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A Tribute to the Greatest Nonsense Lyrics of All Time

Sometimes lyrics don’t have to make any sense at all for the point to come across. Examples:

Paul McCartney and Wings, “Live and Let Die”

This is the most tortured use of participles in the history of music.

In this ever-changing world in which we live in.

Beck, “Loser”

All of “Loser” is crazy enough to confuse Dr. Seuss.

You get a parking violation
And a maggot on your sleeve
So shave your face
With some mace in the dark
Saving’ all your food stamps
And burning’ down the trailer park

Kid Rock, “Bawidaba”

As much as I’ve tried to sing along with this, I still can’t get this right:

Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy

But is there anything better than Little Richard’s Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom! Nope.

The Guardian takes a look at the grand history of nonsense lyrics.

Sixty years ago, on 14 September 1955, Little Richard entered J&M studio in New Orleans to make his first recordings for Specialty Records, after four years of trying and failing to make hits for RCA and Peacock Records. The morning session didn’t go well; Richard laid down half a dozen tracks, but none of them managed to capture his ambisexual lightning. The producer, Bumps Blackwell, called lunch and took the crew to the Dew Drop Inn. “Richard saw a piano and a crowd of people: he was one of those people who’s always on stage, and he hit the piano and hollered, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-good-God-damn!’ – and those were the cleanest words of it,” Blackwell later remembered.

A quick rewrite later, so the song was no longer about anal sex (“If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy,” ran the original), and the first great record of the rock’n’roll boom was ready to record, and with it the first great lyric – Richard’s ecstatic, percussive cry: “Awopbopaloomopalopbombom!” It would be altered – Elvis sang what sounds like “Awopbopalooahalopbamboom”; Pat Boone tried “Awopbopaloomopalopbopbop”; when Nik Cohn wrote his celebration of rock’n’roll’s already distant golden age in 1968, he called the book Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, and that’s the pronunciation that seems most common nowadays – but it didn’t matter, because in those 10 syllables, Richard made rock’n’roll’s first greatest promise: we’re gonna have a real good time together. And he did so without making any sense whatsoever.

The phrase itself was something Richard used in everyday speech. “I had Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom! in my hometown, it was a word that I said,” he told Mojo in 1999. “People’d say, ‘How you doin’ Richard?’, I’d say, ‘Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom!’”

Read the whole article. It’s great.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38045 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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