Follow TV Tropes


Recycled Lyrics

Go To

You're listening to an album by one of your favorite bands, and you can't help but notice that this one line (or phrase) has popped up before. Maybe it's from a song earlier in the album, or maybe it was from another album entirely (maybe it's even the title of another song) but the point is that the songwriter — for whatever reason — has recycled their lyrics.

Related to Arc Words, Album Title Drop, Author Catchphrase, Lyrical Tic, and Running Gag. Often used in a Concept Album. Not to be confused with Looped Lyrics.


  • Arcade Fire's third album, The Suburbs, does this for multiple phrases, and to great effect, including (but not limited to):
    • "Living / live in the shadows of your song." ("Ready to Start", "Deep Blue" and "Suburban War".)
    • "First they built the road / Then they built the town." (Wasted Hours and Month of May.)
    • Slightly modified version: The Suburbs opens with "In the suburbs I / I learned to drive / And they told me we'd never survive / So grab your mother's keys, we're leaving," whereas the slower, sadder "Suburban War" has as its second verse a dark reprise of this: "In the suburbs I / I learned to drive / And you told me we would never survive / So grab your mother's keys, we leave tonight."
    • Many instances of "the kids", "the suburbs", "suburban war" — and much reference to "the feeling."
  • Radiohead:
    • The band included the line "I don't know why I feel so tongue-tied / I don't know why I feel so skinned alive." in two songs. The first to use it was "Cuttooth," a popular B-side to their album Amnesiac; the second song, "Myxomatosis," is on Hail to the Thief, released after Amnesiac.
    • The phrase: "staring up inside of me" is used in "Inside My Head" (a B-side to "Creep") and "Bullet Proof... I Wish I Was."
    • "Optimistic" has the line "dinosaurs roaming the earth," while "Where I End And You Begin" has the slight variation "the dinosaurs roam the earth."
    • "How to Disappear Completely" from OK Computer has "I'm not here, this isn't happening," which will be followed up by "This is really happening," in "Idioteque."
  • Young Maylay's songs "He's Uh Felon" and "Commodity" both contain the lines "we stack it like Pringles / Hunnets, fifties, the dubs, dimes, fives and singles."
  • The Smiths are fond of this trope as well.
    • "The sun shines out of our behinds" is sung both on "Hand in Glove" and "Pretty Girls Make Graves."
    • The "lyric as different song title" variant is used for "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby", which is also a line from "Paint a Vulgar Picture."
  • They Might Be Giants:
    • "Hotel Detective:" "Come on and swing with me / Hotel Detective / From the top of a tree / Hotel Detective / And make me feel like a bee."
    • "So to Be One of Us" (from the Return To Never Land soundtrack:) "We swing on limbs of trees / Till we wake up the bees..."
    • "Careful What You Pack:" "Shaking up the bees / Swinging from that tree..."
  • Switchfoot: "Red Eyes," the final track from Hello Hurricane, ends with the chorus of the album opener, "Needle and Haystack Life."
  • Rhapsody of Fire do this a lot, along with Title Drop. Makes sense, too, since they're telling a fantasy story throughout their whole discography, and different songs often make references to the same event.
  • Marillion's album Fugazi contains several references to "The Sentimental Mercenary."
    • Likewise, former Marillion lead singer Fish's first studio album, Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors, includes numerous references to "The Hill," a metaphor for material acquisitions.
  • Modest Mouse, with every album a concept album, are notorious for this. They also have plenty of cross-album references.
    • "Ice on the Sheets" reuses lyrics from several other songs.
    • "People talk in soda pop / They talk it quite a lot / The opinions that I don't give / are the opinions I don't got." from "White Lies Yellow Teeth," and the slightly more grammatically correct version inserted into "Spitting Venom."
  • Hawkwind's song "Who's Gonna Win the War" includes the line "Already weeds are writing their scriptures in the sand," taken from their much earlier song "We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago."
  • The phrase: "between the altar and the door" appears in two of Casting Crowns' songs in their album (what else) "The Altar and The Door."
  • "So far away" pops up in a lot of DragonForce songs.
  • The line "they're spreading blankets on the beach" appears in two different Bright Eyes songs ("First Day of My Life" and "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)").
  • Hammerfall has "At the End of the Rainbow" that drops this title, and "No Sacrifice, No Victory," that uses the same phrase.
  • The Beatles' "Glass Onion" from The White Album is filled with shout outs to other songs of theirs:
    I told you about strawberry fields...
    (...) I told you about the walrus and me, man...
    (...) Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet, yeah...
    (...) I told you about the fool on the hill...
    (...) Fixing a hole in the ocean...
    • "All You Need is Love" has a reprise of "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah" towards the end.
    • "Lady Madonna" lifts the line: "See how they run" from "I Am the Walrus," but only as a means of some wordplay with the lyrics in the bridge line before it ("Monday's child has learnt to tie his bootlace," and "Thursday night your stockings needed mending.")
  • Janelle Monáe's album The ArchAndroid does this a bunch, being the Concept Album that it is:
    • "Faster" has the lines "like a schizo," referenced later in "Come Alive," and "electric sheep," referenced later in "Make the Bus."
    • "57821" references the earlier "Sir Greendown."
    • "Babopbyeya" references the title of the earlier track "Neon Valley Street," which is also a Non-Appearing Title.
  • Happens with pretty much the complete output of The Olivia Tremor Control. References to the "Cubist Castle," "the bark and below it," and "black foliage" abound.
  • "The Shattered Fortress" by Dream Theater is made up entirely of these — all the lyrics are taken from previous songs in the "AA Suite" series of songs.
  • Frank Zappa was very fond of this, as part of what he called "conceptual continuity." Common examples in his lyrics include references to poodles named Fido, muffins, the mythical groupie/singer Suzy Creamcheese, and the term "conceptual continuity" itself. Of course, he started his career with what some consider to be the first concept album ever, Freak Out. Note that Suzy even has her own article on the other Wiki.
  • Coldplay use this with the phrase "now my feet won't touch the ground" in "Strawberry Swing," "Life in Technicolor II," and the song of the same name.
    • "Us Against the World" is the title of a song on Mylo Xyloto; the line also appears in the song "Major Minus."
    • The line "Every tear, a waterfall" appears in "Paradise"; "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall" is also a song on the album.
  • Fleetwood Mac has the following lines (or at least very similiar lines) appear in both "Illume [9/11]" and "Destiny Rules" on the album Say You Will:
    I like the coastal cities, I like the lights
    I like the way the city blends into the ocean at night
    It's like living on a working river; the coastline is glittering
    Like a diamond snake in a black sky
  • In a Nico Nico Chorus of Vocaloid 's Daughter of Evil, someone sings an extra line from the song's sequel, Servant of Evil, before being cut off by a guillotine.
  • Beastie Boys have reminded us that they are known to let the beat... drop in "The New Style" and "Intergalactic".
    • Ill Communication has two Album Title Drops: Both "Sure Shot" and "Get It Together" feature the line "Like Ma Bell, I got the ill communications".
    • "Egg Man" includes a slightly altered lyrical passage from "Egg Raid On Mojo", an old song from their Hardcore Punk era:
      We all dressed in black
      We snuck up around the back
      We began to attack
      The eggs did crack on Haze's back note 
  • U2 tends to mention being on their knees (or crawling) in a number of their songs.
  • Manu Chao does this all the time. On his album Esperanza this occurs several times in a row.
  • The Killers reputedly chose "Day and Age" as the title for their fourth album because it appeared in two of the album's songs.
  • Sting does this, usually near the end of a song:
    • "Love Is The Seventh Wave" (from the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles) has phrases from "Every Breath You Take" (which he performed with his old band The Police).
    • "We'll Be Together" (from Nothing Like the Sun) has "If you need somebody" and "If you wanna keep something precious" from "If You Love Somebody Set them Free".
    • The title track from Soul Cages has lyrics from "Island of Souls" (from the same album).
    • "Seven Days" (from Ten Summoner's Tales) has lyrics from "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic". Sting seems to really like this specific passage of lyrics, since they were also reused in a different Police song, "O My God".
    • "Dead Man's Rope" (from Sacred Love) briefly quotes the chorus of "Walking in Your Footsteps" (from the Police's Synchronicity).
  • Some of the the lyrics from the song "Something There" from Beauty and the Beast were actually reused from the earlier song "Belle."
  • Several songs by Keith Urban use some variation on "The sun is shining".
  • Pavement have done this a couple of times: "Embassy Row" has "A for effort, and a b for delivery" while "Cherry Area" has the very similar "You needed 'A' for effort \ But I give you a 'b' for delivery, my friend". "Carrot Rope" has "Harness your hopes to the folks" while "Harness Your Hopes" has "Harness your hopes to just one person". "Harness Your Hopes" was released as a b-side from Terror Twilight, the same album "Carrot Rope" was on, even though it was actually an outtake from their previous album; it sort of seemed like they were deliberately calling attention to the fact that they reused that lyric.
  • Beck's "Diamond Bollocks" and "Erase The Sun" have several identical lines: "Offices and fountains that they named for you", "Hari-karis spinning 'round the golden looms"note , and "choice cut meats from derelict boulevards". Also, both "Erase The Sun" and "Static" mention "delinquent hygienes". "Erase The Sun" was written before either of the other songs, but wasn't released (as a B-Side) until later.
    • "Sexx Laws" and "Debra" both have the line "I'm a full grown man but I'm not afraid to cry", although this seems to be more of a Call-Back because one's the first song on Midnite Vultures and the other is the last.
    • There was a time when Beck was inordinately fond of the lyric "Yellow cat layin' flat on the road" - "Corvette Bummer" and "Ziplock Bag" both feature this exact line, while in "The Spirit Moves Me", it's a "phony lady" that's "layin' flat on the road" instead. It's probably not a coincidence that "Corvette Bummer" also mentions "a ziplock bag". All three of these songs came out in 1994.
      • Beck sampled an early unreleased folk song of his in "People Gettin' Busy", which features the lines "Empty and cold, burning a light bulb". These lines later appeared in the B Side "One Of These Days". It is speculated that "One Of These Days" was written years before (as most songs recorded for Mutations were), but whether it evolved from that folk song or if that folk song was unrelated remains to be seen.
    • "Little Drum Machine Boy" and "Hot Wax" both feature the lyric "I get down, I get down, I get down all the way" delivered in roughly the same cadence as "Jingle Bells". It made more sense for him to reference a Christmas standard in the former, since it was released as part of Christmas benefit album Just Say Noel. He would also later reuse a lyric about "making gentlemen cry" for "Hollywood Freaks".
  • R.E.M. had an early untitled song (known by fans as "Fall Above") that was performed at least once in 1982, which contains the lines "Speaking in tongues, it's worth a broken lip". These lines reappeared in "Pilgrimage", but both songs are otherwise totally different.

  • Devo's 1974 track All Of Us had lyrics reused in the mid 70s track Softcore Mutations, which was rewritten into a synthrock track and played live in 1979, and then eventually evolved into Going Under in 1981. As the song evolved, the music largely changed, and it kept only a few of the original lyrics. Most notably is that "All Of Us" has a different chorus.
  • "All my life" and "All of my life" seem to be placeholder phrases for Phil Collins - they appear frequently both in Genesis songs and in his solo records.
  • Jim Steinman: "Godspeed! Speed us away!" in "Bad For Good" and the Fire Inc version of "Nowhere Fast". Also "I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday" in "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" and "Love And Death And An American Guitar".
  • Electric Six's Switzerland includes two references to going bananas ("Night Vision" and "Rubber Rocket") and two references to shooting to kill ("Germans In Mexico" and "Mr. Woman"). While it's arguably more of an example of Author Vocabulary Calendar, it's worth noting that this is the same band that named an album Fire because they realized nearly every song mentioned fire.
  • The Lonely Island's "Like A Boss" and "After Party" both include the passage "Black out in a sewer / Meet a giant fish / fuck his brains out". Since both are list songs that rely on Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick, they probably reused the line in "After Party" as a Lampshade Hanging on the fact that they already wrote a song with the same lyrical formula.
  • Franz Ferdinand intentionallly (after all, it is a Concept Album) recycles "No You Girls" in "Katherine Kiss Me".
  • Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar has a few examples of this due to being a Concept Album: "Cryptorchid" and the title track both have the passage "Prick your finger it is done \ the moon has now eclipsed the sun \ the angel has spread it's wings \ the time has come for bitter things". "Kinderfeld" and "Wormboy" both have "Then I got my wings and I never even knew it \ when I was a worm, thought I wouldn't get through it". "Astonishing Panorama Of The End Times" also shares a lyric with "Kinderfeld" ("This is what you should fear / you are what you should fear") - "Astonishing Panorama..." wasn't released until a couple of years after Antichrist Superstar, but was written around the same time.
  • Vampire Weekend uses the lyric "This feels so unnatural/Peter Gabriel, too" in both "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" and "Ottoman".
  • The Spill Canvas uses "it's like a/one thousand papercuts soaked in vinegar" in "Drunken Ballerina Waltz" and "Battles".
  • Tegan & Sara: "Not Tonight" and "Terrible Storm" both have the lyrics "in the back of your car I feel like I have traveled nowhere".
  • Arguably, Weezer's "Crab" and "Take Control" - one has "She won't be comin' back 'round here no way", while the other has "I won't be comin' back 'round here no more".
    • Two Green Album songs and one B-Side from the same recording sessions use slight variations on the same lyric:
      • "Don't Let Go": "Confrontations in my mind / got me runnin' out of time"
      • "Simple Pages": "Simple pages on my mind"
      • "Oh, Lisa": "Simple stages in my mind / now I'm runnin' out of time"
    • Weezer's 2008 album track "Angel And The One" included the lyric "I've got the magic in me": Two years later, Rivers Cuomo would appear on and co-write B.O.B.'s "Magic", which had those same words in its chorus.
  • Cracker's "Big Dipper" and Camper Van Beethoven's "Long Plastic Hallway" both start with the phrase "cigarettes and carrot juice" - David Lowery, who fronts both bands, has said that cigarettes and carrot juice were the typical diet of college students he knew in Santa Cruz, CA.
    • There's also the case of Cracker's Forever having the phrase "guarded by monkeys" turn up in four different songs - "Brides Of Neptune", "Shameless", "What You're Missing" note , and of course "Guarded By Monkeys". Guarded By Monkeys was also a Working Title for the album itself, but the label suggested they pick something more marketable, so they made a different song the title track. The gratuitous monkey references originated as an in-joke between David Lowery and Mark Linkous about making fans question one's sanity by mentioning monkeys in every song on an album.
  • The opening lyrics of metal band Threshold's Wounded Land reappear somewhere in their third album, Extinct Instinct.
  • The Pixies recycle 'A white moon's hot, the other side's not' from "Brick Is Red" for 'when one side's hot, the other side of the moon is not' in "All Over The World", two albums later. And the chorus from early versions of "Subbacultcha" (We're having fu-un!) was recycled for "Distance Equals Rate Times Time"note  (from looking into the su-un!).
  • Andrew W.K.'s "Party Hard" and "Your Rules" both prominently include the lines "We will never listen to your rules/We will never do as others do".
  • Rancid does this. "As One" from their 1994 Self-Titled Album and "Things to Come" from 1998's Life Wont Wait both open with the almost identical lines "War between races / War between lies / War between something that (lays out / was) deep inside."
  • Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper" and "Open All Night", both from Nebraska, have certain lyrical parallels to each other: Both include the couplet "in the wee wee hours your mind gets hazy / radio relay towers lead me to my baby", and "State Trooper" has "Radio's jammed up with talk show stations", whereas in "Open All Night" the radio is "jammed up with gospel stations" instead. "Atlantic City" and "Johnny 99", also both from Nebraska, mention having "Debts no honest man can pay".
  • Andrew Bird's "Fake Palindromes" borrows lyrically from his earlier songs "Trepanation" ("you're six foot tall and east coast bred / some lonely night we can get together / and I'm gonna tie your wrists with leather / and drill a tiny hole into your head") and "Blood" (both mention someone having "blood in [their] eyes for you"). Neither of these other two songs saw proper release, but they were frequently played live before "Fake Palindromes" itself came out.
  • This can even happen with Scatting: In 1990, The Butthole Surfers' live sets included a song filled with manic scatting called "Watlo". The next year, vocalist Gibby Haynes would sing on Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" and use most of those same nonsense syllables as lyrics. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, "Watlo" then showed up on the next Butthole Surfers album under the title "Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales".
    • "All Day", originally from the compilation A Texas Trip, features a guest appearance by Daniel Johnston - the album's liner notes imply that Daniel spontaneously joined in on the band's studio jam session, which might be why he reused lyrics from his own song "Running Water".
  • Future Of The Left's the plot against common sense has two different songs that use the phrase "In principle if not reality" - "Cosmo's Ladder" and "Rubber Animals".
  • Three songs from "Weird Al" Yankovic's first four albums rhyme a line ending with "the six o'clock news": "Buckingham Blues", "Nature Trail To Hell" and "Don't Wear Those Shoes".
  • In the works of Chicago (including Peter Cetera's side work), two choruses use the line "after all that we've been through" ("Hard To Say I'm Sorry" and "After All"), and two choruses use the line "you're the inspiration" ("Just You And Me" and "You're The Inspiration").
  • Metallica's "Damage Inc." from Master of Puppets (1986) contained the line "fuck it all and fucking no regrets". The exact same line appeared on "St. Anger" 17 years later, immediately followed by "I hit the lights on these dark sets", which is a reference to an even older song, 1983's "Hit The Lights".
  • "Miss The Girl" by Soul Coughing reuses a lyric and it's accompanying melody from the Mike Doughty solo song "I Failed To Use It" - "I dream that she aims to be the bloom upon my misery". "I Failed To Use It" didn't see formal release until 2004, but was written in 1996 (two years before "Miss The Girl") for Doughty's rejected solo debut Skittish.
  • Tricky's solo debut Maxinquaye featured two cases of him reusing lyrics from songs he wrote and performed with Massive Attack for their album Protection: "Overcome" is basically his own version of Massive Attack's "Karmacoma" - the lyrics are entirely taken from that song, complete with Martina Topley-Bird singing the phrase "karma coma" in the backing vocals, but set to new music. Meanwhile, "Hell Is Round the Corner" reuses some of his lyrical contributions to Massive Attack's "Eurochild".
  • Björk wrote a song called "Bedtime Story" for Madonna, which used the lyrics "and inside/we're all still wet/longing and yearning" and "and all that you've ever learned/try to forget." Björk reused these lyrics for her own song "Sweet Intuition" (with a variation of the latter lyric - it became "all that you've learned/try to forget it").
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers reused many of the lyrics from "What It Is" (a song Anthony Kiedis and Flea co-wrote for Nina Hagen) for "The Brothers Cup", with slight variations. Another early song of theirs that borrowed from "What It Is" would be "Green Heaven", specifically the lyric "the smile of a dolphin is a built-in feature" - while little else is directly borrowed from "What It Is" in this case, it's sort of notable that the both songs rhyme "feature" with "creature(s)", "teacher" and "meet you".
  • Fun Lovin' Criminals recorded their first demo track in 1995, "King Of New York". Only the chorus was reused in their 1996 hit of the same name, with the music and verses being entirely different. However, the verse line 'I'm the firehose, and everybody knows' was reused in "Mini Bar Blues" in 1998.
  • New Radicals "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough" features some additional lyrics in the booklet - "I know I deceived you, I once told you lies, if you don't believe me, just look in my eyes". These formed part of "A Love Like That" a song frontman Gregg Alexander released as a download a few years later.
  • The Fall's "New Big Prinz" prominently includes a self-reference to their earlier song "Hip Priest" - both include the line "He is not appreciated". This is because despite the semi-Non-Appearing Title, the chorus repeatedly refers to a "big priest".
  • Ira Gershwin used the pun "Lohengrin and bear it" (usually preceded by "it's never too late to Mendelssohn") in lyrics for several musicals, including Oh, Kay! and Lady in the Dark.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the verse to "We're Off To See The Wizard" originally included the couplet "Follow the rainbow over the stream/Follow the fellow who follows a dream." This part of the verse was not actually used in the movie, but E.Y. Harburg recycled the substance of these lyrics for the refrain of "Look To The Rainbow" from Finian's Rainbow.
  • The Cut Song "The House of Marcus Lycus" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum used "side by side by side" to refer to having A Lady on Each Arm (namely, the Gemini). Stephen Sondheim made this phrase the title of a song in Company.
  • Annie Get Your Gun had a Cut Song titled "Something Bad's Gonna Happen," which had in the second part of its chorus: "I can hear people singing though there's no one there/I smell orange blossoms though the trees are bare." The same lines, minus a few syllables, became the germ of "You're Just In Love" from Call Me Madam.
  • The European Portuguese version of "Life in Equestria" from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has its lyrics recycled from "Morning in Ponyville", despite the original English version having original lyrics to that song.
  • WASP's album The Headless Children contains a B-side entitled "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Some of the lyrics and the melody would later form the basis of "The Gypsy Meets the Boy" from The Crimson Idol.
  • Tony Iommi and Phil Anselmo wrote a song called "Inversion Of The Saviors" for the former's album Iommi, but ultimately a different Iommi/Anselmo collaboration ended up on the album instead. Anselmo reused a small portion of the lyrics in the Down song "Steeple".
  • The Song D'Angelo from Diablo Swing Orchestra has the same lyrics as Velvet Embracer, another song of theirs, but in Italian (although it's not a very good translation).
  • Steve Miller Band:
    • The first lines of "Space Cowboy": "I told you 'bout Living In The U.S.A. and you know that I'm the Gangster of Love."
    • And the first lines of "The Joker": "Some people call me the Space Cowboy, some call me the Gangster of Love..."
  • Faith No More's "Last Cup Of Sorrow" shares the lyric "raise it up and let's propose a toast / to the thing that hurts you most" with "Bloody Mary", an early Mr. Bungle demo - Mike Patton wrote the lyrics to both songs.
  • Two Newton Faulkner songs open with the lyric "I don't know why this took so long". They are "Resin On My Heart Strings" and "Just Outside".
  • Both 2008's "Lullaby" and 2014's "Burn the Pages" by Sia:
    Place your past into a book
    Burn the pages, let 'em cook
  • "Heavy Metal Drummer" by Wilco and "Chinese Apple" by Loose Fur (a supergroup featuring Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche) have a short passage of lyrics in common - Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Loose Fur's Self-Titled Album were written within a short period of each other, though the Wilco album was released first:
    Unlock my body and move myself to dance
    Moving warm liquid, flowing blowing glass
    Classical music blasting masks the ringing in my ears
  • Despite the similar titles, "Fell On Black Days" and "Black Days III" by Soundgarden are basically entirely different songs, with only the lyrics "I fell on black days" and "How would I know that this would be my fate?" in common note