John Otway 'a better lyricist than Dylan'

THE NATION'S favourite song lyric is "Imagine", by John Lennon, according to an unorthodox poll by the BBC to mark National Poetry Day. Many Lennon and McCartney songs were nominated by the public but Lennon's solo hit from 1971 was the clear winner.

THE NATION'S favourite song lyric is "Imagine", by John Lennon, according to an unorthodox poll by the BBC to mark National Poetry Day. Many Lennon and McCartney songs were nominated by the public but Lennon's solo hit from 1971 was the clear winner.

Less clear was how many votes it takes to make it into the top ten and whether fans were colluding to vote repeatedly for their favourites. Robbie Williams, former Take That member, had two songs in the all-time top ten and an obscure 1978 B-side by John Otway made it to number seven. Bob Dylan, whose lyrics appear in anthologies of poetry and are analysed by academics, failed to make the top ten.

The BBC refused to say how many people took part in the vote but said it would have been impossible to rig. "We took ... postcodes when they voted and checked with the John Otway votes to make sure they didn't all come from the same place," said a BBC spokeswoman.

"Most of John Otway's votes came by e-mail and it seems he has a lot of fans who are online. There were also a lot of people who voted for 'Beware of the Flowers' who didn't know who had written it." Otway, who is a favourite on the festival circuit and sometimes uses the comedian Attila the Stockbroker to translate his songs into German for any German tourists in his audience, was ecstatic when The Independent told him the news yesterday.

"Wow, I beat Dylan," he said. "That's brilliant. I think it must come from playing over 3,000 gigs and singing 'Beware of the Flowers' nearly every night. I obviously have incredibly loyal fans, which is what happens when you have the kind of micro-stardom that I have."

The BBC said Dylan could have made it into the top ten if his fans had all voted for the same song. However, 15 Dylan songs received votes - with "Mr Tambourine Man" getting the most, to put it among the top 20 favourites. Those voting clearly felt that sounding like gibberish is no drawback for a good lyric and put Lennon's nonsense "I am the Walrus" - the original of which sold at auction last week for £80,000 - in the top ten alongside the undeniably silly "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.

Outside the top ten singer-songwriters with reputations for wordsmithery, such as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, were also more contemporary singers such as Billy Bragg and Jarvis Cocker.

A few votes were also gained for some very silly songs, including "Let's do it", by Victoria Wood. It includes the line "Beat me on the bottom with a Woman's Weekly".

Nation's favourite lyrics

1. Imagine John Lennon

2. Angels Robbie Williams

3. Bohemian Rhapsody Queen

4. I am the Walrus The Beatles

5. Millennium Robbie Williams

6. Yesterday The Beatles

7. Beware of the Flowers John Otway

8. Sit Down James

9. Nights in White Satin Moody Blues

10. Stardust Hoagy Carmichael

"Imagine", John Lennon

Imagine there's no HeavenIt's easy if you tryNo Hell below usAbove us only skyImagine all the peopleliving for today ...

"Angels", Robbie Williams

And through it all she offers me protectiona lot of love and affectionwhether I'm right or wrong and down the waterfall wherever it may take me ...

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