Readers recommend playlist: your songs with unusual rhymes

From Bill Bailey’s ode to Billy Bragg to the woes of marriage, here are some of music’s most weird and wonderful rhymes

Below is this week’s playlist – the theme and tunes picked by a reader from the comments below in last week’s callout. Thanks for your suggestions. Read more about the format of the weekly Readers recommend series at the end of the piece.

I do enjoy a well-crafted rhyme.

Many years ago as part of a school dissertation project I chose to wrestle with the confessional poetry of Robert Lowell. Lines from a 1956 poem called To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage have stayed with me:

Gored by the climacteric of his want,
He stalls above me like an elephant

Powerful stuff. For more recent tales of wild animals and matters lustful however, observe this week’s first pick, Bill Bailey’s tribute to Billy Bragg, Unisex Chipshop.

In my dreams I would see her
Running naked through the woods round Rainham
If I had some tigers I’d train ’em
To protect her

Billy Bragg Unisex Chipshop.

Next, someone else in a state of undress: The Naked Dutch Painter by Stew. Of the recommendation Untergunther says: “Smart rhyming by this talented and witty wordsmith” and highlights the rhyming of fluorescent paint with a Mingus tape as a particular gem.

Oddly, nudity connects our starting trio, which culminates in Big Bang by Barenaked Ladies. Everyone with access to a telly will know the tune, but this verse might be less familiar:

Australopithecus would really have been sick of us
Debating how we’re here, they’re catching deer (we’re catching viruses)
Religion or astronomy (Descartes or Deuteronomy)
It all started with the big bang!

A novelty song perhaps, but one that accurately tells a particularly long story in a particularly short time.

MC Buggz is actually Andy Lima, a mosquito control biologist from Virginia. He’s hit on a public information film with a difference. As well as “don’t get sick with Zika from the bite of a mosquit-a”, lyrical highlights from Zika 101 include:

Beware of Aedes albopictus and aegypti,
these are some species you should care about most definitely

Now that’s poetry with a purpose.

Songs didn’t have to be packed with rhymes to make the list. Scythian Empire by Andrew Bird earns a place on the strength of “Routed by Sarmatians, thwarted by the Thracians”; while the mere title of Harry “The Hipster” Gibson’s daring 1947 composition Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine gets him the nod.

From the same era, the final song that Lorenz Hart wrote before his death in 1943 was To Keep My Love Alive.

I caught Sir James with his protectoress
The rector’s wife, I mean the rectoress
His heart stood still: angina pectoris
To keep my love alive

This version has the wonderful Elaine Stritch, who died in 2014, giving a paean to pain (ouch) the performance it deserves.

Wyclef Jean
Wyclef Jean “has the audacity and skills to successfully rhyme elope with Mexico” in Perfect Gentleman.
Photograph: Schildhorn/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Of course, unusual rhyming doesn’t always depend on intricate wordplay. Sometimes delivery is key. As stevenjameshyde puts it, in Perfect Gentleman Wyclef Jean “has the audacity and skills to successfully rhyme elope with Mexico”. A great song, but be aware that some of the young ladies dancing in Jean’s video are almost dressed for Bailey’s Rainham Woods.

More sombre attire is appropriate if one intends to follow the advice of Tom Lehrer in Vatican Rag.

Get in line in that processional
Step into that small confessional
There the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original

Barbryn’s nomination of Sapokanikan by Joanna Newsom references rhymes such as bevelled/levelled, grass her/master and parades/collonades – ticking all the topic boxes. It also matched Ozymandian with Sapokanikan and while that’s good, it perhaps doesn’t reach the rarefied heights of Down Under by Men at Work, who manage to rhyme “fried out Kombi” and “head full of zombie”. Genius. Which brings us neatly to the final selection: I confess I chose this topic hoping that someone would nominate the Warren Zevon song of that name, and tincanman obliged. My bias notwithstanding, it makes the cut on merit:

I’ve got a bitter pot of je ne sais quoi
Guess what, I’m stirring it with a monkey’s paw

For the avoidance of doubt, there was no behind the scenes collusion on this – tincanman was an unknowing accomplice. Or, as Zevon puts it, an “unindicted co-conspirator”. And in his hands, that rhymes with “doesn’t know for sure”…

Note: not all songs appear on this Spotify playlist as some are unavailable on the service.

New theme

The theme for next week’s playlist will be announced at 8pm (UK time) on 29 September. You have until 11pm on 3 October to submit nominations.

Here’s a reminder of some of the guidelines for RR:

  • If you have a good theme idea, or if you’d like to volunteer to compile a playlist from readers’ suggestions and write a blog about it, please email
  • There is a wealth of data on RR, including the songs that are “zedded”, at the Marconium. It also tells you the meaning of “zedded”, “donds” and other strange words used by RR regulars.
  • Many RR regulars also congregate at the ’Spill blog.


Scott Blair

The GuardianTramp

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