The Word on the Street: Rock Lyrics
  • The Word on the Street: Rock Lyrics
  • The Word on the Street: Rock Lyrics

The Word on the Street: Rock Lyrics

by Paul Muldoon
     
 

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A vibrant new collection of poems--that also double as rock songs--from the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

In his new book of rock lyrics, Paul Muldoon goes back to the essential meaning of the term "lyric"--a short poem sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument. These words are written for music most assuredly, with half an ear to Yeats's

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Overview

A vibrant new collection of poems--that also double as rock songs--from the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

In his new book of rock lyrics, Paul Muldoon goes back to the essential meaning of the term "lyric"--a short poem sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument. These words are written for music most assuredly, with half an ear to Yeats's ballad-singing porter drinkers and half to Cole Porter--and indeed, many of them double as rock songs, performed by Wayside Shrines, the Princeton-based music collective of which Muldoon is a member. Their themes are the classic themes of song: lost love, lost wars, Charlton Heston, barbed wire, pole dancers, cellulite, Hegel, elephants, Oedipus, more barbed wire, Buddy Holly, Jersey peaches, Julius Caesar, Trenton, cockatoos, and the Youngers (Bob and John and Jim and Cole). The Word on the Street is a lively addition to this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet's masterful body of work. It demonstrates, once again, that, as Richard Eder has written in the pages of The New York Times Book Review, "Paul Muldoon is a shape-shifting Proteus to readers who try to pin him down . . . Those who interrogate Muldoon's poems find themselves changing shapes each time he does."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In addition to his 11 books of poetry, the Irish poet has long produced words for singers, first with the opera composer D.A. Hagen and latterly with his own rock band, Wayside Shrines. This first collection of Muldoon’s rock lyrics shares topics and effects with his best-known poems: they are knowing, at times risque, elaborately playful in their vocabulary, and fascinated by self-destruction, drug addiction, Irish heritage, and working-class New Jersey. They can wink at the listener, or revel in names: Ian Dury, “Lennon and McCartney,” Elizabeth Bowen (rhymed with Leonard Cohen), Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire, Botticelli, Machiavelli, “Clint.” At the same time they have the simple and singable syntax and rhyme schemes that rock songs often need, suggesting sometimes Muldoon’s idol Warren Zevon. Remembering a big sign on a bridge over the Delaware River (“Trenton Makes, the World Takes”) the mopey, comic breakup song “Over You” begins “The things they make in Trenton/ Are taken by the world/ You were made in Trenton/ I took you for my girl.” Like most rock lyrics, these seem thin apart from their music—no careful admirer would mistake them for Muldoon’s strongest poems, though they nonetheless offer many pleasures. (Feb.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374261085
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
02/19/2013
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
744,230
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 5.86(h) x 0.74(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Word on the Street

Rock Lyrics


By Paul Muldoon

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2013 Paul Muldoon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7981-2



CHAPTER 1

    AZERBAIJAN

    It might take years
    To win your heart
    To grab a beer
    Would be a start
    But our drinking late
    In T.B.'s bar
    Put our first date
    In Kandahar
    Though it was right
    By an air force base
    I would take flight
    Only in your embrace
    Though it was right
    By an air force base
    Night after night
    We'd close the place

    I worked for years
    In oil and gas
    Our engineers
    Once flew first-class
    But the factory's
    Run out of steam
    They don't need me
    On the sales team
    The water's still
    On the mill race
    I take the pills
    Only to slow my pace
    The water's still
    On the mill race
    As for the mill
    They'll close the place

    When the right buyer comes along
    They say it's going for a song
    We've lived for years
    In the same house
    Our flame burned clear
    Took long to douse
    But we're moving on
    To Godknowswhere
    Azerbaijan
    Is way up there
    The house we bought
    Through Morgan Chase
    It's come to naught
    Only this one suitcase
    The house we bought
    Through Morgan Chase
    We never thought
    They'd foreclose on the place


    BADASS BLUES

    That's Charlton Heston belching on the set
    I guess he likes the stew
    That's Charlton Heston belching on the set
    Guess he likes the camel stew
    Charlton Heston's belching on the set
    Arnold Rothstein's welching on a bet
    They've got them badass blues

    Arnold Rothstein scored a dirty game
    In his two-tone wing-tip shoes
    Arnold Rothstein scored a dirty game
    In his two-tone wing-tip shoes
    Arnold Rothstein scored a dirty game

    But T. S. Eliot wore the shirt of flame
    They'd got them badass blues
    T. S. Eliot simply never dared
    To capitalize the "J" in Jew
    T. S. Eliot simply never dared
    To capitalize the "J" in Jew
    T. S. Eliot simply never dared
    To challenge Albert Einstein's E=MC2
    Thought they'd both got them badass blues

    Albert Einstein looks vaguely like a dog
    That's sacred to the Hindu
    Albert Einstein looks vaguely like a dog
    That's sacred to the Hindu
    Albert Einstein looks vaguely like a dog
    And Egypt is still plagued by frogs
    They've got them badass blues
    Egypt's cracking down on the malcontents
    With their progressive views

    Egypt's cracking down on the malcontents
    With all their progressive views
    While Egypt's cracking down on the malcontents
    You and I are fighting over what Eddie Falcon meant
    When he sang "The Young Have No Time to Lose"

    Now Egypt's squelching the Internet
    They've blacked out the news
    Now Egypt's squelching the Internet
    They've blacked out the news
    Now Egypt's squelching the Internet
    And Charlton Heston's belching on the set
    They've sure got them badass blues


    BIG TWIST

    It turns out Planet of the Apes
    Is our own planet Earth
    The priceless Maltese Falcon
    Has virtually no worth
    All those statues and statuettes
    Have proved a total sham
    Though liberty had once seemed set
    On winning the Grand Slam
    Your falling for me that first day
    Was the first clue I missed
    And that you've loved me all along
    Is clearly the big twist

    It turns out that in Chinatown
    Incest gives a fresh slant
    To a retired Blade Runner's
    Being a replicant
    I'd guessed you must be cyber-born
    Till you opened the dam
    And wept to read a unicorn's
    Last origami-gram
    The thought I'm secretly your prey
    Is one I've not dismissed
    For that you've loved me all along
    Is clearly the big twist

    It turns out at the Bates Motel
    Cross-dressing's the new fad
    Princess Leia is Luke's sister
    Darth Vader is their dad
    A Starfighter has the Blue Book
    Value of your Trans Am
    The way you suck that bone you look
    More and more like your mam
    A galaxy far far away
    Remains shrouded in mist
    But that you've loved me all along
    Is clearly the big twist


    BLACK BOX

    The men who dreamed up the airplane
    We know they were next of kin
    Wilbur Wright rounded out Orville
    They came through thick and thin
    An airplane flew low over your bed
    Concocting itself as it flew
    I don't know what happened along the way
    To make me come up with you

    The man who invented barbed wire
    We know he was unrestrained
    He loved a legal entanglement
    He loved ground lost and gained
    The barbed wire encircling your showerhead
    Your rather contrived tattoo
    I don't know what happened along the way
    To make me come up with you

    The man who hit on the black box
    We know he did what he did
    Because his dad died in a plane crash
    When he was just a kid
    The black box is often orange or red
    That in itself is a clue
    I don't know what happened along the way
    To make me come up with you
    I don't know what happened along the way
    To make me come up with you


    CLEANING UP MY ACT

    There are no gentlemen
    In a gentleman's club
    A direct flight to Reno
    May stop at a hub
    I flagged behind my flagon
    Of Côtes du Rhône
    You'd passed out in the passion wagon
    When I asked you home
    I told you it's a condo
    It's a cold-water flat
    The tricks I've played are dirty tricks
    That's why I'm cleaning up my act

    Nothing is a problem
    To a problem child
    Though the issue of labeling
    Sends me hog wild
    I pick up the plot that thickens
    Around a free-range pig
    I check out a fresh chicken
    To find it's been deep-chilled
    When did you last hear a kettle
    Call a kettle black?
    I've been defiled by your sales pitch
    That's why I'm cleaning up my act

    For I was taken in
    By the identical twin
    Of a pole dancer from Denver my oh my
    As for her skin
    It was barely as thin
    As the pretext under which she asked me why

    There are no gentlemen
    In a gentlemen's club
    No room for nuclear families
    In a nuclear sub

    A flight may run from Reno
    To a renal ward
    A tall cappuccino
    Turns out to be small
    Many's a mass of sugar
    Sells itself as low fat
    I'm hoping to be filthy rich
    That's why I'm cleaning up my act


    COMEBACK

    We were introduced by Bruce
    At the Stone Pony
    All that concentrated juice
    Standing room only
    You were with some suit
    From EMI or Sony
    Who was so full of toot
    He called for "Mony Mony"
    You came back to the slum
    The squat with Lars and Sammy
    Then Lanois's green thumb
    Grew us a golden Grammy
    And then our double album
    Hit a double whammy
    When it reached number one
    We reached for our swami
    To make a comeback baby
    A comeback don't you see
    It's time to come back baby
    Come back baby to me

    Then our master's voice
    Told us it was cool
    To park the Rolls-Royce
    In the swimming pool
    While our drugs of choice
    Were run from Istanbul
    Through a girl called Joyce
    Whose real name was Mule
    We loved the paparazzi flash
    The paparazzi zoom
    When we finished our stash
    Of magic mushrooms
    We'd pay in cash
    For a kilo of Khartoum
    And come back to trash
    Another hotel room

    And make a comeback baby
    A comeback don't you see?
    It's time to come back baby
    Come back baby to me

    When we broke up we swore we'd never kiss and tell
    Never speak to each other until hell
    Freezes over or whatever hell does
    When it's co-produced by Eno and Was
    But Behind the Music and Where Are They Now?
    Have pointed the way they've shown us how
    To take a leaf from Plant and Page
    And Fleetwood Mac and set the stage

    For a comeback baby
    A comeback don't you see?
    It's time to come back baby
    Come back baby to me

    We'd no sooner said farewell
    Than it was time to reunite
    A flame's likelier to swell
    In a diminished light
    For though we're a hard sell
    What with the cellulite
    We're still clear as a bell
    We're still pretty tight
    So let's remember the fans
    As we fan the embers
    And hit the Meadowlands
    This coming September
    When we take each other's hands
    Baby let's remember
    We're just another band
    With only two surviving members

    Making a comeback baby
    From yet another rave
    A comeback baby
    A comeback from the grave


    DAYS OF YORE

    There's where Punch found Judy
    Hanging with Howdy Doody
    When Punch became quite moody
    And engaged in fisticuffs
    We know behind the wolf bully
    Is a sheep with a pulley
    And its arguments get woolly
    When someone calls its bluff
    You and I have been at daggers drawn
    Since I watched Duel of the Titans next door
    When we would have moved on
    In days of yore

    There's where Ian Dury
    Was sentenced by a jury
    For smelling like a brewery
    Before he'd had a beer
    It was only when a pencil shover
    On The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover
    Removed the lens cover
    Everything became quite clear
    Rather than let things get out of hand
    And declare an all-out war
    Judy would have issued a mild reprimand
    In days of yore

    I know you think my tendency
    To discuss swimming pools in Southend-on-Sea
    With our neighbor Miss Descartes
    Suggests that's not all we explore
    We also discuss how a kid with polio
    And a half-decent portfolio
    Could get into the Royal College of Art
    In those far-off days of yore

    There's where Doctor Bungle
    Mistook viral for fungal
    And a "flaw of the jungle"
    Became the missing link
    We can trace Judy's strictures
    To the time Punch drop-kicked her
    And left her sound and picture
    Slightly out of sync
    Even if she'd been left
    On the cutting-room floor
    Judy would never have felt bereft
    In days of yore

    She'd have picked herself right up
    And offered her breast to a wolf pup


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Word on the Street by Paul Muldoon. Copyright © 2013 Paul Muldoon. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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