Skip to main content

Ten Popular Songs On Which The Vocals Are Spoken Rather Than Sung

Jesus Christ Superstar Villain Murray Head Hit Number One With Bangkok


They could be considered to the music world what the hosts of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption are to sports fans, even if not nearly as well-known. Unlike the TV show emcees Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, the duo who host Sound Opinions are heard rather than seen.

The show, featuring Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, airs weekly on National Public Radio. Each episode usually finds the two debating an issue about music, primarily when it comes to songs with a common theme.

For example, a recent session left the two hosts defending their choices for tracks on which the vocals are spoken more than sung. DeRogatis listed “Coney Island Baby” by Lou Reed, “Is That All There Is” by Peggy Lee, “Parklife” by Blur, “Belong” by REM, and “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads.

Kot's first choice was Barry White's hit “Can't Get Enough of Your Love,” as well as several lesser-known songs. Neither host included in his list any of the famous Talking Blues songs, a Sixties trend made popular by folk artists such as Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan.

Even without classics like “Mean Talking Blues” or “Talking Vietnam Blues,” there are still plenty of tracks the hosts could have mentioned. Here are ten additional songs in which the vocals are spoken more than sung, starting with one by a former leader of The Beatles.

Songs which could have been on the list:

1. Working Class Hero by John Lennon

Backed by nothing but an acoustic guitar, Lennon's voice is darkly vitriolic on this introspective cut from Plastic Ono Band.

2. Safety Joe by John Prine

Much of the late folksinger's material features a degree of narrative singing, but his voice simply speaks every verse on this Fair And Square classic with the only singing in the chorus.

3. 60 and Punk by Death Cab For Cutie

Ben Gibbard is near whispering the spoken vocal on this quiet ode to a washed-up idol, making it the perfect choice to close the Thank You For Today album.

4. A Simple Desultory Philipic by Simon and Garfunkel

Scroll to Continue

“When he says Dylan, he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever he was,” Paul Simon says on this delightful tune from Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme.

5. Convoy by C.W. McCall

Considering the song is all about communicating on a citizen's band radio, it should come as no surprise that McCall speaks every lyric except the chorus.

6. One Night in Bangkok by Murray Head

A decade after showcasing a strong vocal performance as Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar, Murray Head decided to get a number one solo hit by speaking rather than singing.

7. TV Age by Joe Jackson

“This ain't the Stone Age, we don't have rocks in our heads” Jackson asserts on this track from Night and Day, the record that spawned hits like “Breaking Us In Two” and “Stepping Out.”

8. Here Comes My Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Watching her approach Petty kind of talks about her from afar but, as she gets closer and closer, his excitement builds into singing on this huge hit from Damn the Torpedoes.

9. I'm the Coolest by Alice Cooper

Taking on the role of the Devil for this track on Goes To Hell, Alice speaks in a deep voice that rises only when the condemned utters the interjection “For Heaven's Sake.”

10. Fool To Cry by the Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger speaks as if to a child on the verses for this single from the Black and Blue album, switching to a singing voice only on the refrain.

Related Articles