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Artists on their favourite lyrics

  • Theo Hutchcraft, Hurts: The Smiths, ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ - 'Good times for a change/See the luck I’ve had can make a good man bad.' "I heard The Strokes when I was 17. It changed my whole life, and made me start looking back on music – it was then that I started listening to The Smiths. It was a formative experience."

    Photo: Roger Sargent/NME

    Added: 16 Feb 2012

  • Cee-Lo Green: Iggy Pop, ‘Sixteen’ - 'I’m an easy mark with my broken heart.’ "I think that song captures what it is like to be the lonely side of 16. Iggy’s laying his problems on the line: what is it to be awkward and unaccepted in life, while everyone else is having fun around you. Lyrically, it has that barbed, painted poetry of all Iggy’s best works."

    Photo: Tom Martin/NME

    Added: 25 Jun 2011

  • Richard Hawley: The Velvet Underground, ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ - 'The fact that you’re married only proves you’re my best friend.' "It is about adultery, and it’s always struck a chord; not because I’m an adulterer but because it’s such a clever expression of a complicated emotion."

    Photo: Danny North/NME

    Added: 16 Feb 2012

  • Jenny Lee Lindberg, Warpaint: Michael Jackson, ‘Beat It’ - 'Beat it, no-one wants to be defeated.' "I was about four when I heard that. Most of my early memories are of dancing around listening to music. I didn’t play back then, but I loved music, so me and my mom used to just dance around the house to pop and R&B."

    Photo: Danny North/NME

    Added: 30 Nov 2011

  • Joe Mount, Metronomy: The Shangri-Las, ‘I Can Never Go Home Any More’ - "On their own, they lyrics don’t seem so good. It’s maybe not the most poetic thing in the world but there’s a bit at the end: 'Don’t do to your mum what I did to mine/She grew so lonely in the end/Angels picked her for their friend.'"

    Photo: Tom Oxley/NME

    Added: 02 Jun 2011

  • Mark Ronson: The Stone Roses, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ - 'I don’t have to sell my soul/He’s already in me.' - "Not only is it an amazing lyric, it's track one, side once. That sort of insane arrogance leads off on a record that justifies insane arrogance – that’s pretty powerful."

    Photo: PA Photos

    Added: 30 Jul 2011

  • Ben Lovett, Mumford & Sons: Gillian Welch, ‘Look At Me Miss Ohio’ - 'I wanna do right, but not right now.' - "It’s a clever play on words, but it’s also very poignant. In my mind she’s like a gritty, almost more real version of Joni Mitchell – they’re both of the same calibre. I think Gillian Welch is one of the best female singer-songwriters ever to have lived."

    Photo: Tom Oxley/NME

    Added: 16 Feb 2012

  • Regina Spektor: Bob Dylan, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ - 'Don’t follow leaders/Follow parking meters.' - |When he says that I always laugh. I love how his mind works, I love his voice and I just think he’s so fucking funny – he’s got such great joy. It seems like it’s surreal, but it just makes perfect sense to me – I wouldn’t be able to explain how, but it just does!"

    Photo: PA

    Added: 06 Dec 2010

  • Gyilym Gold, Golden Silvers: Robert Johnson, ‘Hellhound On My Trail’ - 'I can tell the wind is risin’/The leaves are temblin’ on the tree/I just need my sweet little woman to keep me company.' - "I think it is quite a dark lyric, it’s something that everyone can understand. It’s just really poetic lyrics but really simple as well.”

    Photo: Press

    Added: 25 May 2011

  • Alisa Xayalith, The Naked And Famous: Tim Buckley, ‘Song To The Siren’ - 'I’m as puzzled as a newborn child/I’m as riddled as the tide/Should I stand amid the breakers?/Or shall I lie with death my bride?' - "I love the version by this Mortal Coil. The album ‘It’ll End In Tears’ is the best kind of melancholy."

    Photo: Andy Willsher/NME

    Added: 16 Feb 2012

  • Kyp Malone, TV On The Radio: Walk The Dinosaur, ‘Was (Not Was)' - “I don’t have a favourite lyric. It implies that the writing of moving lyrics is a finished thing and all I have to do is go through my lists that I’ve been carefully constructing. But if I had to answer, I’d give it to "Open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur.'"

    Photo: Pieter M Van Hattem/NME

    Added: 16 Feb 2012

  • Serge Pizzorno, Kasabian: Rage Against The Machine, ‘Killing In The Name’ - 'Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.' - "I think that’s a really nice line. It’s pretty obvious for a rock’n’roll band to sing those words but I just think that it’s great for anyone to sing in someone’s face. I have never actually seen them play it live, but I’d fucking love to."

    Photo: Ed Miles/NME

    Added: 10 Nov 2011

  • Jesse Hughes, Eagles Of Death Metal: Mack 10, ‘Gangsta Gangsta’ - 'Built like a tank, yet hard to hit/Mack 10 and Scoop go running shit/Well, I’m the nigga Scoop, the only one they talking about.' "It’s badass poetry, it’s dangerous sounding, and when you sing along with the lyrics in the car, you feel fucking tougher than the world."

    Photo: Press

    Added: 16 Nov 2011

  • Nathan Williams, The Wavves: Mobb Deep, ‘Shock Ones Part II’ - 'Ain’t no such things as halfway crooks.' "It’s just so deep. I just love all the thought that goes into Mobb Deep’s lines."

    Photo: Ross Gilmore/NME

    Added: 16 Feb 2012

  • Harry McVeigh, White Lies: Neil Young, ‘Thrasher’ - 'With a one-way ticket to the land of truth/And my suitcase in my hand/How I lost my friends/I still don’t understand.' "The way that it rhymes is beautiful. The sentiment behind that is, to me, about growing up and moving away from things in your past – sometimes good, sometimes bad. It’s a very emotional song for me."

    Photo: Andy Fallon/NME

    Added: 16 Feb 2012

  • Tom Fleming, Wild Beasts: Scott Walker, ‘The Old Man’s Back Again’ - 'He’d like another name, the one he’s got is a curse these people cried/Why can’t they understand his mother called him Ivan then she died.' "I love the way he sees the bigger picture – he realises every single gesture is important."

    Photo: Emilie Bailey/NME

    Added: 16 Feb 2012

  • Frank Turner: The Weakerthans, ‘Left and Leaving’ - 'I wait in 4/4 time, and count yellow highway lines that you’re relying on to lead you home.' "There’s something about waiting in 4/4 time that really does it for me: about counting out the moments on a beat."

    Photo: PA

    Added: 21 Mar 2011

  • Jonathan Pierce, The Drums: Orange Juice, ‘Consolation Prize’ - 'I’ll never be the man for you.’ "I just love it when a grown man is able to show a more sensitive side, and not feel the pressure to be a tough rock’n’roll sort of guy, and really speaks his mind. I love that sort of openness. Every time that lyrics comes on it beaks my heart. I absolutely love it."

    Photo: David Edwards/NME

    Added: 16 Dec 2010

  • Tom Cohen, SCUM: Lou Reed, ‘Street Hassle’ - 'So the first thing that they see/That allows them to be right to be/Why, they follow it/You know, it’s called bad luck.' "I just think that in the context of the song – it’s just after the death of the girl who’s on heroin – it’s the moment where it really hones the story back onto Lou Reed."

    Photo: Takeshi Suga/NME

    Added: 11 Oct 2011

  • Don't miss the new issue of NME, on sale September 5, which is devoted to the greatest lyrics ever written, as chosen by The Maccabees, Miles Kane, Brian Wilson and loads more.

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    Added: 03 Sep 2012