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Top ten English love songs

(Originally written in 2006 and languished in my draft posts folder until resurrected after hearing “Will You” in a bar in Sofia)

After rubbishing the inclusion of “Wonderful Tonight” in Molly’s list of three great love songs, here’s my list:

  1. Lightning Seeds “Pure”

    A fantastically hummable, happy tune that manages to sound both fresh and comfortable every time you hear it. In contrast to the plodding obviousness of Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” lyrics, the Lightning Seeds’ lyrics are full of metaphors like “leaves pour down, splash autumn on gardens / as colder nights harden”. The chorus is just lovely:

    Just lying smiling in the dark
    Shooting stars around your heart
    Dreams come bouncing in your head
    Pure and simple every time

    Anyone who doesn’t smile when they hear this has a heart of stone and ears of cloth.

  2. Hazel O’Connor – “Will You”

    A song about yearning:

    Take off your ice, bare your soul.
    Gather me to you and make me whole.
    Tell me your secrets, sing me the song.
    Sing it to me in the silent dawn.
    It’s getting kinda late now.
    I wonder if you’ll stay now, stay now, stay now, stay now
    or, will you just politely say “goodnight”.

    What elevates this from “very good power ballad” is the finest saxophone solo in the history of everything.

  3. Joni Mitchell – “Morning Morgantown

    A beautiful tune and typically poetic lyrics celebrating being in together at dawn, having fun with the one you love.

    But the only thing I have to give
    To make you smile, to win you with
    Are all the mornings still to live
    In morning Morgantown

  4. Fairport Convention – “Who knows where the time goes?”

    Sandy Denny’s finest song ever. Her voice is so clear, and so pure, and the lyrics are just a tiny bit dark (what does “until it’s time to go” mean? Their death?). But it’s not just a Sandy Denny solo song; the lead guitar, bass and drums add so much, too.

    And I am not alone while my love is near me
    I know it will be so until it’s time to go
    So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
    I have no fear of time
    For who knows how my love grows?
    And who knows where the time goes?

  5. Beatles – “Here There and Everywhere”

    Of course, there are loads of fab Beatles love songs, such as “I’ve just seen a face”, and “something”. But this gentle McCartney composition gets my vote for the simplicity and directness of the lyrics and the minimal instrumentation.

  6. Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”

    From the first drum beats, to the opening chords, to the guitar solo and handclaps, to the three chord ending, there’s nothing superfluous and nothing missing from this perfect song about teenage attraction.

  7. Nick Drake – “Northern Sky”

    Nick Drake made a lot of pretty tunes before he died, but this is the finest.

  8. Bob Dylan – “Love Minus Zero (No Limits)”

    There has to be a Bob in this list, and it was hard to choose between this, Visions of Johanna and I Want You. But this has a catchy tune, with Dylan’s usual obscure metaphors and literary references, and culminates in the uncharacteristically direct and emotive description “my love is like a raven / at my window with a broken wing.

  9. Dolly Parton – I Will Always Love You”

    Forget the preposterous hair and Vegas trimmings; this is a great song, beautifully sung by its author. Forget the horrible, incomprehensibly caterwauling vile mess that Whitney Houston made of it out of your head and listen to it again. Now.

  10. SLF – “Barbed Wire Love”

    A lovesong set in the warzone of late 70s Belfast, with wit and acid, some sex and a great punk rock tune.

    I met you in No Man’s Land
    Across the wire we were holding hands
    Hearts a-bubble in the rubble
    It was love at bomb site

    When I fell it was awful nice
    Caught when not suspecting vice.
    The night was rife with wasteland life
    You set my arm alight

My list of the best non-English language songs coming soon. In the meantime, any disagreement with this top 10 should be recorded below, although doing so is an admission that you don’t know the first thing about music, and your favourite band is rubbish.

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6 Responses to “ Top ten English love songs ”

Comment by Devon

Love some of these songs, but haven’t even heard of some of the others. Which is the beauty of lists like this — I always find out about songs I didn’t know about, even if I don’t view them the same. Sometimes there’s gems too. I’m off to listen to some of these “new” songs.

Comment by Kimberly Blessing

The Lightning Seeds were underrated, and “Pure” is one of my favorites. I’m so glad you included it!

I still have to quibble with “I Will Always Love You”, though. I’d probably go for Julian Cope “Sunspots” or Pete Townshend “Let My Love Open the Door”.

Comment by sil

Fairport Convention, huh? You’re just reinforcing the stereotype now.

I suppose it was always out of the question that you were going to pick You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC.

Saved yourself from embarrassment with Northern Sky, mind.

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