Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
With the release of Rob Zombie’s sixth studio album “The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser” just a few days away, we somehow got thinking about nonsensical lyrics and song titles, and decided to present to you our top ten rock and metal songs that fit the bill.
Nonsensical lyrics are nothing new. We bet the following gibberish one-liners will immediately invoke the original melodies in your heads:
“Ob La Di Ob La Da”
“Sha la la la la la la la la la-la dee dah. La dee dah”
“Do wah diddy diddy-dum diddy-do”
“Mmmm mmmm mmmm mmmm”
Some artists go so far as to sing in a completely made-up language; like Icelandic post-rock pioneers Sigur Rós, who have recorded a significant proportion of their work in Vonlenska (a.k.a. Hopelandic), which uses the melodic and rhythmic elements of singing but without grammar, meaning, or distinct words. In a light-hearted twist, they even released a single called ‘Gobbledigook’.
It just goes to show that you don’t need deep profound lyrics to record a successful song. In fact, it makes you wonder why so many extreme metal bands even bother putting pen to paper at all, considering how difficult it can be to decipher the screams and guttural growls anyway. So here’s a countdown of our top ten favourite gobbledygook rock and metal songs. Please feel free to add any we missed in the comments section.
- Faith No More : ‘Ugly in the Morning’
This track from FNM’s mid-nineties album King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime starts out reasonably coherent but the insanity builds as Mike Patton manically raves “Don’t look at me, I’m ugly in the morning”, before descending into a chaotic final minute of indecipherable lunacy. A very different band to the quintet we saw at Download festival last year!
- Kid Rock : ‘Bawitdaba’
While Kid Rock’s inclusion on a rock and metal top-ten list might be debatable, he did produce a few memorable rap-rock tracks including this nonsensical mess from Devil without a Cause which actually has a very catchy, crunchy guitar riff and a nice build-up intro. Still though… He’s not making it anywhere near the top of our list, but definitely deserves a mention for this repeated gibberish one-liner; “Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy”. A questionable gem of advice from the white trash legend on concert-going etiquette included in the lyrics is “Now get in the pit and try to love someone”, which really depends on your definition of the verb “to love”, doesn’t it?
- Rammstein : ‘Bückstabü’
The third track on our countdown is listed as B******** on the tracklist of Rammstein’s most recent studio album Liebe ist für alle da. Despite initial speculation that the censored title stood for “Bastard” (with some extra letters, apparently), the band refute this, stating that it is a word made-up by them to mean whatever you want. Whatever you take it to mean, this phonetic fabrication gets them a slot on our list for that single word. Unfortunately, a long awaited follow-up to the 2009 album is nowhere to be seen, putting them in competition with Metallica for keeping fans waiting, so it’s not clear whether more nonsense is on the way any time soon.
- Disturbed : ‘Down with the Sickness’
Can you feel that? That was probably the first track in which you heard David Draiman roar those throaty magpie noises, but presumably not the last. This track also features a psychotic rant against an abusive mother which makes slightly more sense if you’re not listening to the semi-censored Guitar Hero version. By the way, if you haven’t already seen it, then you need to watch this parody video from nonrandomnonsense.com which introduces “the greatest hit of Disturbed on two CDs”. Oh Yuh-muh-nuh-muh! This is the definitive collection for fans of repetitive vocal phrasing! Disturbed may not be the most popular band in the metal community, but they have earned a place in our top ten.
- Tenacious D : ‘Tribute’
In this self-proclaimed greatest song in the world (tribute), Jack Black sang the first thing that came to his head after getting about 90% of the way through writing the lyrics to this cult comedy hit. One could assume that the garbled lines of the track are there to reinforce the storyline that they genuinely forgot the best song in the world when challenged to play it by the shiny demon. However, JB and KG also scat in other lesser-known tracks including ‘Classico’ and ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ (which is more tongue-in-cheek than tongue-twister).
- System of a Down : ‘I-E-A-I-A-I-O’
There were numerous potential candidates for nonsensical SOAD tracks, but most of their lyrics are actually real words, despite typically being arranged randomly. The line “Banana banana banana banana terracotta banana terracotta terracotta pie” from ‘Vicinity of Obscenity’ is one good example, along with something about putting on make-up and forgetting your keys in another popular track. But this particular song at number five on our list has an unintelligible title and features Serj Tankian making funny siren noises between the tongue-twisting verses. Plus it includes a sample of the Knight Rider theme tune. Why would it even need to make sense anyway?
4. Marilyn Manson : ‘Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag’
At what might be considered the height of Manson’s commercial success and popularity in 2003, The Golden Age of Grotesque featured this catchy and whimsically titled track, reportedly inspired by the legendary scat singer Cab Calloway. When performing the track live during the Golden Age tour, the God of Fuck was joined by burlesque dancers wearing nude-look outfits as part of his elaborate stage show. It’s unclear whether the girls understood the true meaning of the lyrics as it is assumed they were not hired by Manson for their literary prowess.
- KoRn : ‘Twist’
Jonathan Davis is another vocalist that could appear in our selection multiple times if we didn’t feel the list was long enough already. ‘Twist’ is the most obvious choice with the title being the only discernible lyric in the vocal-filled 50 second track. Davis was obviously so proud of his performance that he persuaded the band to add a surreal vocals-only version as a “hidden” bonus track on Life is Peachy. A close runner-up nomination is their nu metal hit ‘Freak on a Leash’ fromFollow the Leader. In recent times, Davis has said that he has been clean and sober since 1998, so there’s no surprise that these early albums were probably composed and recorded with the help of a bit of meth.
- Sepultura : ‘Ratamahatta’
The tribal rhythm and chanting in this classic number from Roots, the last Sepultura album to feature both of the Cavalera brothers, never fails to get an audience moving and screaming aloud their own version of the lyrics. We know Max likes to sing in Portuguese occasionally, and we’re accustomed to not understanding everything, but we always thought that Ratamahatta was entirely meaningless. Now we discover while compiling this article that the title actually has a definition according to urbandictionary.com. “Ratamahatta – the act of mahatting on rats“. Well then. That makes much more sense. Thanks to the author for clearing that up.
- Rob Zombie : ‘Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga’
Coming in with the longest and most obscure title, and quite possibly a line from a Minions movie outtake, Rob Zombie appropriately tops our list. At one point in the song, Zombie seems to forget the words mid-verse and says “Ah fuck it. Ok, just go to the chorus”, which guitarist John 5 confirmed as having really happened, and they thought it was cool enough to leave in the final recording. Makes you wonder how Zombie manages to remember that tongue-twister title at all. Incidentally, this makes John 5 the only musician who appears on our list twice, as he was still with Manson ten years earlier for DDBBZZ.
With Zombie seemingly trying to come up with the most mind-boggling album and song titles on each release, we can only try to prepare ourselves for what fantastic phonetics await us on May 29th! We’re certainly looking forward to it! In the meantime, you can enjoy this YouTube Playlist of all the songs in our countdown sequence above, and sing along if you don’t know the words!