I Take the High Road and Rex Takes the Low Roads: The Best Revenge, Episode 12

In this episode of The Best Revenge, Rex and Dr. Fleming have a heated exchange over the merits of pop music lyrics. Fans of Bob Dylan and "the Boss" may not be happy.

Original Air Date: September 28, 2017
Show Run Time: 38 minutes
Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming
Show Host(s): Rex Scott


The Best Revenge℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2017. All rights are reserved and any duplication without explicit written permission is forbidden.


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10 Responses

  1. John Hanna says:

    why did ron maxell have bob Dylan sing for gods and generls? jphenryco

  2. Raymond Olson says:

    An amusing discussion. Thanks, gentlemen. Of course, I’m on Tom’s side of the argument, especially about song lyrics. There are a handful of good, now very old, lyricists in rock music that you might have examined. Paul Simon, whose early work with Art Garfunkle I rarely could stand, writes verse that scans and truly rhymes and obeys grammar. Ray Davies very often writes tart and even elegant lyrics as well as some of the best 1960s smashers (“You Really Got Me”, “All Day and All of the Night”). Lowell George wrote some fine lyrics that amuse me every time I hear them (“Dixie Chicken”, “Roll Um[sic] Easy”, “Willin'”), though I won’t argue their grammatical or poetic propriety. Richard Thompson has written many more (because he avoided addiction and long outlived George) and is more capable of real poignancy than any other rock lyricist I can readily recall (“From Galway to Graceland”, “A Man in Need”). I bear a long-standing admiration for Randy Newman, whose lyrics are almost invariably dramatic monologues that etch definite characters with considerable sharpness.

    Of course, you may object that most of those I’ve cited aren’t really rock ‘n’ rollers, as one friend of mine, in particular, does, not without scorn. But while it’s true that Newman, Thompson, Davies, and Simon quite frequently back themselves with acoustic instruments only and with subdued or non-rock drumming–but then so do, occasionally, the Beatles, and no one disputes their rock ‘n’ roll credentials (well, maybe I should, if only in reaction).

    Rex–I gather that you practice guitar-god worship more than moderately. If you haven’t heard much of Richard Thompson or my own beloved Doug Sahm, you may have some more kowtowing and wowing to do.

    At the last minute, I have another great name for you to weigh: Chuck Berry–excellent vernacular lyricist, stirring guitarist (so many great hooks), and sublimely droll performer.

  3. James D. says:

    With rare exception, there is very little to like in most modern pop music. As I’ve mentioned previously, I think that James McMurtry is really the best lyricist out there today. Here are links to two of my favorites. He employs some of the internal rhyme that Dr. Fleming mentions.



  4. Khater M says:

    I have to agree with Dr. Fleming on this. I’m a college student, and Rex sounds a lot like my high school buddies. Most young people today don’t think that there are higher forms of music. It’s all relative for them. I’ve had several buddies tell me something like “No one has a right to say that one piece of music is better than another” I don’t listen to any modern music, because even the songs that don’t have bad lyrics send a bad message.

    One question I had regarding Greek poetry. I’m taking an Elementary Greek class this year, and developing my ability to read Greek. I’m also taking a Greek Literature in Translation course. We just finished reading the Iliad in translation. I pulled up the first chapter of the Iliad in Greek, and read a few lines. After reading the first few lines of the Iliad in Greek, I don’t understand how it could be turned into a song. Was it chanted like a hymn, or was there just musical accompaniment?

  5. James D. says:

    I posted a comment previously that is “awaiting moderation.” If it is not objectionable, I hope it can be approved. Thanks.

  6. Jacob Johnson says:

    I hope, that for the sake of justice, the police finally catch the man who strangles Bruce Springsteen every time he records vocals

  7. Jacob Johnson says:


  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I approved, after a delay occasioned automatically by the link, the missing comment but it is still not appearing. I’ll try again. I detest, Ray, every member of Hollywood’s musical travesty masters the Newman’s almost as much as I loathe the. Bernstein’s, uncle and nephew. I agree entirely on Chuck Berry and three seconds of any Newman have me signing “Gimme dat rock n roll music”. As for Paul Simon, you have caused my stomach—spareness with pizza with semi-cooked Umbrian sausage and funarielli— a bitter green— to beg for starvation as a precaution. You are only the third person of my acquaintance to admit to liking him: the first was my odious housemate in graduate school, who seemed incapabl of learning ev n one of the four languages required of a classicist, and the second was Richard Neuhaus, who never hit upon the truth even accidentally. We can chat about it in a few days on the Gianicolo by which time you may have repented,,,

  9. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Sorry for all the typos

  10. James D. says:

    Thank you, Dr. Fleming. I am seeing my previous comment now. I chose the songs for their internal rhyme pattern. Thank you.