless Thompson gunner...


    The eternal Thompson gunner

    still wandering through the night
    Now it's ten years later but he still keeps up the fight
    In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
    Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it


    Here's Warren doing the song on Letterman in 2003. It was his last performance.

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    Chris de Burgh, in the good old days when he still wrote cool songs, wrote plenty such ballads, e.g. "Girl with April in her eyes," "The Tower," "Just another poor boy," etc.

    These are from the 1970s, and despite their popularity were more or less impossible to get hold of for decades, until YouTube arrived on the scene.
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    Excellent call Tristan! That is one I've always seen as a noir film. I've even sketched scenes I've wanted to paint inspired by that song.
    What would Caravaggio do?
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