Eight classic rock songs with problematic lyrics

Do these classic rock songs have great lyrics or not?
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin / Michael Putland/GettyImages
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“The Jean Genie” - David Bowie (1973)

“He says he’s a beautician and sells you nutrition
And keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear
Poor little Greenie”

I was going to go off on a long Bob Dylan bypass here, citing both great and inane lyrics galore, and they all may have come from “Gates of Eden.” But I’ll spare you, and close instead on this song that I absolutely love. But that doesn’t mean I think the lyrics are good.

Even if you follow Bowie closely and know a lot of the meanings behind his words – the title being a hip bastardization of French poet/playwright Jean Genet, and the constant references to occult philosopher Aleister Crowley – that doesn’t mean you have to buy into any deeper meaning.

Far Out Magazine’s Aimee Ferrier did a thorough breakdown of the meaning behind this Aladdin Sane song. That is where I finally came to understand the line “sits like a man, but smiles like a reptile” as a reference to Iggy Pop and his band the Iguanas. I can get into that.

But the dead hair for making up underwear? Sorry, I don’t get it. In a song devoted to outrageousness, all of the other lyrics are grounded in some concrete imagery. You have to dig a bit, and I don’t blame you if you choose not to, but it’s there for you if want to expend the effort. But the “dead hair/underwear” thing? That’s just an internal rhyme gone off the rails.

Next. Four bands too good for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Four bands too good for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. dark

Verdict: Bad lyrics, in a song that has otherwise good cryptic imagery

By my count, there are approximately eleven thousand other weird lyrics we could have explored today, but I’ll leave something for next time. Maybe then, we can talk about Neil Diamond’s “I Am I Said” and a chair that apparently can sometimes hear what you are saying.

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