This is a new blog series. The point is to post some of my favorite songs and briefly look at the lyrics through the lens of short fiction.
Lagwagon has been a hugely influential band on the West Coast punk scene for almost three decades. “Violins” is probably one of the best known songs from their 1995 Fat Wreck Chords album Hoss. The album version is a high-energy onslaught, but there’s a plaintive quality to Joey Cape’s vocals that highlight the complicated feelings he’s singing about. The strength of those lyrics was further underscored in the beachy version of “Violins” that Cape recorded with Tony Sly for the Acoustic album in 2004.
“Violins” starts off with the narrator proclaiming himself “another fool” as he spins an angry tale of heartbreak and infatuation. He and his ex are worlds apart, but he can’t stop thinking about her even as he gets drunk and sleeps around. Through it all, he calls out to the object of his obsession and tries to win her back while falling into the same old self-destructive patterns. It’s a painfully familiar tale that should ring true for anybody who’s ever fallen in love—as The Buzzcocks once snarled—with somebody they shouldn’t have fallen in love with.
Read the full lyrics for Lagwagon’s “Violins” right HERE.
Check out my podcast conversation with Joey Cape about rock and reading:
I came to Jason Isbell by way of The Drive-By Truckers. He joined the band in 2001 and played guitar on three of their best albums (IMHO)—DECORATION DAY, THE DIRTY SOUTH, and BLESSING AND A CURSE. Isbell left the band in 2007 and released his first solo album, SIRENS OF THE DITCH, that same year. “Elephant” was among a collection of stunning new material he released on the album SOUTHEASTERN in 2013.
“Elephant” is not an easy song. In fact, it is devastating.
It starts out with a quiet guitar line that invites you in, telling you it’s story time. But then the lyrics reach out from the speaker and grab you by the throat. From there it is one of the most original tales of love and loss that has ever ripped the beating heart from your chest. It’s also the best short story I have listened to in recent memory.
Read the lyrics for “Elephant” by Jason Isbell right HERE.
S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.
I discovered Leonard Cohen pretty late in the game. I was already in my early 20s and playing drums for a grunge band in Eastern Europe. Acoustic guitars didn’t always jibe with my rock and roll self-image at the time.
Thankfully, my lead singer was a devout fan and turned me on to a lot of his music. Needless to say, it blew my mind. That band went on to do loud and sloppy covers of both “Suzanne” and “Tower of Song”.
There’s not much else to say about Leonard Cohen’s genius lyrics, except that I think that “Suzanne” is probably one of the best short stories ever written.
Read the lyrics for “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen right HERE.
S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published in 2016.