Memorable Lines from Pop and Rock Songs

There are enjoyable pop and rock music songs, and then there are songs with lines that make us laugh out loud, nod our heads in agreement, or pause to reflect on the rhetorical power of the lyrics. This post is an unordered collection of lines from songs that moved me in some way, at least enough for me to dredge them up and list them here.

Feel free to offer your suggestions in the Comments section, along with a brief explanation of why the proffered lyrics affected you the way they did.

  • "Meet the new boss / same as the old boss." The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again." This deceptively simple line resonates with anarchists as much as it does with libertarians and cynics, and Pete Townshend succinctly captured the skepticism that many people feel when listening to the platitudes of a vote-seeking politician or an institutional executive.

  • "The pain was enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder." The Smiths, "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before." I think this is the best line that Morrissey ever wrote, and I chuckle every time I hear this bit of graphic hyperbole.

  • "Now those memories come back to haunt me, they haunt me like a curse / Is a dream a lie if it don't come true or is it something worse?" Bruce Springsteen, "The River." Bruce, I do not have the answer to this question, which recollects the adage about whether it is better to be ignorant and at peace, or to be knowledgeable and troubled. Still, Springsteen's character is in a position many of us have endured, and there are days when listening to this song can be an exercise in catharsis.

  • "Just like Pagliacci did I try to keep my sadness hid / Smiling in the public eye but in my lonely room I cry / The tears of a clown when there's no one around." Smokey Robinson, "The Tears of a Clown." Listen: any pop song writer with the guts to include references to an opera by Ruggero Leoncavallo gets bonus points, but this line is both witty and moving.

  • "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." REM, "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." The song closely mirrors the sentiments of this line - that even the impending apocalypse cannot spoil the party - and Michael Stipe's stream-of-consciousness musical rant has become an underground favorite covered by every alternative bar band in the country.

  • "If depth of feeling is a currency / Then I'm the man who grew the money tree / Some of your friends are too brainy to see / That they're paupers and that's how they'll stay / Well, I don't know how many pounds make up a ton / Of all the Nobel prizes that I've never won / And I may be the Mayor of Simpleton / But I know one thing, and that's 'I love you.'" XTC, "Mayor of Simpleton." The irony here is that Andy Partridge's song about a not-so-brilliant protagonist's declaration of love is loaded with thoughtful wordplay and clever turns of phrase. Oh, and the fact that the song has a beautiful melody some intricate musical structures doesn't hurt, either.