The Perfect Lyric

Wednesday 29th November

I have always been fascinated with words, and even more so with lyrics.  Sometimes words just seem so right.  In Hey Jude when Paul sings “The Movement you need is on your shoulder” it is absolutely right, as John pointed out when Paul wanted to change it.  But, as an amateur poet I love rhymes too.  Dory Previn (long since passed away) has always been one of my favourite artists.  She came to fame after divorcing Andre Previn when he left her for Mia Farrow.  Dory wrote a particular sharp lyric about this – “Beware of young girls, who come to the door – wistful and pale, twenty and four, delivering daisies with delicate hands.”

And many other brilliant songs too.  Her words were often shocking and to the point, and incredibly honest – which somewhat belies the fact that she used to be a songwriting lyricist, in the days long before songwriters were actually allowed to sing their own words.  Back in the early Sixties, when she was known as Dory Langdon she had already penned several songs for Hollywood films, invariably sung by others.  But she released her own album, which instantly flopped.  I don’t know why.  She has a lovely voice, especially when she sings quiet slow songs.  I recently discovered that although I thought I had all of Dory’s records this early effort had eluded me.  It has recently been reissued on CD and I bought it. It is really rather good, she sounds a bit like a jazzy Doris Day.

The title track is a bright and breezy half comedy number “Why can’t we be enemies?” and it has the perfect lyric.

“I told you before, we’re not a pair

I’m just a spare leather glove

It’s such a bore, but you’re never there

You’re just a fair-weather love”

This is simply genius.  Who would ever think of such an apposite and clever lyric.  In many ways the art of songwriting has gone downhill.  We have so fallen in love with the singer-songwriter pouring out their anguish, or on the other hand trite words to disco or dance tracks like “Get down on it” that we have almost forgotten just how great the lyricists of old were.  There was a time when songwriting was an industry; the Brill Building in New York gave us Neil Diamond and Carole King, who were both writing for other voices long before they found their own.

So, when I find the perfect lyric my heart leaps and I just want to share it.