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Wrote for Luck: Selected Lyrics by Shaun Ryder review – unique, hilarious, vicious

The words of the Happy Mondays and Black Grape frontman are utterly singular and never less than entertaining

“It’s almost like I’ve got a mad cartoon running through my head and the lyrics are oddball captions describing what’s happening in each frame,” writes Shaun Ryder in the preface to this book of his selected lyrics with Happy Mondays and Black Grape. When he was young, the mad cartoon was often his actual life. You can’t imagine many other songwriters unpicking their lyrics (for Moving in With) like this: “We were selling drugs at the time, so I had all sorts hidden in the loft, 8 bars, acid, smack, and then the E when it arrived… The two bent pigs were coppers who we used to serve up… They just used to pull up in their panda car and buy it off us.”

Ryder’s lyrics – or oddball captions – are never straightforwardly descriptive. He captures scenes in little details, or moods. Holiday, about one of the times he was stopped going through customs, mixes the form-filling customs officer with the stash and the porn Ryder was stopped for: “You put a circle round this and a circle round that/ You put one in the front and one in the back.” He starts with something he sees, or that’s on his mind, then mangles it and mixes it with lines nicked from films, adverts, rehab doctors, friends. Some of his most famous lines are straightforward steals: “You’re twistin’ my melon man, you know you talk so hip man,” from Step On, is taken directly from a documentary called Man on the Edge about Steve McQueen; “Call the cops”, from the same song, is from Bobby Gillette, who’d stand in the Mondays’ corner of the Hacienda, “off his nut”, whistling and shouting. Some of Ryder’s earlier lyrics catch the mad euphoria of clubbing and ecstasy. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony/ Cut it up in tiny little bits and give it all away for free” (Harmony).

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Source: The Guardian – Wrote for Luck: Selected Lyrics by Shaun Ryder review – unique, hilarious, vicious

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