Friday, August 04, 2006

Great moments in rock and roll: spoken word

Spoken word is different from rap in that it does not follow the rhythm of the music. Well-known examples include: "All right, George!" and "Rock me, Joey Santiago." This article pays tribute to spoken words that play an even bigger role in the rock and roll song:

Morrissey - "At Last I Am Born"
(0:40) "Look at me now. From difficult child to spectral hand to Claude Brasseur-oh-blah blah blah."
A voice sounds naked when it isn't wrapped up behind a melody. It works for this song because Morrissey is singing about having sex, or so we are led to believe.

Darlene Love - "White Christmas"
(1:20) "The sun is shining, the grass is green/ The orange and palm trees sway/ There's never been such a day, in old L.A./ But it's December the 24th, and I'm longing to be up north/ So I can have my very own white Christmas."
A classic example of a spoken verse on top of background singing.

The White Stripes - "The Union Forever"
(1:11) "Well I'm sorry but I'm not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate. What would I liked to have been? Everything you hate."
This song contains a lot of spoken word, but these particular lines are spoken with the most natural rhythm.

Blur - "Parklife"
(0:21) "Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as... (parklife!)/ And morning soup can be avoided if you take a route straight through what is known as... (parklife!)/ Johns got brewers droop, he gets intimidated by the dirty pigeons - they love a bit of it. (parklife!)/ Who's that gut lord marching? You should cut down on your porklife, mate, get some exercise! (parklife!)"
The speaker is not Damon Albarn; he is English actor Phil Daniels. Spoken word is a good way to showcase your accent or dialect.

The Cranberries - "Yeat's Grave"
(1:19) "Why should I blame her,/ That she filled my days with misery,/ Or that she would of late have taught/ To ignorant men most violent/ Ways or hurled the little streets upon the great./ Had they but courage equal to desire."
This is simply a reading of W. B. Yeat's poem "No Second Troy."

Pixies - "Tony's Theme"
(0:00, 0:55) "This is a song about a superhero named Tony. It's called 'Tony's Theme.'"
It sounds tacked on, but it's really a part of the song. Kim Deal would perform this line in concert.

The Beatles - "Get Back" (single)
(2:38) "Get back Loretta/ Your mommy's waiting for you/ Wearing her high-heel shoes/ And her low-neck sweater/ Get back home Loretta"
It's Paul, speaking with his bluesy voice.

The Big Bopper - "Chantilly Lace"
(0:00) "Hello, baaaaby! Yeah, this is the Big Bopper speakin'. Ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, you sweet thing! Do I what? Will I what? Oh baby, you knoooow what I like!"
Probably the most entertaining phone call in rock and roll, from one of the original rock and rollers.

Jack Sheldon - "Conjunction Junction"
(2:00) "In the mornings, when I am usually wide awake, I love to take a walk through the gardens and down by the lake, where I often see a duck and a drake, and I wonder as I walk by just what they'd say if they could speak, although I know that's an absurd thought."
Schoolhouse Rock! is one of the greatest things that ever happened on TV. The second greatest is Eureka!, a Canadian cartoon about science.

Spoken word is a dangerous device because it can easily make the song too melodramatic. It is, therefore, commonly used in motivational/inspirational songs, religious songs, and over-the-top love songs, such as our following example.

Elvis Presley - "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
(1:27) "I wonder if you're lonesome tonight/ You know someone said that the world's a stage/ And each must play a part/ Fate had me playing in love, you as my sweet heart/ Act one was when we met, I loved you at first glance/ You read your line so cleverly and never missed a cue/ Then came act two, you seemed to change and you acted strange/ And why I'll never know/ Honey, you lied when you said you loved me..."
It goes on, complete with heavy reverb. The best part of the speech is when it ends and Elvis' phenomenal singing voice returns with a vengeance.

Sculpted Static used spoken word on the "Scramble For Loot" section of Heart of Darkness: The Rock Opera. Arta used his voice to great effect on lines such as, "Yes, they call me Kurtz,/ And damn the rhetoric;/ Your ivory’s all I seek."

On the unreleased recording "Jaguar," Steven says, "Jaguar. Select Edition. Certified Pre-Owned. Previously owned/ The heart of performance..."

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