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Friday, June 24, 2011

Songwriter's Navel: Week 22, In Which I Catch Up And Completely Miss The Mark

Recording of the last song of the previous session. I'm glad to be caught up and glad to be done with those songs, as I don't feel like I produced much of anything good.

But new leaf, yo!

The final assignment was to write a song in the style of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. You, like I was, might be saying "Who the frilly heck are Felice and Boudleaux Bryant?" So glad you asked, because they wrote every song that ever has been or ever will be written. (Also, check out Felice's sweet 70s threads.) Ok, not quite, but they DID write, "Wake Up, Little Susie," and a shit-ton of Everly Brothers songs, including "Love Hurts," which I will admit I did not know the Everly Brothers had recorded, because I am a Philistine.

They also wrote a song called, "Hey Joe," which could not be any less THAT "Hey, Joe" if it tried, for Carl Smith is no Jimi Hendrix, and Jimi Hendrix is no Carl Smith. My appetite for the absurd and silly made me latch on to "Hey, Joe," because the "jolly dolly"-type lyrics and obsessive-compulsive internal rhyming are right up my alley.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote "Boy meets girl, and there's blood everywhere" in my notebook. I'm not sure that I didn't steal it from a song we were talking about in class, or worse, from a classmate. I'm worried about that, but not so worried that I didn't use that line as the starting point for this song.

The line I started with got chopped up in the process, and I knew that the last line of the first verse was something along the lines of "a case of girl meets boy." The last word of the verse ended up being "boy," which needed to rhyme with line 2, and lines one and 3 ended up having internal rhymes, but not rhyming with one another.

Point-of-View seems to have been the problem of the session for me. I started out thinking that the narrator of the song was "the boy" in question—a man who'd gotten embroiled in a bad relationship. This gave me an incredibly shitty line "By the time I got there, there was blood everywhere." What the hell kind of line is that? You have the back-to-back theres and a sentence that is boring as all get out when spoken, let alone sung. Songwriting is about killing your children, though, so once I had killed off the other problematic character on the canvas, things started to shape up:

Just a [D] small-time stop on her [A] way to the top
She’s on a [A7] mission to search and destroy [D7]
Her look [D] is devil may care, but there’s [A] blood everywhere
Another [A7] classic case of girl meets [D-->Db] boy after boy after boy after boy

Ok, so the lyrics started to come together. The melody started out being boring, derivative, and altogether blah, and it never really improved. The best thing I can say is that I at least figured out (after beating my head against the wall in the OTSFM balcony wing and alerting the world to the fact that there are, apparently, foil lasagna pans in the ceiling there) that a D7 at the end of line 2 (rather than a plain old D), would at least make it sound slightly less like a rip off of Paul Thorn's fantastic "Great Day (To Whoop Somebody's Ass)"

After I had the first verse down, the other verses just became sort of wordplay challenges. And since no song by me is complete without Judeo-Christian allusions, I give you verse 2:

She goes from [D] town to town, she’s [A] makin’ the rounds
She’s the [A7] fire and they’re gonna get burned [D]
She’s a [D] Delilah, you see, she’s a [A] downright Eve
But [A7] Samson and Adam never learn

The only songwriting award I'm ever likely to win is for most religious content generated by a complete heathen. But in this case, it's only partly my fault! I know that I didn't want to go to the chorus until after the second verse, as the chorus is not particularly strong, and the verses are short. I wanted something about rules or learning to lead into it, so I figured the verse would end with "never learn." From there, well, I'm sorry: Can I help it that Delilah and Eve just happen to be two singable vixens whose beaux are not very smart?

Initially, I'd thought of ending the verses that led into the chorus with an Ab7->A7 slide, echoing the Db->D slide at the end of the first verse. It just ended up sounding stupid. The dramatic arpeggio sounds stupid, too, I know.

The chorus is still the weakest part of this, despite harmonic help from the Kernel. My original chord progression did not have the F#, went to F#m after the Bm, and just went from G to G7 before ending on the D. This is better, but the lyrics are bad; I already have a song called "Close Enough"; and that song sounds suspiciously like this one these days.

Look but [D] don’t touch [F#]
You see her [Bm] baby blues
Across a [Bm/A] crowded room
Don’t you [G] think that’s close enough [G#dim]?
Look but don’t touch [D]

Being lazy, I couldn't help but notice that I had used "learn," but not "rule." Sweet! I knew what verse 3 ended with. Remember how I said that songwriting is about killing your children? Sometimes we fail at that. And by "we," I mean "I." See, I had a whole Helen of Troy/Face that launched a thousand ships thing that i wanted to work in well after it was clear that it was not going to work at all. And still it made it in here.

She’s all [D] chantilly lace with a [A] dangerous face
Launched a [A7] thousand ships filled with fools [D]
Just a [D] cryin’ shame they keep on [A] playin’ her game
Keep gettin’ taken [A7], they keep breakin’ the rule

Once I got that atrocity down on paper, I thought I was all done. While I was literally in the act of putting on pants to leave the house, this damned song insisted on another verse. WTF, man?

She ain’t the [D] girl next door, she’s nothing [A] you’ve seen before
She’s a [A7] drive-by she’s a hit and run [D]
She ain’t [D] nobody’s gal, she’s a [A] femme fatale
A Mata Hari [A7->Ab7], she’s a smoking gun

There you have it. Eight weeks, 7 song equivalents. Here's to moving on to better things this session.

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