Jan 202011

Guilty of one too many ding-a-lings?

We know there is a solid history of nonsense syllables in popular music, from Mairseydotes and Ragmop to Ob-La-Di and De Doo Doo Doo. Some of this usage is intentional or wordplay, but some of it is basically lazy lyric writing by a composer, who can’t seem to find better words to replace the ones that were ad-libbed.

On this front, is there any greater offender than Phil Collins? I know that ABACAB is a reference to musical structure, but let’s dispense with that lame defense because ABACAB is not a word. What is a “Paperlate” and a “Sussudio?”

I recall an interview with Paddy MacAloon, the man behind Prefab Sprout. He relayed a conversation he had with Paul McCartney about the song, “The King Of Rock and Roll,” which has the chorus lyric: “Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque,” which is really intended to be a parody of mindless pop song lyrics. The irony was that this was Sprout’s big hit, thus McCartney told MacAloon that the song was his “My Ding-A-Ling” and that every songwriter gets to have one “My Ding-A-Ling.”

Thus, Phil Collins, in writing at least three nonsense songs, has vastly overshot his “My Ding-A-Ling” quota, which I believe is grounds for charging him with a Rock Crime, and surely he’s guilty of others. But the Cocteau Twins aside, is there anybody more guilty of lazy, nonsense, my-dingalinging than Phil Collins?


  29 Responses to “Phil Collins, Ding-A-Ling.”

  1. I don’t know if this counts, Che, but most of Kurt Cobain’s lyrics are essentially that.

    Jimbo Morrison also did alot of nonsensical lyrics too.

  2. I thought Morrison was reeling off Pennsylvania’s numerous Native American place names during “Roadhouse Blues.”

  3. misterioso

    …”Macca then proceeded to rattle off a list of his own ‘My Ding-a-Lings.’ Several hours later, midway through the list, the pair adjourned to the local pub to continue the discussion.”

  4. I’d like to possibly “pince-nez” here and say that Chuck’s “My Ding-A-Ling” doesn’t really apply to the topic at hand. I’d say that the term used in the song is a euphemism and not a “nonsense word/lyric”.

    Just because Paddy and Macca used it as a reference doesn’t make it right.

  5. cherguevara

    Mr Clean, you’re right. I guess I overlooked that distinction in favor of the entertainment value of the concept.

  6. Rowing to America

    Admittedly this is tangential to the topic, but I would say associatively relevant on two counts.

    Paul McCartney has more than once been guilty of lyrically-based rock crimes of his own. If “in this ever changing world in which we live in” does not rise to the level of high rock crime, it is at least a Class B lyrical felony on par with felonious use of a non-sensical lyric relegating a perpetrator to mandatory repeat-offender status.

  7. Well said, Rowing to America! Welcome to the fray!

    Would you agree that doo-wop bands of the ’50s get a pass, however, because their main focus is on the degree of difficulty of singing harmonies around specific beats?

  8. Mares eat oats, and Does eat oats and little Lambs eat ivy.
    A Kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?

    That being said, I would have to indict Anthony Kiedis for felonious acts of the lyrical nature. He has, on more thane one occasion, slapped the old “ding-a-dong-ding-a-ding-a-dong-dong”.

  9. A warrant has been issued for his arrest!

  10. Amen! That dumb ass line is second only to: “But the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song, It’s for people like you that keep it turned on.”

  11. alexmagic

    Kiedis is exactly the guy who came to mind right away. They had a song a few years ago, Around The World, that actually managed a nice melody for the chorus.

    By the end of the song, however, the lyrics to the chorus end up turning into, if I’m remembering correctly:
    “I know, I know for sure/Ding dang nong nong ding dang nong nong ning nong!”

    I swear, that’s what he’s singing. Of course, given some of their other lyrical output, maybe breaking into that kind of Sammy Davis/Mel Torme/Jim Morrison scatting was for the best.

  12. Rowing to America

    Yeah, I’d be inclined to cut ’em some slack on account of the genre. Likewise, “Tutti Frutti” would probably get a pass, though on other (perhaps nostalgic) grounds.

  13. I’ve always thought the line was “the world in we’re livin'” which makes a little more sense. I’ll give Macca a pass since he has a “ding a ling” album in Wild Life (which I love). “Bip Bop” anyone? And what are the lyrics to that first track?


  14. Correction: “The world in which we’re livin’…” Sorry.

  15. I came here to say Kiedis as well.

    Did you know that Phil Collins has a song titled “Guide Vocal” on Duke ? Lazy man.

  16. Rowing to America

    My favorite expedient lyric has got to be “cello, cello, cello, cello, cello, cello, cello, cello” from “A Quick One, While He’s Away,” which The Who reputedly stuck in the song to replace the string section their manager told them they couldn’t afford.


  17. cliff sovinsanity

    REM – Sitting Still

    Everytime I listen to this one I hear a whole different set of lyrics. In fact if you search the lyrics online you’ll find a dozen variations of decoded Stipe’s mumblings. Regardless, it is still a great song. The chorus goes something like this:

    Up to par and Katie bars the kitchen size but not me in,
    City traffic the big hill waste your time sitting still.

  18. That’s a funny story!

  19. “Guide Vocal”??? That may put him ahead (or behind, as it may be) McCartney.

  20. cherguevara

    That is hysterical!

  21. cherguevara

    In “Hi Hi Hi” does Macca sing, “get ready for my body gun” or “get ready for my polygon?”

  22. Rowing to America

    I think you’re wrong, there. No big deal, and I don’t have the original album to check the printed lyrics against, but pretty much every quasi-official transcription of this song that I come across sets the line down as “But if this ever changing world in which we live in”.

  23. Rowing to America

    Sorry! That last post was my miscue. Seems you were correcting your own rendering of the line, not the original post.

  24. Rowing to America

    Sorry! That last post was my miscue. Seems you were correcting your own rendering of the line, not the original post.

    (Still trying to get the hang of this thing. I’m posting all over the place, though not by design.)

  25. mockcarr

    He should get his drummer friends together for a “Clique Track”.

  26. mockcarr

    I don’t want REM to make sense, they’re not good at it.

    That cello Who story is good, they do quite a bit of that fun harmony goofiness, and Entwistle and Townshend are always sticking funny voices into things like Dogs, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc.

    I also like the tits in Girl by the lads.

    Nonsense can be pretty funny, like that weird stuff Lee Ving hollers before Beef Bologna.

    Also, the song Dead from They Might Be Giants, among many, makes no sense but is ok by me. Songs about confusion speak to me but I don’t know why.

  27. cherguevara

    I’m very funny with lyrics, because they have to sit somewhere in the middle. If the words are too stupid or too cerebral they call attention to themselves and that’s not really for me. I guess I listen to lyrics but I don’t really process them unless I take the time to think about them or read them. Probably why I’m not more of a fan of rap music.

  28. 2000 Man

    Doo Wop bands are fun. They don’t need a pass cuz they were too busy killing it!

  29. Deek Langoustine

    He’s Guilty, Hang ‘im.

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