Songs that feature talking?
February 13, 2017 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Shepherd and I's theme for our radio show this Saturday is songs that feature talking. The best example I have for this is "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" by Elvis Presley. What other songs have this?

Essentially, the vocals are sung, but for some reason, mid-song, the performer talks while the music continues in the background. It seems like old country is the best example of this, but are there any others? CanCon, obviously, is a plus.

Also, to be clear, I am not interested in artists like Lou Reed or Leonard Cohen. Their vocal styles are what I call "spinging," sing-speaking. Not what I am looking for.

Hope me with your encyclopedic knowledge of music, AskMe!
posted by Kitteh to Media & Arts (95 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bad Romance by Lady Gaga?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:31 AM on February 13, 2017


There is a song* by Poe - Hey, Pretty - that features her brother, Mark Danielewski, reading portions of his book, House of Leaves.

It's not explicit, but it is fairly steamy, if that's an issue.

*It's actually a remix of the original song, but much better known than the original.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:34 AM on February 13, 2017


Weezer's "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)" includes a spoken-word breakdown that's a nod to the Elvis one you mentioned.

Also "The Pool" by Daniel Amos (along with a few other songs on that album, I think).
posted by Polycarp at 7:35 AM on February 13, 2017


There are spoken interludes in Johnny Cash's cover of "Mercy Seat."
posted by praemunire at 7:38 AM on February 13, 2017


I asked a question last week that introduced me to Maurice Chevalier. Now, all his songs are like 80-90 years old, but for some reason they all seem to follow verse-chorus-verse-chorus-spoken verse-chorus. He repeats the second verse with a spoken version.

There's a good sampling on YouTube.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:40 AM on February 13, 2017


Britney's Oops... I did it again features a conversation referencing the film Titanic.

Prison Song by System of a Down contains spoken stats regarding prison.
posted by threetwentytwo at 7:44 AM on February 13, 2017


There's a group from the '30s called The Ink Spots, whose music was prominently featured in several of the Fallout games. They have a style called "top and bottom," in which the chorus is sung by the groups's tenor, and then spoken by the bass. Here's an example: "I Don't Want to set the World on Fire."
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:45 AM on February 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yo La Tengo - The Crying of Lot G has two ~20 second speaking sections at 00:43 and 2:18, amongst some really sweet singing.
posted by mean square error at 7:46 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


U2 - Bullet the Blue Sky
posted by bondcliff at 7:50 AM on February 13, 2017


R.E.M. - Belong
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:53 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Candy by Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson has some talking (beginning and middle) and some singing.
posted by jessamyn at 7:54 AM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


The last minute or so of Darrell Scott's "Down To The River" features a spoken passage by (RIP) Guy Clark.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:04 AM on February 13, 2017


This Mess We're In - PJ Harvey feat. Thom Yorke
posted by Defying Gravity at 8:05 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


10 Laws by East Forest is a monologue remixed into music.
posted by spindrifter at 8:07 AM on February 13, 2017




"Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has a talking interlude.
posted by incountrysleep at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Perhaps too obvious, but "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)"?
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:10 AM on February 13, 2017


Blur's Parklife is half talking, almost a skit really.

Fire coming out of a monkeys head by The Gorillaz is a spoken word song with backing music/sung interludes.
posted by InkDrinker at 8:13 AM on February 13, 2017


Panama
posted by metasarah at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Corb Lund, "Truck Got Stuck."
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2017


The Quarrymen (i.e., the pre-fame, pre-Ringo Beatles) had a number that parodied this style called "You'll Be Mine". Unfortunately the recording quality is terrible (it was released on Anthology 1 mainly for its historical value) so it may not suit your needs, but it's short if you want to give a quick listen and check it out for yourself.
posted by DiscountDeity at 8:26 AM on February 13, 2017


In case the rest of the song doesn't do the trick, Boys II Men's On Bended Knee includes a smooth, spoken-word apology from erstwhile bass Mike McCary.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think of novelty songs for this, so not sure if it fully fits your criteria:

Peggy Lee - Is That All There Is?

Barry Mann - Who Put The Bomp

Maybe too silly (and/or too gruesome) - Julie Brown - The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun

(speaking of which) The Shangri-Las - Leader of the Pack

posted by Mchelly at 8:34 AM on February 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


The Monkees' The Day We Fall in Love is all talking, so apologies if it's not what you want.
posted by FencingGal at 8:35 AM on February 13, 2017


Canyons of Your Mind by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

In the wardrobe of my soul
In the section labelled shirts.

posted by Grangousier at 8:35 AM on February 13, 2017


Quora: What are some great talking blues songs?
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:36 AM on February 13, 2017


Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot - Bonnie and Clyde.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:37 AM on February 13, 2017


(and of course The Intro and the Outro is all talking, but I guess that's not what you want.)

And looking very relaxed - Adolf Hitler on vibes. Nice.
posted by Grangousier at 8:37 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Does David Allan Coe's "You Never Call Me By My Name" count?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:38 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


How about some oldies?

- Chantilly Lace (1950's) by The Big Bopper
- Big Bad John (1961) by Jimmy Dean
- Soul and Inspiration (1966) by The Righteous Brothers
- Ain't No Mountain High Enough (1967) by Diana Ross
- Green Green Grass of Home (1960's) by Tom Jones
- Leader of the Pack (1964) by The Shangri-Las
posted by davcoo at 8:38 AM on February 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


The Streets - Dry Your Eyes
posted by srboisvert at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2017


Nobody has mentioned Ken Nordine and Word Jazz yet--this is the extreme example. Ken giving a spoken narration over a jazz combo. Lots of it on YouTube.

And just to go all the way out there, what about Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, which requires a singer to speak at pitch over an instrumental ensemble?
posted by Logophiliac at 8:43 AM on February 13, 2017


Lonely Sea by the Beach Boys is exactly what you're after, I think! Talking happens at about 1:31.
posted by greenish at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2017


"I Wish" - King Missile
posted by Marky at 8:46 AM on February 13, 2017


In Michael Jackson's Thriller, there's a spoken word segment by Vincent Price that creeped out seven-year-old me so much I wouldn't go to the basement alone until I was like 20.
Darkness falls across the land
The midnite hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'awl's neighbourhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller
posted by mochapickle at 8:47 AM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


Mr. Tanner, Harry Chapin (warning: may break your heart)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:51 AM on February 13, 2017


The Waterboys Stolen Child has them singing a poem that is then,later in the song, read. Loreena McKennitt does a cover of it but I don't think it has this part.
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 AM on February 13, 2017


The Shangri-Las' Give Him A Great Big Kiss includes a couple of spoken parts, including this delightful exchange:

Well, what color are his eyes?
I don't know, he's always wearing shades
Is he tall?
Well, I've got to look up
Yeah? Well I hear he's bad
Mm, he's good bad, but he's not evil
posted by everybody had matching towels at 9:00 AM on February 13, 2017


"And all my friends just might ask me/They say 'Martin, maybe one day you'll find true love'" -- ABC, "The Look of Love"
posted by vickyverky at 9:08 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


There's a spoken section in "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters, although the speaking is more like mumbling and is more or less unintelligible.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:10 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Aaaa! Vickyverky has sent me back to high school and I will respond with ABC - Poison Arrow

"I thought you loved me. But it seems you don't care."
posted by Mchelly at 9:12 AM on February 13, 2017


Gang of Four "Anthrax"
posted by brujita at 9:23 AM on February 13, 2017


Dale Watson - Real Country Song
posted by brookeb at 9:27 AM on February 13, 2017


I Will Always Love You - Dolly Parton
posted by Room 641-A at 9:29 AM on February 13, 2017


Van Halen's Hot For Teacher has some talking in the middle ("I don't feel tardy...").

Rolling Stones Far Away Eyes might be a little close to the sing-speaking you don't want, but give it a try.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Taylor Swift, Shake It Off, about 2:20
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


For some CanCon, BNL's If I had a Million Dollars has a spoken break in the middle.
posted by Zedcaster at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]




Oh, and I almost forgot! One of my personal fave bands (also CanCon!) The Box and L'Affaire Dumoutier (Say To Me). The talking is throughout so it may not be exactly what you're looking for...
posted by Zedcaster at 9:56 AM on February 13, 2017


Nada Surf - Popular has spoken sections taken from the 1964 teen advice book Penny's Guide to Teen-Age Charm and Popularity.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:57 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Little Red Shoes by Loretta Lynn, w/music by Jack White, is riveting & great. Kind of a rough story.

In a very different style, Parliament has a lot of songs like this, including P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up) and, heartbreakingly these days, Chocolate City.*

*“And when they come to march on ya, tell 'em to make sure they got their James Brown pass! And don't be surprised if Ali is in the White House. Reverend Ike, Secretary of the Treasure. Richard Pryor, Minister of Education. Stevie Wonder, Secretary of Fine Arts. And Miss Aretha Franklin--the First Lady.”
posted by miles per flower at 9:58 AM on February 13, 2017


Intro, not the middle section, but there's always Kris Kristofferson's The Pilgrm (Chapter 33).

Nobody has mentioned Ken Nordine and Word Jazz yet
... because the question's about songs, not spoken-word monologues. Don't think anybody ever heard Ken Nordine sing.

posted by Rash at 10:08 AM on February 13, 2017


Another 70s intro-only: Stevie Wonder's Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing.
posted by Rash at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2017


Coming back to say that Cornershop's "Sleep on the Left Side" has a spoken interlude in the middle.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2017




Pepper, Butthole Surfers
Straight Edge, Minor Threat
The End, The Doors
... and there's that Minutemen song in which Mike Watt reads a letter from his landlord about keeping the bathtub properly caulked.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:36 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Here's a good one, an oldie probably not heard much anymore:
Mr Custer by Larry Verne.
"What am I doin' here?"
posted by Rash at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2017


Everybody's Thanksgiving favourite, the grand prize winner might be Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie.
posted by Rash at 10:52 AM on February 13, 2017


This is good! Keep 'em coming! (For some of more popular suggestions, I'll have to find covers that closely mimic the original as we are discouraged from playing hits, which is fair seeing as how we are a campus/community station.)
posted by Kitteh at 11:00 AM on February 13, 2017


My favorite song with talking is "Float On" by The Floaters. The talking is not all in the middle, though--each member of the group has his own little spoken verse.
posted by zorseshoes at 11:04 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite disco songs: Doctor's Orders by Carol Douglas
posted by thebazilist at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


James Brown: King Heroin.... this version is less talky, more singing.
James Brown does a lot of talk breaks on his Christmas Album, too.

Johnny Cash: One Piece at a Time
Obvs, Johnny Cash's storytelling is a significant part of his work, going from chorus to spoken verse to chorus.

Alicia Keys: You Don't Know My Name
posted by Pearl928 at 11:27 AM on February 13, 2017


My Boyfriend's Back - The Angels
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:30 AM on February 13, 2017


William Shatner and Joe Jackson's cover of Common People came to mind. In fact, there's a lot on Shatner's album "Has Been" that would work, as long as his stuff fits your specified configuration. I understand that Shatner might be a different paradigm than you want.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:32 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Sie - Einstürzende Neubauten
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2017


Marlene Dietrich: Falling in Love Again
If you can find the German version, it's even better.
posted by Pearl928 at 11:40 AM on February 13, 2017


Metallica's Enter Sandman has the "now I lay me down to sleep" part.
posted by bondcliff at 11:59 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Came back because I remembered a couple other favorites:

The Kinks, Big Sky--some sections of it, anyway. (Yo La Tengo has covered this too.)

Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Razzle in My Pocket. Surprisingly sweet song about stealing dirty magazines. SFW.

The Minutemen song BitterOldPunk mentioned with the note about keeping the tub properly caulked is the beginning of Take 5, D. (Don't use shower. DON'T USE SHOWER!) I guess History Lesson, Part II would work here too.
posted by miles per flower at 12:55 PM on February 13, 2017


The Beatles - Happiness is a Warm Gun
Joe Jackson - Happy Loving Couples
posted by rocket88 at 12:57 PM on February 13, 2017


Do talky intros count? In which case, LEN's Steal my Sunshine ("I dunno, does he like butter tarts?") and Michael Jackson's Black or White are both delightful.
posted by athirstforsalt at 1:04 PM on February 13, 2017


Thought of another one. The Roche's Big Nuthin'.

(I don't have time to listen to this version right now, but there's definitely a talking section for this song on the album.)
posted by FencingGal at 1:15 PM on February 13, 2017


Dar Williams, The Babysitter's Here

Meatloaf, Paradise by the Dashboard Light
posted by you must supply a verb at 2:01 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


(although obv in Paradise by the Dashboard Light it's not the performer doing the speaking bit so probably that doesn't count, sorry)
posted by you must supply a verb at 2:07 PM on February 13, 2017


in remote part / scottish fiction by Idlewild, which features poet Edwin Morgan reading a short piece written especially for the band's third album, The Remote Part (released in 2002). For the text of the poem and a sketch of the collaboration see here.

Incidentally, the song packs a punch in figuring a tough political landscape and questions of national identity, so is a depressingly relevant and thoughtful playlist addition in our current darkest timeline.
posted by thetarium at 2:17 PM on February 13, 2017


Time Is On My Side
(the Stones, live, in '65)
posted by Rash at 2:42 PM on February 13, 2017


If'n you ain't the granddaddy of all liars... and the little critters of Nature. They don't know that they're ugly. That's very funny- a fly marrying a bumblebee. I told you I'd shoot but you didn't believe me! Why didn't you believe me? Happy Happy Joy Joy
posted by flabdablet at 2:53 PM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


He Stopped Loving Her Today, by George Jones.
posted by KillaSeal at 3:03 PM on February 13, 2017


Valley Girl - Frank Zappa
posted by pompomtom at 3:46 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Another spoken intro is the "Dearly beloved..." beginning of Prince's Let's Go Crazy.
posted by lakeroon at 4:01 PM on February 13, 2017


More like mid-song monologuing, but it is CanCon:
Tragically Hip - Highway Girl (Live)
Tragically Hip - New Orleans is Sinking (Live)

posted by aiglet at 4:22 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones - Lonely Ones (There is talking in the beginning but more talking -- not the rapping -- starts at 1:30)
posted by Room 641-A at 5:26 PM on February 13, 2017


Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" has a version with a spoken ending!
posted by carlypennylane at 7:11 PM on February 13, 2017


Black Box Recorder - Child Psychology
Karen Elson - 100 Years From Now
posted by Lapin at 7:36 PM on February 13, 2017


The first track off of Deep Forest.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:56 PM on February 13, 2017


Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney - The Girl Is Mine
posted by dustkee at 9:24 PM on February 13, 2017






Bruce Cockburn does this a lot and is Canadian. He is sometimes more talk than sing, and some of the talking is probably spinging, but when he sings, he sings.
posted by you must supply a verb at 4:13 AM on February 14, 2017


This Mess We're In - PJ Harvey feat. Thom Yorke (from 2:48).
posted by h00py at 6:23 AM on February 14, 2017


Starship, We Built This City but it isn't the performer talking in the middle of the song, it's a radio DJ
posted by dlwr300 at 7:11 AM on February 14, 2017


The Kinks, "Big Sky"
posted by not_on_display at 8:07 PM on February 16, 2017


Justine & The Victorian Punks, Still You (mostly talking, a bit of "spinging")
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:38 PM on February 16, 2017


Probably too late now, but Thomas Dolby, The Key to Her Ferrari.
posted by you must supply a verb at 6:10 AM on February 18, 2017


Don't Touch Me There by The Tubes, and My Secret Love from "Grace of My Heart" (1996).
posted by Rash at 3:29 PM on April 19, 2017


The above answer reminded me of the list of entitlements at the end of The Tubes' "What Do You Want From Life?"
posted by not_on_display at 12:31 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


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