I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand – great first lyrics

Great songs do not have to open with intriguing first lyrics. Some great songs do not have lyrics at all – Booker T and the MGs (“Green Onions”), Eric Johnson (“Cliffs of Dover”)and The Ventures (“Walk don’t run”) all had instrumental hits. But, a catchy first lyric can grab your attention.

Warren Zevon did so with these lyrics, “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, walking on the streets of Soho in the rain.” This song is obviously “Werewolves of London.” What I learned yesterday is Zevon was talked into switching the first two stanzas for this purpose by Phil Everly one of the famous Everly Brothers.

Procol Harum (a great name) sang these lyrics to begin a “Whiter shade of pale,” a great song title. “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels cross the floor.” You just have to listen as “the crowd called out for more.”

Known for interesting lyrics, Freddie Mercury of Queen sang, “She keeps her Moet et Chandon in her pretty cabinet, let them eat cake she says just like Marie Antoinette.” “Killer Queen” is packed with lyrics like this, as are many Queen songs.

Jimmy Webb wrote these lyrics sang so well by Glenn Campbell in “Wichita Lineman.” “I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road, searching in the sun for another overload.” It is the daily life of man who does his job as he greatly worries about his wife who is in need of a break.

The Kinks introduced us to the enigmatic “Lola” with these lyrics. “I met her in a club down in old Soho. Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca Cola. C-O-L-A Cola…” Soho is an interesting place, as it found its way into two songs herein, so it serves as a great backdrop to Lola and this young man’s encounter

Yet, the words need not be complex. Paul McCartney grabbed our attention with a simple plaintive lyric “Yesterday, when all my troubles seemed so far away.” The lyric makes you want to know what happened “Yesterday.”

Not to be outdone, John Lennon wrote “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try.” His lyric was so provocative, you had to listen to his point to “Imagine” a kinder world.

I treasure great lyrics, so I admire great song writers who coin them. Yet, the song need not start out that way. Motown coined many great lyrics, but the Motown sound started with “rhythm upfront.” That was the hook.

But, it was later when Marvin Gaye penned these heartfelt, and still needed words under the Motown label. “Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying.” This powerful song “What’s going on?” is a needed anthem.

Songs like Gaye’s are the reason lyrics move me. Let’s celebrate the music, but hear the words. I know I left out many favorites of mine. What are some of your favorites I missed?

Glen Campbell: Good Times Again

Last night, I caught a melancholy show where Glen Campbell took us back to the many guests he had on his TV show. Not unlike, a similar review for Johnny Cash, Campbell had a wide variety of talented performers with whom he sang duets .

Fortunately, Campbell narrates the show which was filmed in 2007 before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Ironically, one of his guests was Linda Ronstadt who now has Parkinson’s Disease, so their duet of a James Taylor song “Carolina on my Mind” was especially poignant, with it such a reflective song.

He noted he likes harmonizing with female singers. He said he could sing under their voice more easily. In particular, he and Bobbi Gentry were so good together, they cut an album. They sang a beautiful rendition of “Let it be me” where there was obvious affection between the two, be it friendship or perhaps more. Maybe, that was the selling of the song, but their interaction made it special.

He also had memorable duets with Cher (“Just let me be Friends with you“) and Anne Murray (Don’t think twice, it’s alright”). He sang with Ray Charles, Ricky Nelson, B J Thomas, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, as well. He noted his friendship with Nelson dated back to when he played guitar on Nelson’s albums. They sang a terrific rendition of “Louisiana Man.”

Additionally, the show was peppered with his own hits such as “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Gentle on my Mind,” the theme from “True Grit” and “By the Time I get to Phoenix.” What was especially nice about “Gentle on my Mind,” was he played with the writer of the song, John Hartford. That is very gracious to bring on the songwriter to play and sing with him. He also had a nice story about meeting John Wayne, whose daughter was a big fan. Through this meeting, he was asked by Wayne to act in the movie “True Grit.”

But, when you see him play, you are reminded that he is quite a good guitarist having played as a session musician on many albums as a member of the Wrecking Crew, a studio house band for Phil Specter’s wall of sound concept. He did several guitar licks while singing with his guests or on his own songs.

Since my parents watched the shows when they first aired, it was like stepping back into my childhood. Back then, you only had three choices on TV, so you watched as a family. If you have not seen the review show, it is worth the time. So, give it a peek.