Worst lines in popular songs

July 1, 2023 • 1:00 pm

I was looking at my very long list of “best and worst” music today, and found an old section called “The worst lines in popular songs”.  I present them to you as an inspiration. There are many more, of course: I expect people may bring up “MacArthur Park” or “I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates,” but those are just overall bad songs.  Bad songs needn’t contain bad lines, though. Here’s some of the lines that I’ll never be rid of as earworms:

This is a story about Billy Joe and Bobbie SueTwo young lovers with nothin’ better to doThan sit around the house, get high, and watch the tubeAnd here is what happened when they decided to cut looseThey headed down to, ooh, old El PasoThat’s where they ran into a great big hassleBilly Joe shot a man while robbing his castleBobbie Sue took the money and run

. . . . Hoo-hoo-hoo, Billy Mack is a detective down in TexasYou know he knows just exactly what the facts isHe ain’t gonna let those two escape justiceHe makes his livin’ off of the people’s taxes

—Steve Miller “Take the Money and Run”

Rhyming “El Paso” with “hassle” and “Texas” with “facts is” are just not rhymes. And someone should remind Mr. Miller that “facts” is plural. Steve Miller may in fact be the producer of the worst lines in music. Don’t forget “Abracadabra” and the immortal lines in “The Joker”:

Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice

‘Cause I speak of the pompatus of love

There is no such thing as “pompatus,” at least not in the Oxford English Dictionary


Here’s an example of a not-bad song with terrible lines.  The first two just make me cringe, and the words “when we rode the horse we got some thrills” does likewise. Only one horse? Some thrills?       

“Sittin’ in my car outside  your house
Remember when I spilled Coke all over your blouse.

. . .Miniature golf and Hondas in the hills(Miniature golf and Hondas in the hills)When we rode the horse, we got some thrills.”

                                    –Beach Boys, “All Summer Long”


This is a good song but Loretta strains for rhymes several times. Here’s one example:

“The work we done was hard
At night we’d sleep ‘cause we were tard.” [“tired”]

                                    –Loretta Lynn, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”

Here we have one of at least three uses of the word “chicken” in a rock song (can you name another?), but rhyming “chicken” with “bit me” doesn’t work. That said, I love this song; it’s bouncy and one of the best songs Stevie wrote:

“I was knee high to a chicken
When the love bug done bit me.”  (a rhyme)

                                    –Stevie Wonder, “I Was Made to Love Her”


This speaks for itself:

Wooly bully, wooly bully.
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.

–Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, “Wooly Bully”



This song was on the jukebox in the greasy diner where we ate every night in college (99 cents per meal, including rice pudding!). It is one of the worst songs of that era. And the verse just cuts off: we don’t know what they will find in 2525!

In the year 2525,
If man is still alive,
If woman can survive
They may find.

–Zager and Evans, “2525”


I never understood this verse. These words may make some arcane sense to Chicago, but didn’t to me:

Should I try to do some more?
25 or 6 to 4.

–Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4”


I’m a huge fan of Steve Stills, but when he got it wrong, he got it wrong big time. And here’s one of those times!

The deeper you go ’cause of the pressure of the air
The nitrogen comes and goes (gets you high)
It’s an alien atmosphere
They call it rapture of the deep
Be you not afraid
You’re too far down by now to be scared
Two hundred and eighty-seven feet
I saw Jesus and it made sense that he was there

–Stephen Stills, “Black Coral”


This comes from my late friend Kenny, who found the lyric:

“Ooooh, poor Romeo
Sitting’ all on his own-e-o.
Ooooh, poor Romeo.

–Phil Lynott, “Romeo and the Lonely Girl”, from “Jailbreak”, byThin Lizzie

UPDATE: I’ll retract the last quote as “bad rhyming” based on one a comment in the thread by Brendan Teeling, who says that “own-eo” was normal Dublin parlance at the time. Also, this was the only quote that was given to me by someone else; all the rest I’m well familiar with.

You know the drill: NOW IT’S YOUR TURN! Put your worst lyrics below.

176 thoughts on “Worst lines in popular songs

      1. Yup, ain’t been no “subscribe” function for a long time now. The Notify me of new posts box appears and works on other WordPress sites – it makes it really hard to follow a comment thread. That box no longer appears here.

  1. ‘Love Hurts’ is a really nice song apart from the line ‘Love is like a stove / Burns you when it’s hot’.

  2. Can’t think of any off the top of my head, but the lyrics of Jim Morrison were
    pretty bad.

    Oh..just thought of this one: “I am the lizard king. I can do anything”

    1. I’ll always be a word man, better than a bird man.

      Wha? Though I don’t know if that was actually a lyric or just some bad poetry.

      1. Morrison was a trippy lyricist; I find myself saying the “lizard king” quote often, which suggests to me that, if nothing else, it was powerfully evocative.

  3. Then on the other side, you have words all twisted to rhyme and the result is pure genius. I’m thinking of Ira Gershwin, of course. “It’s just anotha rhumba, but it’s definitely got my numba, so much so that I can’t sleep or slumba!”
    “The t’ings dat yo’ li’ble, To read in de Bible, It ain’t necessarily so.”

  4. I am a huge fan of the Beatles’ White Album. It’s one of their best albums, perhaps in their top three. But the song Don’t Pass Me By (written and sung by Ringo Starr) contains the following lines: ‘I’m sorry that I doubted you. I was so unfair/ You were in a car-crash and you lost your hair.’

          1. i assumed anyone who trashed the beatles was automatically banned?

        1. He wrote the lyrics, but George essentially created the chord progression that makes it so lively and fun, though, in true George fashion, he was always humble and said it was “Ringo’s song.”

    1. Yeah, that’s the story I read. They sat in the studio in the middle of the night struggling with writer’s block, and one of them asked the recording engineer what time it was. “25 or -6 to four” was the answer, and they had their song.

      1. I had heard this referred to sexual positions. Though I am not cool enough to know what they are…

      2. Close. Multiple “rock journalists” have reported that 25 or (twenty) 6 to 4 indeed meant coming on 4 am, but after an LSD trip. In that era many complained about being kept up all night. None of these stories have apparently ever been verified by the band.

  5. “Cause I speak of the pompatus of love”: There is no such thing as “pompatus,” at least not in the Oxford English Dictionary

    Shakespeare made up lots of words when he needed one to fit.

    Then those words got accepted as real, and those verses are now regarded as genius. 🙂

    1. I want to think that is the only time anyone will draw a line between Shakespeare and Steve Miller.

    2. I recall we thought it must come from some allusion to the idea of a PSYCHOPOMP, a figure who ushers souls into the underworld.

      1. Are we sure the lyrics were correctly transcribed? “Pompousness of love” could make sense.

      2. Nothing. Steve Miller says he misheard another word. But geez, people, the guy could care less and was just having fun. Why bash people looking for profundity when that was not the aim? They pointedly not trying to be Lennon or Dylan.

    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMLKNFdOv1o&t=98s
      Steve Miller Reveals How He Made Up “Pompatus”

      [possibly misremembered doo-wop song a la Cream’s Disraeli Gears from derailleur]

      since this is bio
      Genus ONINGIS Simon 1901 Typus O pompatus Peckham Oningis pompatus Peckham Neon pompatus Peckham Proc Zool Soc London 1893 p 703 pl lxii f 11 O p Simon Hist Nat Ar 1901 Vol II p 567 f 681 Hab West Indies St Vincent

    4. I don’t know if that is the case. Shakespeare is often our earliest written source for a word, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t being used before he wrote them down.

  6. “25 or 6 to 4” refers to a time in the morning; the lyrics appear to be about insomnia due to stress.

  7. The best/worst (mostly best) rhyme about genetics in popular music is from Public Enemy’s Prophets of Rage:

    “It’s like that, I’m like Nat
    Leave me the hell alone
    If you don’t think I’m a brother
    Then check my chromosome”

  8. It’s “25 or 6 [minutes] to 4 [in the morning].” I’m working on this song, but I’m so tired the room is spinning. “Should I try to do some more [song writing]?” Or call it a night and get some sleep?

    Not so cryptic.

  9. Shout, shout, let it all out
    These are the things I can do without
    Come on
    I’m talking to you, come on

    1. Also: Sweet Dreams by the Eurithmics. Looks like it means something profound, but I guess it doesn’t, really?

      “Sweet dreams are made of this
      Who am I to disagree
      I travel the world and the seven seas
      Everybody’s looking for something”

  10. For bad lyrics I might suggest anything by America but I guess Ventura Highway is the best example of a potentially good song — great guitar riff — but dumb-a** lyrics. My (least) favorite:
    ‘Cause the free wind is blowing through your hair
    And the days surround your daylight there
    Seasons crying no despair
    Alligator lizards in the air

    Maybe that meant something to the Dewey Bunnell but to the rest of it I think it was just nonsense.

    Speaking of nonsense, 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago — written by Robert Lamm — was a reference to the time. The song is about a sleepless night and him noticing the time: 3:34 or 3:35 AM. I’m not defending it because that *never* made sense to me until I heard the explanation. But I forgive that song because of the amazing guitar solo by the late, great Terry Kath.

      1. I’m glad you brought up America. Nice tunes, nice vocals, horrendous lyrics. “Tin Man” is especially awful.

        1. Really? “There were birds and trees and rocks and things”? “The heat was hot”? “In the desert you can remember your name ’cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain”?

          The only good verse is the third verse. Everything else is so, so bad.

    1. Another favorite line in pop music for herpetologists. (See my reply to comment 4 above.) Alligator lizards are found in the part of California referred to in the song, and the song evokes (to a herpetologist) road riding, a method of “herping” involving cruising down a highway, looking for live and dead herps on the road, and occasionally stopping at good-looking habitat.


      1. “herping”

        I don’t know any herpetologists, so I will tentatively take your word that this is a herpetology thing and not a sex thing. Though I guess it could be both!

  11. I need to add this on too:

    You’re motoring, what’s your price for flight?
    In finding Mister Right
    You’ll be alright tonight

  12. I won’t call it the “worst” because I think it’s brilliant and funny but I still think Camarillo Brillo by Frank Zappa deserves an honorable mention.

    “She stripped away her rancid poncho
    and laid out naked by the door
    we did it ’til we were un-concho
    and it was useless anymore’

    1. Zappa lyrics cannot be accounted for. They are the work of a mad genius. Trying to break down Billy the Mountain would be a literature graduate thesis.

      Maybe I’ll just become a dental floss tycoon, farmin’ my lonely dental floss…

      Just like a penguin in bondage, boy, way over on the wet side of the bed (Knirps for moisture!)…Just like the mighty penguin, flapping her eight ounce wings…Lord, you know it’s all over if she comes atcha on the strut & rap ’em all round yer head…

      Seriously, you can quote Zappa lyrics all day and never stop having fun!

    1. So Steve Miller lifted the lyric. And he couldn’t even get that right.

      ETA to add: He is a blight upon the airwaves. The most inexplicable survivor from the 70s.

      Had to get that in.

  13. In the desert you can’t remember your name
    ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
    La la la la la la…

  14. A lot of Steely Dan lyrics make no sense.

    And how about that lovely Christmas carol, “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer”?

    1. I don’t think you got what I was striving for. It wasn’t really obscure lyrics (I love the Dan) but BAD ONES, one that make you grit your teeth. I haven’t seen that in Steely Dan.

      1. There is a great new book out about Steely Dan, focusing on the lyrics/stories of many of their iconic pieces.

        It’s written in a hip, flip, fun, poetic style, and loads of fun if you are a fan of the Dan: “Quantum Criminals: Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, and Other Sole Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan” by music scholar Alex Pappademas, with fun illustrations by Joan LeMay.

        I would never have known about the book except for linguist John McWhorter’s recommendation (he’s a Danner, too).

  15. At the other end of the spectrum are the great lyrics, and I would submit that the late Warren Zevon was a master of them, especially opening ones. To wit:

    “Grandpa pissed his pants again
    He don’t give a damn,
    Brother Billy has both guns drawn,
    He ain’t been right since Vietnam.

    Sweet home Alabama,
    Play that dead band’s song,
    Turn those speakers up full blast,
    Play it all night long”


    “On a poor Missouri farm,
    Back when the West was young,
    Two men learned to rope and ride,
    Play handy with a gun.”

    Ok, a couple of the rhymes are a stretch, but overall I think they are brilliant.

    1. Elvis Costello showed his songwriting prowess on his very first album with (among many other things) the best euphemism for masturbation I know in any song: “Now that your picture’s in the paper being rhythmically admired…”

      EDIT: I responded to this because I adore Warren Zevon. Excitable Boy must be the funniest, bubbliest song ever written about an insane person who rapes and murders some poor teenage girl.

  16. Much as I hesitate (ha!) to disagree with our estimable host…

    …MacArthur Park is a *great* song!

    I too was going to ask what 25 or 6 to 4 meant, but I see it’s already been answered. Thanks to all.

    At least I am with you 100% on Steve Miller (retches). Space Cowboy, along with Elton John’s execrable Bennie and the Jets, has the dubious distinction of being the song I can turn off the most quickly when it comes on the radio.

  17. And someone should remind Mr. Miller that “facts” is plural.

    The substitution of the singular for the plural or the plural for the singular, and other apparent solecisms, is simply the use of enallage — a favorite rhetorical tool of many great writers and lyricists, from Cole Porter to Lord Byron to William Shakespeare. Hell, Bob Dylan has made extensive use of it throughout his songwriting career and the Swedish Academy awarded him a Nobel Prize in Literature for his efforts. Consider the lyrics, for example, of a song like “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (with its repeated use of “ain’t,” its use of “if’n,” and its use of “[t]hat light I never knowed,” among many other instances).

    Of course, there’s good enallage and there’s bad enallage and not every writer or lyricist has the ear for it. Plus, there’s no excuse for sloppy, unintentional grammatical errors.

    1. “… apparent solecisms, is simply the use of enallage ”

      Awesome – I think you said that before, but never a bad idea to dish some great words.

      1. He gave multiple examples in his parenthetical. Heck, just look at how he wrote the official lyrics to the song in which he most famously mentions Shakespeare, as it’s full of such agrammatical contractions and (or should I say “an'”) truncations: https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/stuck-inside-mobile-memphis-blues-again/

        If you want grammatical inconsistency specifically similar to the Steve Miller Band song (a song and band which I can’t stand, but will defend in this regard because Ken is correct), check out Tangled Up in Blue, just for a few examples of the many Dylan employed: https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/tangled-blue/

        EDIT: If you want specific examples from the latter, there’s “Her folks they said our lives together Sure was gonna be rough,” “I seen a lot of women,” “I’s just about to do the same,” “And every one of them words rang true,”

        Dylan did it with much more grace and with the emphasis properly placed, clearly going for tone rather than trying to rearrange a broken face, but still, it’s true…Tangled up in blue…

    2. “enallage — a favorite rhetorical tool of many great writers and lyricists”

      Yes, as in:
      “Ragweed makes me sneeze—you see,
      I suffer from enallage.”

      1. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”…that’s the lyric I complained about when Ken enriched my vocabulary with “enallage.” I never seem to remember the damn word (my mind is dyslexic when it comes to French) but I know there’s a word for being purposely grammatically incorrect.

        1. “Me and Julio” is correct in this case, I think. You wouldn’t say that somebody was “seeing I down by the schoolyard.” By extension, you wouldn’t say that somebody was “seeing Julio and I down by the schoolyard.”

          1. The chorus is fine when you add the word “seeing.” It’s the song title that is incorrect.

            You would say “I was down by the schoolyard.”
            Not “me was down by the schoolyard.”

            You would say “Julio and I were down by the schoolyard.”
            No “Julio and me were down by the schoolyard.”

          2. Ah, well you said lyric, not title, so I obviously went with the lyric…

  18. Toto – Africa.

    “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”


    1. I’ve always heard “an empress”, not “Olympus”.

      When I listen closely to the official video I still hear it that way even now, even knowing the lyrics. Maybe sometimes they did sing it that way?

      In any case, that song has worse lines:
      “Gonna take some time to do the things we never had…”
      “…Waiting for some solitary company”

      1. I always heard “Leopress” but then I also heard:
        “Two chicks and a pair of dice” for “ two tickets to paradise” and
        “Every time you go away, you take piece of meat with you” instead of “…me…”

        1. Last comment on a fun post, lest I break Da Roolz: I always heard Aerosmith singing, “Sleeeee-eeeep … in the mooooon-shine” rather than “Sweet Emotion”

  19. Song lyrics often seem bad when read, and yet they work when played with music.
    It is a sacrilege, but Beatles lyrics were often weird, and I’m a huge fan. I’ve wondered if they were chosen for the phonetic effect? Or maybe the emotional impact they give?
    He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football
    He got monkey finger, he shoot coca-cola.

    1. From what I read: the lyrics of “Come Together” are all cryptic jokes about the band members. This verse is about George Harrison, who apparently liked to be barefoot, had very limber fingers (duh), and was partial to certain white powders.

  20. Apologies to our host. I don’t see what’s wrong with “Black Coral”. Isn’t that pretty much how nitrogen narcosis works?

    P.S. I like “Benny and the Jets”, too. I used to not care for it and skip over it to get to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” quicker. But I don’t now and life is better for it.

  21. Loretta Lynn’s pronunciation of tired in Coal Miner’s Daughter is how those with an Appalachian accent say it. Dolly Parton has lost some of her accent but her pronunciation of tired still sounds like “tahrd.”

  22. How about Holy Diver by Dio? Awesome song, but the lyrics are a headscratcher.

    “Holy diver
    You’ve been down too long in the midnight sea
    Oh, what’s becoming of me?
    Ride the tiger
    You can see his stripes but you know he’s clean
    Oh, don’t you see what I mean?”

    Nah, bro, sorry, I have no idea what you mean.

    1. when in doubt, interpret as sexual innuendo.

      So .. [… checks ..]

      I think it works. Not that I need to visualize Ronnie there, but…

        1. That line has an innocuous explanation as well – to the extent that bragging about being a serial cheater can be innocuous. The singer (Morrison, but the song was written by Willy Dixon and originally sung by Howlin Wolf) is claiming that the women he has affairs with cook ordinary food (“pork and beans”) for their men, whereas he gets the good stuff – the chicken.
          Can that line be taken as sexual innuendo? Yeah, I guess… but “chicken” doesn’t really fit in that context, does it?

      1. That somehow rubbed me the wrong way – we’re talking about Dio, not Mötley Crüe or Def Leppard. So I asked the almighty internet, and here it is, from the man himself (https://norselandsrock.com/holy-diver-dio/) :

        “Holy Diver is a religious song, based on a religious attitude. […] The song Holy Diver is really about a Christ figure who is in another place – not Earth – and who has done exactly the same there as we apparently experienced on Earth. He died for the sins of man on that other far and distant planet so that mankind there could be cleansed, start again, and do things properly this time. The people on this planet are calling him the “Holy Diver” because he is about to go to another place to another planet, dive into another world, to do what he did first on our planet – save people from the sins or absolve them from their sins by having himself killed.

        “The people are saying to him, ‘don’t go, no no no.’ The innuendos of tigers and stripes, hearts and being eaten and you’ll die, all come from that. The tiger symbolizes strength, while its stripes suggest impurity. The lines “Ride the tiger. You can see his stripes but you know he’s clean” means that you must take advantage of the strength you have and not judge the heart of others by what seem to be impurities. These stripes – in the package it comes in.”

        Now, I’d love to say, why didn’t I see that myself, but… I can’t.

        1. OK, I appreciate that.

          Ronnie just went way up in my ranking, then.


          (That’s supposed to be a Dio hook ’em horns hand sign).

  23. How about Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band?

    Put a quarter in the juke
    Boogie til you puke
    Form a big boss line
    It’s puking time
    Cleaning woman
    Found me on the floor
    Can’t wait til tomorrow
    To boogie some more

  24. So many bad song lyrics. My 2 cents…the words don’t have to exactly rhyme so long as they approach it. Songs don’t have to be a treatise on a topic, the mystery often gets our attention by juxtaposing different images. Paul Simon never does say what the mother saw, that was against the law. “25 or 6 to 4” means the guy was looking for inspiration for writing a song he’d been working on into the wee hours of the morning and when he looked at the clock it was 25 or 26 minutes to 4. Great song. Here’s a hackneyed topic that might be new to 10 year olds…bon jovi, dead or alive: Oh, I’m a cowboy
    On a steel horse I ride
    I’m wanted (wanted), dead or alive
    And I walk these streets, a loaded six-string on my back
    I play for keeps ’cause I might not make it back
    I’ve been everywhere, still I’m standing tall
    I’ve seen a million faces and I’ve rocked them all

  25. Motorhead, by Hawkwind first and Motorhead second has an excellent/terrible line.

    Fourth day, five day marathon
    We’re moving like a parallelogram

    1. Lemmy was very proud of the only rock song lyrics including “parallellogram”. And not a bad lyricist generally

  26. Back when this song was fairly new, my (We were VERY young then!) friends and I got “the chuckles” whenever we heard these lines from Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”:

    “Well, we got no class
    And we got no principals
    We ain’t got no innocence
    We can’t even think of a word that rhymes!”

  27. Jerry, I think you are being a bit harsh on Phil Lynott. Growing up in Dublin in the 60s/70s we would have used the phrase ‘all on his own-e-o’ regularly, so you should give him a pass for local authenticity. Anyway, he was one of the two coolest men to come out of Dublin …

    1. I take your point. In fact, that’s the only song of the lot I’m not familiar with, and the lines were given to me by a friend. I will in fact retract those lines and note it in the post.

      1. Thanks Jerry; as we would have said back in the day, ‘you’re only bleedin rapid’.

      1. That isn’t how rhymes work. If they had the same letters they’d be the same word. It’s the sound of the words as pronounced, specifically on their endings, that makes them rhyme.

  28. In Loretta Lynn’s defense, Southerners pronounce “tired” as “tard.” And I think Ringo’s “La De Da (Life Goes On)” is a great song.

    1. Agree with your comment on Coal Miner’s Daughter, which is a beautiful song sung with authenticity and passion. McCartney wrote Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

  29. MacArthur Park is a masterpiece. According to its composer, Jimmy Webb: “I’ve also tried to tell the truth, which is that it’s just a song about a girlfriend of mine, Susie Horton, and this place on Wilshire Boulevard where we used to have lunch, which is called MacArthur Park. And the truth is that everything in the song was visible. There’s nothing in it that’s fabricated. The old men playing checkers by the trees, the cake that was left out in the rain, all of the things that are talked about in the song are things I actually saw. And so, it’s a kind of musical collage of this whole love affair that kind of went down in MacArthur Park.”
    • Susie Horton did not inspire just this one song. Webb used her as an inspiration for multiple hit songs, including By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Where’s the Playground, Suzie, Didn’t We, and The Worst That Could Happen.

    1. Is “The Worst that Could Happen” the one with the line “And baby, if he loves you more than me”? I’ve always wondered why the other man would love the singer at all.

    2. Yep, MacArthur never made any sense to me until a point in my life when it suddenly did. You have to lose someone you deeply cared for, for it to make sense.

  30. How about Jeff Beck’s (RIP) most hated song “hi Ho, Silver lining“

    You’re everywhere and nowhere, baby
    That’s where you’re at
    Going down a bumpy hillside
    In your hippy hat
    Flying across the country
    And getting fat
    Saying everything is groovy
    When your tyres are flat

  31. Maybe the godawfulness of The Poppy Family’s “Seasons in the Sun” never made it out of Canada, because surely it would have already shown up here if it was more widely heard. All to the better, if so. Something we don’t have to apologize for.

    “We had joy, we had fun
    We had seasons in the sun
    But the hills that we climbed
    Were just seasons out of time”

    Eurgggh. The rest is as bad or worse. Thank God the 70s finally ended.

    1. There is an English football crowd version of this song:

      We had joy, we had fun
      We had Arsenal on the run
      But the joy didn’t last
      Cause the buggers ran too fast

    2. When I was at school* we sang

      We had joy, we had fun,
      We picked bogies in the Sun,
      But the Sun got too hot,
      And the bogies turned to snot.

      *elementary school, not college.

    3. I don’t know The Poppy Family’s version, but it was a hit here in the UK for Terry Jacks. Wikipedia says it was “an English-language adaptation of the 1961 Belgian song “Le Moribond” (“The Dying Man”) by singer-songwriter Jacques Brel”.

      1. Terry Jacks and his wife essentially were The Poppy Family – it would have been the same version.

  32. Beat on the brat
    Beat on the brat
    Beat on the brat with a baseball bat
    Oh yeah, oh yeah, uh-oh

    The Ramones

  33. I can think of three rock songs with chicken in the title
    Little Feat: Dixie Chicken
    Frank Zappa: Marqueson’s Chicken
    Jimmy Smith: Back at the Chicken Shack

  34. Came here to make sure the explanation for “25 or 6 to 4” made it into the discourse. I wasn’t disappointed.

  35. Just today I heard a pop song on the radio whose theme was comparing a man to a bird of prey. But the woman singer didn’t know what a bird of prey was, and sang “Bird of a prey” every time. Ahhhhhhh!!! An this was not done to help a rhyme.

  36. So much hate for Steve Miller! C’mon, the guy was 100% tongue in cheek. And even the nonsense lyrics worked great with the riffy tunes.

  37. How about “Coke” with a small “c” as in “cocaine” and “horse” as in “heroin”?
    “Sittin’ in my car outside your house
    Remember when I spilled Coke all over your blouse.

    . . .Miniature golf and Hondas in the hills
    (Miniature golf and Hondas in the hills)
    When we rode the horse, we got some thrills.”

    1. That’s the way I read it too. As was often said of ODs at that time, “riding the horse that killed him.”

    2. That reminds me of the scene in Die Hard when Ellis offers to betray McCane. Gruber asks him what he wants in exchange. We don’t hear the answer but, in the next scene, we see one of the terrorists bring Ellis a can of Coca cola.

      I didn’t understand the significance of that at first because the first few times I watched Die Hard I missed the beginning where Ellis is introduced to us clearly snorting a line of coke.

  38. Crikey, what a bunch of grumpy boomers (hey, I’m one). At least distinguish between bad lyrics trying to be profound but failing, and the Ramones, Zappa, Steve Miller, and half dozen others shat on here who could not care less about that and are being silly or just having fun – and whose lyrics almost always work with the tune. And if anyone disses Steely Dan’s classic lyrics, I’ll see you in my office pronto!

    1. Using Zappa lyrics is like trying to cheat at dice with a die that has a six on each side. You look silly and you’re not fooling anyone (and, if anything, Zappa is still fooling you from the grave).

      Also, I hope your office isn’t at William & Mary because I’m never going back. Not that we’d have any qualms regarding The Dan. Although you did ask above for any Steely Dan lyrics that don’t make sense, and I’ll provide an entire song: Pretzel Logic. Of course, the name of the song belies the fact that it’s not supposed to make any sense. They’re always one step ahead, those incredibly serious jokers…

  39. The first stanza of Wildwood Flower, popularized by the Carter Family, has flummoxed people for around 100yrs. It’s well-known that AP Carter traipsed the hills of the Blue Ridge ferreting out songs. I suspect that this is one of them, and that he misunderstood certain botanical references and arrived at one of these, that has undergone modifications that still don’t work.
    These folks may grasp that the imagery intended to be conveyed is that of a lovely young mountain girl putting flowers in her hair, but they don’t have enough depth of reference to come up with suitable blooms to fit the bill. Here are a couple that you’re likely to hear:

    Oh, I’ll twine with my mingles and waving black hair
    With the roses so red and the lilies so fair
    And the myrtle so bright with the emerald dew
    The pale amanita and eyes look like blue

    (What exactly is a mingle, and yeah, weave a Death-Cap mushroom in your hair.)

    I will twine, I will mingle my raven black hair
    With the roses so red and the lilies so fair
    And the myrtle so bright with it’s emerald hue
    The pale and the leader and eyes look like blue

    (The third line is now OK, but still another bonkers last line.)

    I’ve seen islip so blue, which last I heard is a town in NY, pale Amaryllis (srsly? Presumably lilies refer to Lilies of the Valley, and myrtle is Crepe Myrtle with some green leaves, but I don’t know of any Amaryllis with suitably-sized flower heads.

    Anyway, here’s my suggestion to turn the first four lines into something that makes sense and sounds close enough to have been what was mis-understood:

    I’ll entwine and co-mingle my raven black hair
    With the roses so red and the lilies so fair
    And the myrtle so bright with it’s emerald hue
    The pale angelica and violets so blue.

    All you have to do is accent angelica on the third syllable (li) and it all fits the tune and makes for suitable imagery using flowers that could be found in the mountains. Angelica looks the part for adorning hair with, and is supposedly inspirational, too.

  40. We will have to go back a few years prior to the examples you gave. “You talk too much, you worry me to death. You talk too much, you even worry my pet.” Whoever wrote that just wasn’t even putting forth the minimal effort.

  41. So many bad lyrics to choose from. An excellent reference is Dave Barry’s “Book of Bad Songs”, arising out of a column he wrote in which he questioned some Neil Diamond lyrics:

    “It would not trouble me if the radio totally ceased playing ballad-style songs by Neil Diamond. I realize that many of you are huge Neil Diamond fans, so let me stress that, in matters of musical taste, everybody is entitled to an opinion, and yours is wrong. Consider the song “I Am, I Said,” wherein Neil, with great emotion, sings:
    I am, I said
    To no one there
    And no one heard at all
    Not even the chair.

    What kind of line is that? Is Neil telling us he’s surprised that the chair didn’t hear him? Maybe he expected the chair to say, “Whoa, I heard THAT.” ”

    Dave’s readers were quick to respond with many helpful suggestions, far to many to mention here, but here are a few. From Paul Anka:
    “I’m so young and you’re so old
    This my darling I’ve been told”


    “You are my destiny
    You are what you are to me”

    Timothy by The Buoys, about three trapped miners, starts with:
    “Trapped in a mine that had caved in
    And everyone knows
    The only ones left were Joe and me and Tim”

    and ends with:

    “Timothy, Timothy, Joe was looking at you
    Timothy, Timothy, God what did we do?
    My stomach was full as it could be
    And nobody ever got around to finding Timothy”

    Arguably the worst lyrics ever written are from “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” by Mac Davis:

    “Girl you’re a hot blooded woman, child
    And it’s warm where you’re touching me”

    And an honourable mention for the song “Loch Lomond”, which enraged a character in a P.G. Wodehouse story because of the attempt to rhyme “Loch Lomond” with “‘afore ye”.

    1. “Timothy, Timothy, Joe was looking at you
      Timothy, Timothy, God what did we do?
      My stomach was full as it could be
      And nobody ever got around to finding Timothy”

      That’s because he and Joe ate Timothy.

  42. I notice that many of the “bad lyrics” cited here are jokes or allusions that make sense if you know the context, but stick out as weird and conspicuously meaningless if you don’t. I am not sure what that means for those who want to write lyrics. Maybe, don’t try to be too clever? Then again, it’s probably better to be remembered for some weird, incomprehensible line than not at all?

  43. “Every day a little sadder,
    a little madder,
    someone get me a ladder”
    – Emerson Lake & Palmer, “Still… You Turn Me On”

  44. Late to the game here, but I always liked Tom
    Lehrer’s ability to contrive a rhyme, although some of you will dislike the contrivance. My favourite is from The Wild West Is Where I Want To Be:

    I will leave the city’s rush,
    Leave the fancy and the plush,
    Leave the snow and leave the slush,
    And the crowds.
    I will seek the desert’s hush,
    Where the scenery is lush,
    How I long to see the mush-
    Room clouds.

    Rhyming “slush and the crowds” with “mushroom clouds” is sheer genius.

    1. Almost anything Tom Lehrer is good, and a fair bit is great.
      I was tempted to put a quote from “Lobachevsky” – “I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky. In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize. … Only be sure always to call it please ‘research'” in my PhD dissertation, but refrained.
      In January he dedicated all his work to the public domain. See https://tomlehrersongs.com/

  45. McGarrigle Sisters, “Heart Like a Wheel”:

    “Some say a heart is just like a wheel / Once you bend it, you can’t mend it.”

    That’s not a defining or even particularly interesting property of a wheel! Many common objects are difficult to impossible to repair after being broken.

    1. A lot of word pairs that don’t rhyme sort of sound like they do when shouted over amplified music by drunk people who can’t sing.

    2. In what way don’t they rhyme? If it’s because of the different letters (m & n) then by that logic very few rhymes actually rhyme.

  46. Muskrat Susie, Muskrat Sam
    Do the jitterbug
    Out in the muskrat land
    And they shimmy
    Sam is so skinny

  47. I’ve seen “McArthur Park” listed as a terrible song before, but I love it. “Someone left the cake out in the rain” is admittedly insane, but it doesn’t bother me. My favorite line: “I recall a yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees.”

    1. It was #3 in Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs, but will forever be my #1; the only song that can physically make me throw up. Very bad lyrics too; I won’t repeat them here.

  48. I’ll catch heat for this one because it’s an iconic song from Neil Young but it’s contrived and still sucks:
    “My, my, hey, hey,
    Rock n roll is here to stay…
    Hey, hey, my, my,
    Rock n roll will never die.”

    Wow, a rhyming palindrome of gibberish.

  49. “The dog-gone girl is mine.”
    -Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney

    And speaking of Macca:

    “Well, Ollie Hardy should have had more sense,
    He bought a gee-gee and it jumped the fence.
    All for the sake of a couple of pence.”
    -“Junior’s Farm “

  50. Not so much bad lyrics as just silly are the opening lines of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’.
    “Tonight there’s going to be a jailbreak
    Somewhere in this town”.

    Somewhere? Wouldn’t be at the jail, would it?

    Then there’s the Chi-Lites’ ‘Homely Girl’.
    “It must have broke your poor little heart
    When the boys used to say,
    You looked better in the dark.
    But now they’d give all they learnt in school,
    To be somewhere
    In the dark with you”.

  51. The Simon & Garfunkel song (Somewhere They Can’t Find Me?)

    Oh, Baby you don’t know what I done
    I committed a crime I’ve broken the law
    While you were here sleeping and just dreaming of me
    I held up and robbed a liquor store

  52. I cringe at a lot of Bernie Taupin’s lyrics. “Anyway, the thing is, what I really mean, yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen”. How cloyingly cutesy can you get?

  53. Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4 refers to the time. They were writing the song at 25 or 26 minutes before 4 AM.

  54. If anyone can find it, check out Dave Barry’s hilarious “Book of Bad Songs,” which he put together from his “survey of bad songs” among readers of his former newspaper column.

    He trashes many truly bad songs with execrable lyrics (Neil Diamond: “I am
    I said/To no one there/And no one heard at all not/Even the chair”) and it’s almost guaranteed he trashes at least one or two that you love.

    Funny, funny book.

  55. I had some dreams;
    They were clouds in my coffee,
    Clouds in my coffee…
    You’re so vain,
    You probably think this song is about you
    (Carly Simon)

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