Many months ago, writing on my Lyrics Menu, I wrote: “I think about them all the time, have done for decades. Even so, over the years, when discussing lyrics, and when asked to name a great lyric I have often paused, unable to pick out anything specific from the tens of thousands of lines that are somewhere in my head, unable to come up with an instant answer.” I am not trying to think of the third thing that comes into my head, I simply don’t have an immediate answer. There’s too much information. As a result, whenever I hear or remember a line that really stands out I make a mental note of it, hoping that it will come to mind next time someone asks me to name a great line or two. I’m more likely to think of something that makes me shout at the radio with annoyance. I’m thinking of one now, but this is not the time to share it with you. The purpose of this Blog is not to rant and rave about the things that bug me. (Really, it’s not.)
Instead of just making a mental note I am sharing an example here with anyone able to access the web, and am about to praise a verse from the Sex Pistols. I have been exposed to the band even more than usual in recent weeks. There was an excellent Johnnie Walker show on Radio 2 last month discussing the 40th anniversary of “Never mind the bollocks”; it’s available for a few more days on the BBC iPlayer, here, and it has a great feature about Ronnie Lane too. Also last month BBC4 screened a documentary about the Pistols’ final UK shows, on Christmas Day 1977 in Huddersfield, originally shown in 2013 but unfamiliar to me. (It’s available on the iPlayer for another 9 days, here.) . And last night, listening to BBC 6Music for the first time in ages, I heard a Q&A with Paul Cook (Sex Pistols drummer) on Marc Riley’s programme.
The verse in question, from “God Save the Queen”, goes: “When there’s no future how can there be sin? We’re the flowers in the dustbin. We’re the poison in the human machine. We’re the future, your future.” That’s as good as any verse in any song that has made the Top 3 here in the UK. As you may recall, it got to #2 in the UK Charts. It was kept off the top by Rod Stewart’s double A side of “I don’t want to talk about it” / “First cut is the deepest”. The latter song is one of at least 34 that reached #1 and rhymes heart with part or apart. What would you choose? “I would have given you all of my heart, but there’s someone who’s torn it apart”, or “When there’s no future, how can there be sin?” No contest in my mind, and in case you need to remind yourself of what it sounds like, here’s a link to the official video. You’ll find the verse in question at 1:36, and, as advised earlier in the song (at 0:45): don’t be told what you want, don’t be told what you need.