Lyrical Tattoos: Of Singing and Inking

Tattoos have come a long, long way, baby.

The dregs of society had their pinup dolls; the hippie revolutionaries had their peace signs; and today, we can tattoo whatever we want on our skin. It is self-expression mixed with art. Music is one of the paramount mediums for art and expression. The artist or the band creates their vision; the fans immerse themselves in the vision, forging a powerful bond. A few lines from a song which at some point in life had helped you out, which reminds you of a time long gone by or which simply makes you feel like yourself – that is all you need to scribble on your body.

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division

Imagine by John Lennon

My pretty friend Sunneith's equally pretty Radiohead tattoo

Awake by Textures, another of Sunneith's tattoos

Come As You Are by Nirvana

A lover of tattoos, I am. If my cup had runneth over with cash, I would have had several more tattoos emblazoned on my skin by now. My skin is destined to be a notebook because I prefer words over fairies and fonts over rainbow hues. Ink in the shape of poetry and lyrics; they look gorgeous on skin.

I have two lyrical tattoos. “Strength Beyond Strength” by Pantera is etched on my left ribs and from the song Rotten Apple by Alice in Chains, I have “I’ve written my own part” scribbled on my right arm. They are meaningful, personal and poignant, like most lyrical and literary tattoos are. Well, that is not completely true.  I saw the lyrics of Circus by Britney Spears permanently etched on someone’s back. That’s it. I had to mention that. The deep end of lyrical tattoos. For those who want to view prettier and far more elegant tattoos, head over to Flickr’s The Lyrical Tattoos Pool.

Strength Beyond Strength by Pantera

Quick tips on getting lyrical tattoos:

1.  Interpretation: Make sure your tattoo stands for what you want it to mean.  We’ve learnt in poetry class that a line can be twisted and contorted to mean anything. While that is true, words are far more restrictive than imagery when it comes to interpretation. You can interpret a tattoo of a flower any way you can. It can represent death of a loved one or love for botany! Try interpreting “Biotech is Godzilla”.

2.  Homage: Someone once told me, “Always get a tattoo of a band which has disbanded, preferably due to death – then later they don’t come out with a crappy album which will make you hate them and your tattoo forever!” This might be a bit extreme, but hey, if it’s your first tattoo, then might stick to songs from the legends. Justin Bieber need not apply here.

3. The 40-year test: This is a little test I apply for all tattoos. Three little questions are on this test – How will it look, 40 years from now? Will it mean the same to me? And will I be the ultimate douche for getting this tattoo?

4. Interpretation, Part Deux: We all have our own interpretations of our loved songs, but so do the guys who write these songs.  According to Green Day vocalist/guitarist, Billie Joe Armstrong, their song “Time of Your Life” is a classic “fuck you” song, and most definitively not a romantic ballad, which everyone thinks that it is. Now, you wouldn’t want to tattoo a “fuck you” song for your wife on your chest, right? It’s best if you do your research.

So, if you had to, which lyrics would you tattoo on your body? An homage to the Beatles or the Britney?

Also See: Contrariwise, a collection of literary tattoos

Images thanks to Flickr’s Lyrical Tattoos Pool and Sunneith Revankar


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