Quote Unquote

Here’s a collection of some lyrics I find memorable. Many are poignant and profound; others just bring a smile.

Bacharach, Burt & Hal David

What do you get when you kiss a girl? / You get enough germs to catch pneumonia / After you do, she’ll never phone ya / I’ll never fall in love again.

— “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”

Barry, Jeff, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector

I remember when I brought you home / I remember what my mama said / When I told her that I loved you so / She told me I was out of my head / Oh no we’re not too young / Young to get married . . . What kind of difference can a few years make? / I gotta have you now / Or my heart will break

— “Not Too Young to Get Married” (recorded by Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans)

The night we met I knew I needed you so / And if I had the chance I’d never let you go / So won’t you say you love me, I’ll make you so proud of me / We’ll make ’em turn their heads every place we go

— “Be My Baby” (recorded by the Ronettes)


I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back / Started walkin’ toward a coffee-colored Cadillac / I was pushing through the crowd, tryna get to where she’s at / I was campaignin’, shouting like a Southern diplomat / Nadine, honey is that you? / Oh, Nadine, honey, where are you? /Seem like every time I catch up with you, you’re up to something new.


Cash, John R. & Roy Cash Jr.

At my door the leaves are falling / A cold wild wind will come / Sweethearts walk by together / And I still miss someone / I go out on a party / And look for a little fun / But I find a darkened corner / ‘Cause I still miss someone

— “I Still Miss Someone”

Cohen, Leonard

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me / Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free / Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes / I thought it was there for good, so I never tried

— “Famous Blue Raincoat”

Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in

— “Anthem”

Cole, Lloyd

Well, you have absolutely no common sense / Yes, I know that’s your charm / You spend the whole day on the phone / You say, well, it helps you stay calm / You cling to my arm / Yes, I know that’s your charm / … We’re living four flights up / But I swear right now it feels like underground

— “Four Flights Up”

Costello, Elvis

. . . I heard you let that little friend of mine / Take off your party dress / I’m not gonna get too sentimental / Like those other sticky valentines / ‘Cause I don’t know if you are loving somebody / I only know it isn’t mine

— “Alison”


I walk 47 miles of barbed wire, I use a cobra snake for a necktie / I got a brand-new house on the roadside made from a rattlesnake hide / I got a brand-new chimney made on top, made out of a human skull / Now come on take a walk with me, Arlene, and tell me who do you love?

—”Who Do You Love?


We sang and cracked the sky with laughter / Our breath turned to mist in the cold / Our years put together counted 30 / But our eyes told the dawn we were old / And who’s going to be the one / To say it was no good what we done? I dare a man to I’m too young / For I’m going to try for the sun

— “To Try for the Sun”

Duritz, Adam; David Bryson; Ben Mize; Daniel Vickrey; Charles Gillingham; Steve Bowman; Matthew Malley

When I look at the television I want to see me staring right back at me / We all want to be big stars, but we don’t know why and we don’t know how / But when everybody loves me, I’m going to be just about as happy as I can be / Mr. Jones and me, we’re gonna be big stars…

— “Mr. Jones,” performed by Counting Crows

Dylan, Bob

What looks large from a distance close up ain’t never that big

— “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)”

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

— “Subterranean Homesick Blues”

She’s got everything she needs / She’s an artist, she don’t look back / …She can take the dark out of the nighttime and paint the daytime black… / You will start out standing / Proud to steal her anything she sees / But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole down upon your knees

— “She Belongs to Me”

They’re selling postcards of the hanging / They’re painting the passports brown / The beauty parlor is filled with sailors / The circus is in town / Here comes the blind commissioner / They’ve got him in a trance / One hand is tied to the tightrope walker / The other is in his pants

— “Desolation Row”

All the people we used to know / They’re an illusion to me now / Some are mathematicians / Some are carpenters’ wives / Don’t know how it all got started / I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives / But me, I’m still on the road / Headin’ for another joint / We always did feel the same / We just saw it from a different point of view / Tangled up in blue

— “Tangled Up in Blue”

Forbert, Steve

I’m glad to be so young / Talkin’ with my tongue / Glad to be so careless in my way / Glad to take a chance and play against the odds / Glad to be so crazy in my day

— “Goin’ Down to Laurel”

It’s often said that life is strange / oh yes, but compared to what?

— “January 23–30, 1978”

Gentry, Bobbie

That nice young preacher Brother Taylor dropped by today / Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh by the way / He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge / And she and Billie Joe was throwin’ somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge

— “Ode to Billie Joe”

Gibson, Don

They say that time heals a broken heart / But time has stood still since we’ve been apart

— “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (recorded by Ray Charles)

Goffin, Jerry and Carole King
Tonight you’re mine completely / You give your love so sweetly / Tonight the light of love is in your eyes / But will you love me tomorrow? / Is this a lasting treasure / Or just a moment’s pleasure? / Can I believe the magic of your sighs? / Will you still love me tomorrow?
— “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (recorded by the Shirelles)
Goodman, Steve

Just give me one good reason / And I promise I won’t ask you anymore / Just give me one extra season / So I can figure out the other four.

— “Blue Umbrella”

Guthrie, Woody

As I went walking I saw a sign there / And on the sign it said ‘No Trespassing’  / But on the other side it didn’t say nothing / That side was made for you and me / In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people / By the relief office I seen my people / As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking / Is this land made for you and me?

— “This Land Is Your Land” (unedited version)

Henley, Don

Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac / A little voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back. You can never look back” / I thought I knew what love was, What did I know? / Those days are gone forever, I should just let ’em go

— “The Boys of Summer”

Hiatt, John

She came onto him like a slow movin’ cold front / His beer was warmer than the look in her eyes / She sat on a stool, he said, “What do you want?” / She said, “Give me a love that don’t freeze up inside”

— “Icy Blue Heart”

Jagger, Mick & Keith Richards

Honey, is there any place that you would like to eat? / I know a coffee shop on Fifty-Second Street / And I don’t need no fancy food and I don’t need no fancy wine / And I sure don’t need the tears you cry / Till the next time we say goodbye . . . I’ll be thinking of you

— “Till the Next Goodbye” (recorded by the Rolling Stones)

Men, they build towers to their passing yes, to their fame everlasting / Here he comes chopping and reaping, hear him laugh at their cheating / And time waits for no man, and it won’t wait for me / Yes, time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me / Drink in your summer, gather your corn / The dreams of the night time will vanish by dawn

— “Time Waits for No One” (recorded by the Rolling Stones)

Johansen, David & Sylvain Sylvain

You call that love in French but it’s just Frenchette / I’ve been to France, so let’s just dance . . . You come on like it’s all natural, darling / But you know, oh it’s really only naturalette / It’s just like all of your leathers, darling, they don’t scare me / I know it’s really only leatherette

— “Frenchette” (recorded by David Johansen)

King, Ben E., Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller

When the night has come / And the land is dark / And the moon is the only light we’ll see / No, I won’t be afraid / Oh, I won’t be afraid / Just as long as you stand, stand by me

— “Stand By Me” (recorded by Ben E. King)

Kuperferburg, Tuli

Monday, nothing / Tuesday, nothing / Wednesday and Thursday, nothing / Friday for a change / a little more nothing / Saturday once more nothing

— “Nothing” (recorded by the Fugs)

Lennon, John

I don’t believe in Beatles / I just believe in me, Yoko and me, that’s reality / I was the Walrus, but now I’m John / And so dear friends, you’ll just have to carry on / The dream is over

— “God”

Lightfoot, Gordon

If I could read your mind, love / What a tale your thoughts could tell / Just like a paperback novel / The kind the drugstores sell / When you reach the part where the heartaches come / The hero would be me / But heroes often fail / And you won’t read that book again / Because the ending’s just too hard to take

— “If You Could Read My Mind”

Madera, John & David White

You don’t own me / Don’t try to change me in any way / you don’t own me / Don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay

— “You Don’t Own Me” (an early statement of women’s liberation, recorded by Lesley Gore)

Mann, Barry & Cynthia Weil

Saturday night at the movies / Who cares what picture you see? / When you’re hugging with your baby / in the last row of the balcony

— “Saturday Night at the Movies” (recorded by the Drifters)

Downtown he’s just one of a million guys / He don’t get no breaks and he takes all they got to give, ’cause he’s got to live / But then he comes uptown where he can hold his head up high…the world is sweet, it’s at his feet, when he’s uptown

— “Uptown” (recorded by the Crystals)

Maresta, Ernie

Oh yeah, I’m the type of guy that likes to roam around / I’m never in one place, I roam from town to town / And when I find myself a-fallin’ for some girl / I hop right into that car of mine and drive around the world

— “The Wanderer” (recorded by Dion)

Marr, Johnny & Morrissey

And if a double-decker bus crashes into us / To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die / And if a 10-ton truck kills the both of us / To die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine

— “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” (recorded by the Smiths)

McVie, Christine

You can take me to paradise / And then again you can be cold as ice / I’m over my head / Oh but it sure feels nice

— “Over My Head” (recorded by Fleetwood Mac)

Meltzer, Tom

Well I had an aunt and she was in a coma / So we loaded up her bed and we took her up to MoMA / We got through the door, you wouldn’t believe what began / She sat up and started screaming, “Hey, where is that Paul Cezanne?”

— “Paul Cezanne” (recorded by Five Chinese Brothers)

Miller, Roger

Well, ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd / Ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd / Ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd / But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to / All ya gotta do is put your mind to it / Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it

— “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd”

Murphy, Elliott

Oh won’t you be my night connection / I’ll give you true highway affection / Please don’t ask where we’re goin’ / I’m tryin’ to race the light / And we can drive all night / ‘Cause we got what’s left and we got what’s right

— “Drive All Night”

Nelson, Willie

How’s your new love? I heard that he’s doin’ fine / I heard you told him / That you’d love him till the end of time / Now that’s the same thing that you told me / Seems like just the other day / Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away

— “Funny How Time Slips Away”

Petty, Tom

It was kind of cold that night / She stood alone on her balcony / She could hear the cars roll by out on 441 / Like waves crashin’ on the beach / And for one desperate moment there / He crept back in her memory / God it’s so painful, something that’s so close / And still so far out of reach

— “American Girl”

Phillips, John

I used to live in New York City, everything there was dark and dirty / Outside my window was a steeple / With a clock that always said 12:30

— “Twelve-thirty” (recorded by the Mamas & Papas)


All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray / I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day / I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A. / California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day

— “California Dreamin'” (recorded by the Mamas & Papas)


It’s been seven hours and fifteen days / Since u took your love away / I go out every night and sleep all day / Since u took your love away

— “Nothing Compares 2 U” (recorded by Sinead O’Connor)

Prine, John

There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes / Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose

— “Sam Stone”

Reed, Lou

It’s hard being a man, living in a garbage pail / My landlady called me up, she tried to hit me with a mop . . . I live with 13 dead cats / A purple dog that wears spats / They’re all out livin’ in the hall / And I can’t stand it anymore

— “I Can’t Stand It”

Candy says, “I hate the quiet places that cause the smallest taste of what will be” / Candy says, “I hate the big decisions that cause endless revisions in my mind”

— “Candy Says” (recorded by the Velvet Underground)

I’m beginning to see the light / Wine in the morning and some breakfast at night

— “Beginning to See the Light” (recorded by the Velvet Underground)

Reid, Keith & Gary Brooker

The room was humming harder / As the ceiling flew away / When we called out for another drink / The waiter brought a tray / And so it was that later / As the miller told his tale / That her face, at first just ghostly / Turned a whiter shade of pale

— “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (recorded by Procol Harum)

Robinson, Smokey, William Moore & Marvin Tarpin

People say I’m the life of the party, because I tell a joke or two / Although I might be laughing loud and hearty, deep inside I’m blue/ So take a good look at my face / You’ll see my smile looks out of place / If you look closer, it’s easy to trace / The tracks of my tears

— “The Tracks of My Tears” (recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles)

Seger, Bob

Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

— “Against the Wind”

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder / How far off I sat and wondered / Started humming a song from 1962 / Ain’t it funny how the night moves / When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose / Strange how the night moves / With autumn closing in

— “Night Moves”

Shindell, Richard

Though I know it’s hard to tell / I hope that what’s-his-name treats you well / I still maintain that he’s a bum / But it’s your money — have some fun

— “Are You Happy Now?”

Simon, Paul

I can gather all the news I need on the weather report

— “The Only Living Boy in New York” (recorded by Simon & Garfunkel)

In my little town I never meant nothing / I was just my father’s son / Saving my money, dreamin’ of glory / Twitching like a finger on a trigger of a gun

— “My Little Town” (recorded by Simon & Garfunkel)

I was 21 years when I wrote this song / I’m 22 now but I won’t be for long / Time hurries on / And the leaves that are green turn to brown

— “Leaves That Are Green” (recorded by Simon & Garfunkel)

(Great line—at least until you realize that if he was 21 when he wrote the song, it doesn’t make sense that it would contain a lyric saying he’s 22 now.)

Smith, Don & Cyril Vetter

She loved me so long and she loved me so hard / I finally passed on in her front yard / It wasn’t wine that I had too much of / It was a double shot of my baby’s love

— “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” (recorded by the Swingin’ Medallions)

Springsteen, Bruce

When the whistle blows, girl, I’m down on the street / I’m home, I’m out of my work clothes / When I’m out in the street, I walk the way I wanna walk

— “Out in the Street”

It was out at the crossroads, down ’round Willow Bank / Seen a Buick with Ohio plates, behind the wheel was Frank / Well I chased him through them county roads till a sign said, ‘Canadian border 5 miles from here’ / I pulled over the side of the highway and watched his taillights disappear

— “Highway Patrolman”

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?

— “The River”

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack / I went out for a ride and I never went back / Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing / I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

— “Hungry Heart”

Sometimes I sit up in the darkness / And I watch my baby as she sleeps / Then I climb in bed and I hold her tight / I just lay there awake in the middle of the night / Thinking’ ’bout the wreck on the highway

— “Wreck on the Highway”

Stewart, Rod

I could be home in time for Christmas If you want me to be / There’s a plane leaves here at midnight, arriving at three / But I’m a bit financially embarrased I must admit / To tell you the truth my honey, I haven’t a cent

— “Oh God, I Wish I Was Home Tonight”

Turtles, The

Elenore, gee, I think you’re swell / And you really do me well / You’re my pride and joy, et cetera

— “Elenore”
(The Turtles reportedly intended “Elenore” to be a parody of their earlier hit “Happy Together”; the deliberately cliched lyrics were apparently a dig at the group’s record label, which had been hounding the Turtles for another “Happy Together.” But “Elenore” was a Top Ten smash despite its inane verse.)

Tyson, Ian

If I get there before the snow flies, and if things are goin’ good / You could meet me if I sent you down the fare / But by then it would be winter / There ain’t too much for you to do / And those winds sure can blow cold way out there

— “Four Strong Winds”

Waits, Tom

Outside another yellow moon / Punched a hole in the nighttime, yes / I climb through the window and down to the street / Shining like a new dime / The downtown trains are full / With all those Brooklyn girls / They try so hard to break out of their little worlds

— “Downtown Train”

Whitfield, Norman & Barrett Strong

Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by / I say to myself you’re such a lucky guy / To have a girl like her is truly a dream come true / Out of all the fellows in the world she belongs to me / But it was just my ‘imagination running away with me

— “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” (recorded by the Temptations)

Young, Neil

Talk to me, my long lost friend, tell me how you are / Are you happy with your circumstance, are you driving a new car? / Does it get you where you wanna go, with a seven-year warranty / Or just another 100,000 miles away from days that used to be?

— “Days That Used to Be”

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