Forget Bob Dylan's Nobel Laureate Prize - These Are Rock's Ignoble Laureates

Bad Lyricists

Everyone has a moment of lyrical madness, the time when you just really and truly can’t be arsed. Even Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan had his ‘toss it off’ moment with “Wiggle wiggle like a bowl of soup/Wiggle wiggle like a rolling hoop”. But who are the lyricists who have been consistently stinking up the place? Examples please…

Ross Friedman and Joey DeMaio (Manowar)

There’s nothing wrong with being a proud heavy metal fan. But there’s no need to regress to being six years old when you brag about it. “Manowar Manowar, living on the road/When we’re in town speakers explode,” they tell us on 1988’s Kings Of Metal. Wonder if they write this nonsense wearing their dinky little loincloths?

Bret Michaels

The Poison singer is surely the only man to have been photographed in intensive care, wired up like a man about to expire – yet still wearing his bandana. Michaels should have written a song about that, but instead chose to hit us with a 2004 solo single, All I Ever Needed, that explains how some poor love-struck fool “knelt down on his knees”. Well what the hell else would he kneel down on, dummkopf?! Things have gotten no better since.

Noel Gallagher (Oasis)

Now Noel never claimed to give much of a toss about lyrics. Boy was he ever right about that one! Cocaine is an excuse for many things, but not for ‘Sitting upside a high chair/The devil’s refugee is gonna be blinded by the light that follows me”, surely! A very bad lyric from a very bad song, 1997’s Fade In-Out. Noel would doubtless shove a wad of 50 pound notes in my face as a retort. A very good retort, as it goes.

Kevin Cronin (REO Speedwagon)

We can’t help but be suspicious of a man who doesn’t have a grip of basic English. In REO Speedwagon’s jolly fantastic Time For Me To Fly from 1978, lead singer Kevin Cronin gets worked up into a right lather about why he’s leaving his lady. “I’ve had enough of the jealousy and the intoleration,” he tells us. And that would be perfectly reasonable grounds for separation, were it not for the fact that there’s no such word as ‘intoleration’. It’s ‘intolerance’, no matter what some Americans might tell you.

Jesse Dupree (Jackyl)

Sex is great. I think we’re all agreed on that. But lyrics about sex are often very not great. Somewhat successful US metal band Jackyl were always challenged in this department, but never more so than on 1992’s She Loves My Cock. “She’s tried a doctor, lawyer, even tried a jock/But she loves my cock.” We don’t really know where to start with this one, so we probably shouldn’t…

Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies (Silverchair)

Nobody dared to have a pop at grunge bands and their lyrical ineptitude at the time. They all seemed so depressed that any personal insult might just have tipped them over the edge. Yet we couldn’t resist including Australian miserablists Silverchair here. Generally poor efforts all round, and none worse than 1994’s Tomorrow. “There’s no bathroom and there is no sink/The water out of the tap is very hard to drink.” Shut up, grow up and get a bleedin’ Frisbee!

Eddie Curtis, Ahmet Ertegun, Steve Miller (Steve Miller Band)

Steve Miller has many good songs, but his lyrics are a crime against the ears. His 1973 smash The Joker is just one example. “Some people call me the space cowboy/Some call me the gangster of love/Some call me Maurice/‘Cos I speak of the pompatus of love”. The pompatus of love, indeed! There’s a whole Wikipedia entry dealing with ‘Pompatus’ and its Latin derivation. But that doesn’t help Stevie and his pretentious nonsense any!

Mark Kendall, Alan Niven, Audie Desbrow, Michael Lardie, Tony Montana (Great White)

Even in the world of eighties metal, where lyrics were mainly just excuses to talk about your rodding prowess, Great White were truly something. There are many examples of their lyrical buffoonery, but 1989’s Mista Bone takes the biscuit. “Just take it like a sweet injection/Just a token of my affection/Another night we’ll take another direction/I’m going to play you like a rhythm section.” Having heard Great White’s rhythm section, we pity the poor girl on the receiving end of these particular rhymes.

Ronnie James Dio (Dio)

Loads of people love Ronnie Dio, and his voice is a thing of rock wonder. But his lyrics are plain baffling. What on earth was the man talking about? How about this from the excellent 1983 classic Holy Diver? “Ride the tiger/You can see his stripes but you know he’s clean/Oh don’t you see what I mean?” Well sorry Ronnie, but we really don’t see at all. And believe us, this isn’t an isolated incident. Not so much head banging, as head scratching music.

Chris von Rohr, Fernando von Arb, (Krokus)

You could mount a spirited defence of Krokus’s lyrical ineptitude. After all, it’s safe to say we’d write some absolute drivel in German. But should there be limits, even for bands whose first language isn’t English? We think there should, and that limit is set at “My mother was a B-girl/My old man was a tramp/Some say they conceived me/On a loading ramp” from 1982’s Down The Drain. Then again, maybe we’re just being crotchety here. That is, after all, one hilarious rhyming couplet.

Howard Johnson is a music writer based in France. The editor of Rock Candy magazine, he's also written for Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, RAW, Q, MoJo and Japanese rock magazine Burrn!, and is a French football correspondent for World Soccer mag. He has also written a book on AC/DC, Get Your Jumbo Jet Out Of My Airport.