Every collector is able to identify sub-categories within his collection. I collect songs (among other things) and one of the sub-categories of songs I collect is Sweary Songs.
Sweary Song: a song that has swearing in it. The swearing can be a key feature or incidental part of the song. The song must be sung. Rap songs, which often feature lots of swearing, don’t count. Cover versions of rap songs where the original sweary lyrics are delivered melodically do count and make up a sub-sub-category which this column may explore from time to time.
The joys of swearing in songs is twofold.
Firstly it’s the sense of the unexpected, the hint of danger, the scent of chaos. This is best demonstrated by John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” from Plastic Ono Band. A simple melody, acoustic guitar and two devastating examples of effwordery slipped into the second and fourth verses to make them scan properly. I put this album on in my dad’s Volvo for the school run once. Once.
The second joy of swearing in song is the same joy you get from swearing in real life. Good swearing has a glorious syncopation, a ribald rhythm that makes it irresistible. This is exemplified by the football chant that appropriated the classic music hall tune of “My Old Man (Said Follow The Van)” and introduced a full and ripe collection of swears in place of the original lyrics.
This occasional series of songs-with-cuss-words will highlight the Sweary Marys involved and point out the parts of the song most likely to offend delicate ears. Listen if you want, but don’t say you weren’t warned.
Sweary Song No. 1
“Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons
It’s an acoustic delight from nu-folk banjo pluckers, Mumford and Sons. When I first heard the band’s name, I was really hoping that they’d chosen it in tribute to Rentaghost‘s Fred Mumford. Sadly, it turns out that the lead singer is called Mumford, Marcus Mumford.
“Little Lion Man” is a great little song that builds through the verse and delivers in the chorus including a sweartastic payoff that is a great to sing along to… unless you’ve pulled up at the lights next to a car full of small children.
I’ve been listening to the whole album, Sigh No More, but my sense so far is that this is the best thing on it.
Sweary Song No. 2
“Fuck Was I” by Jenny Owen Youngs
When a song starts with the lyric, “Love grows in me like a tumour” you know you’re in for something a little darker than your average “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah”.
I heard this song over the closing credits of an early episode of Weeds. Drug-dealing mom begins affair with DEA agent. Cue the genteel, but expletive-ridden, stylings of Jenny Owen Youngs. I love the juxtaposition of cello and the effword (great name for a band: Cello and the Effword).
If you have any suggestions for Sweary Songs you’d like featured, don’t be afraid to leave a comment.