Richard Oliff: Admire the poetry of the lyricist

Lyricists such as Sir Paul McCartney should be singled out for special praise, says Richard
Lyricists such as Sir Paul McCartney should be singled out for special praise, says Richard

One of the best personalised number plates I’ve ever seen has to be LYRIC.

It was spotted back in the 1980s at the Marquess of Exeter pub in Lyddington

I never did find out who owned the Mercedes that was attached to this coveted fabulous object, and I’m still occasionally reminded of that somewhat unique cherished nugget whenever the question arises: when did words become lyrics?

Like those other great mysteries: when did plastic become vinyl and when did a needle become a stylus? If we acknowledge a love for the words to any song then I contend we are more in love with poetry than many of us would care to confess.

Some people like their words to make sense, others are in tune with the likes of John Lennon or Lewis Carroll, and certainly words in songs, especially since the 1960s, have had little need to conform to the classic lilt of the archetypical limerick.

I would contend that the words to A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum or I’ve Seen All Good People by Yes are equal in evocation to anything produced by the modern poetic classics that tend to spend most of their lives on dusty shelves, unseen.

I recently passed a group of workmen digging up someone’s old driveway. Their radio was blasting out at an almost obligatory ear-bleedingly painful volume, when one of them suddenly began singing along to the song being broadcast. Philadelphia Freedom, I lo..u..u…uve you… yes I do. I smiled at the thought that here was a grown man, standing in the middle of someone’s drive, yelling ‘I love you’ at the top of his voice for no apparent reason, apart from the fact that he knew the words… so why not?

I can’t ever remember the same thing happening with a poem by Thomas Hardy or Siegfried Sassoon. This makes Bernie Taupin very special in my humble opinion.