I posted last year, about songwriters who use songwriting itself as an image in their songs. I realise now, upon closer listening, that far too many of them of them are doing it, and it’s a very tired approach indeed.
Some further examples:
Peter Allen – Tenterfield Saddler
George Harrison – This Song
Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In the Dark
David Byrne and Brian Eno – Strange Overtones (“This groove is out of fashion / These beats are 20 years old”)
Three Dog Night – Just an Old Fashioned Love Song (written by Paul Williams!)
The earliest example I can think of is in Ira Gershwin’s showy lyric for I Can’t Get Started, first sung by Bob Hope in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936:
You’re so supreme,
Lyrics I write of you,
Scheme just for the sight of you …
I also listed some examples of male singers presenting a tune, and then repeating it up the octave. I made a precise distinction, though, between sucky and awesome. Some more (good) examples I missed:
Cat Stevens – Father to Son (How did I miss this one? It’s practically Patient Zero)
U2 – With or Without You
Paul McCartney – Ballroom Dancing
Again, the pratice is not so special. Sigh.
I just heard it in the Jonas Brothers theme “Keep it Real”, and there it is quite clearly neither sucky nor awesome, but rather somewhere along the awesuck continuum.