Writing: Lyrics

last updated: 8 July 2017

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1994
The Flight Home

1997
Little Bit of Love
Poets
Solo
Blind

1998
Hey Hey Johnny
Little Miss
Whoever Whatever
She Cries
The Joker
Scratched Record
One Reason

1999
Maybe It's A Sign
First Step

2000
Untouched
Last Night In December

2002
I: This Time
II: Pretty Things & Stupid Words
III: Riding Out The Storm

2003
You Should Leave Me Now

2017
Not Even Blue

Some would be tempted to say that song lyrics could hardly be counted as a literary form, but I dispute that emphatically. A quick glance through the work of Patti Smith or Bob Dylan would easily prove that (my favourite Dylan song is "Forever Young").

As a keen listener of various contemporary music, it's little wonder that I have an interest in writing songs myself. As I don't play any musical instruments, the best I could do was write song lyrics in the hope that someday I might find some way of bringing them to life as music. Hopefully you'll notice a gradual improvement in the pieces listed here, as they've been posted in the order in which I've completed them.

1994:

In my last year of Uni (studying an Industrial Maths degree), I decided to choose the unit "Creative Writing 1", not only because of my own interest but because I thought it would add a bit of a twist to my resume. I found it both claustrophobic and enlightening, due to the teacher's preference for particular styles. Our first assignment was three pages of poetry, which I failed fairly dismally. My ego had led me to believe that I had a good thing going with both pieces I had submitted, but on sensible, clear reflection, it was obvious that they were trite and not fully thought out. No, they don't appear here - I'm not foolish enough to do that.

For my second assignment, I decided to take on board some of the teachers key criticisms and attempt to craft something which was much tighter and more in line with her preferences, whilst retaining my own ideas. The result was The Flight Home, an idea I had lying around for ages that I decided could be pulled into shape. It was always intended as a song lyric, so I was thrilled when a friend recently put it to music. However, I soon learned that certain lines were way too ambitious when set to music, so the version you'll find here is the '97 edit of it.

1997:

With one song set to music, I was spurred into action to finish a few more of the many songs I have started over the past few years. In some cases, complete rewrites were required (a daunting task in itself), whilst in other cases there were just a few bad lines that needed fixing. It was around this time that I finished Little Bit Of Love.

I have spent a long time puzzling over why I can't finish songs in a timely manner. Then, in the later part of '97 I somehow started and finished a song in less than a week. I titled that song Poets and although it is little more than a teen-angst piece, it taught me a lot about my writing process (or lack thereof). Why was it easier to finish than the others?

I have finally figured out that I need structure when I write. When I sit around with my notepad jotting stuff down, I'm worrying more about the words than the way they are structured. But at some point they need to be placed into some sort of structure, whether it be something rigorous or something pseudo-freeform.

I promptly took another song that I was comfortable with the theme of, dreamt up a structure for it and then began a re-write. Whilst I don't think I have quite finished Solo, I can now be a little more relaxed about it because there is a definite structure to it. All I have to do is edit the sections which don't work.

Blind is perhaps my first piece to use something substantial from my writing scrapbook. Again, I had a theme and structure worked out and I then went sifting through my scrapbook for inspiration, finding the second stanza which I was able to insert here with minimal changes.

1998:

Hey Hey Johnny takes it's title from songs such as Chuck Berry's "Johnny B Goode" and Elton John's "Empty Garden" (written after John Lennon's death) but hopefully that's where the similarities end. With this one I was trying to strip back my writing to create something simple but sturdy. The chorus came first and then I just started sketching out a couple of verses. When I came back to the song a couple of weeks later, I threw away one of the completed verses and created the rest fairly quickly. Quite simply, I've never written anything that came as easily as this one.

From start to finish, Little Miss took almost a year to write, although it was mainly the result of four or five bursts of enthusiasm and inspiration. The song was written around the unwieldy chorus lyrics, and while I tweaked some of the lines multiple times, I couldn't touch the chorus - for some reason, writing it any other way wouldn't have felt valid to me. Maybe this one should be in my poetry section.

Whenever I talk to my mother about a piece of my writing we always stray onto the topic of whether it has a happy ending or not because invariably, my stuff doesn't. I can now report that with Whoever Whatever, I have finished something with such an ending. To me, this piece demonstrates some obvious Springsteen influences but I don't think it manages any original insight. I envisage the music to this as a solo acoustic number, with just voice, energetic guitar and a sense of humour not too far away. A fun and rather mushy little ditty.

Back at Uni I churned out a piece I called She Cries that wound up in the student newspaper, and I suspect some of the lazy writing in it was the result of some submission deadline. In '97 I re-discovered it and decided that it was worth a re-write, retaining the general structure and a few crucial lines. The '98 finished result could probably do with a new title, but I think the piece itself works just fine. added November 1998

Yet another of my unhappy ending pieces, The Joker is perhaps the most miserable so far. I suppose you could call it the aftermath of Whoever Whatever, even though I started writing this one first. I usually avoid writing in the first person because I don't want friends or family thinking that some work of fiction actually has some basis in reality. I'll now acknowledge that it's possible to misconstrue any of my stuff, regardless of the presented viewpoint. Besides, pieces written from my own experiences generally don't see light of day anyway (for fairly obvious reasons). added November 1998

The bulk of Scratched Record was written in less than a week, although some parts (eg. the chorus) are drawn from much older jottings in my various notebooks. An earlier version did have a line that mentioned a scratched record but the finished version doesn't. I think the chorus may be the weakest part of this one. added December 1998

The first verse of One Reason was written on a bus in North Wales. The rest came later, some quickly and some slowly with a few of the lines pulled from my scrapbook. I want to get away from writing stuff like this (ie. structure, voice), but while I try to come up with something else I'll at least give this one a life outside my archives. added December 1998

1999:

I don't remember where Maybe It's A Sign came from, it's something I had kicking around for a while but was never happy with. This one would be a happy sorta slow song (yes, happy!). added September 1999

First Step was a writing exercise more than anything, short and uncomplicated. added October 1999

2000:

Untouched was just me threading some images together. I couldn't figure out a title for it but then some random soul out on the internet found one for me, some three and half years after I finished it. Thanks Molly! added January 2000

Most of Last Night In December was written on a bus while travelling around Europe. The verses came fairly quickly and easily but I struggled with the chorus. added March 2000

2002:

This Time is meant for something musically aggressive, with a strong and forceful vocal. I'm not sure why I wanted to write these songs from a female point of view but hey, I did, so I guess they're meant to be sung by a female. Others can tell me whether they work or not. added May 2002

Pretty Things & Stupid Words is part 2 of 3. It's less strident than the first and would probably be set to something middle paced, without all that overt aggression. There's a rhyme in this one which feels a little too obvious but I don't want to change it because I like the sentiment that's there. Like most of my attempts at songs, these are perhaps trying to do too much, trying to pack too much narrative into just a song. added May 2002

Riding Out The Storm is part 3 of 3. This didn't change for ages and then soon after I finished the first two parts, I went back and threw away half of what I'd first written. The chorus and final verse are all new and the rest copped a bit of drastic re-arranging. added June 2002

2003:

You Should Leave Me Now grew from the title and I guess is open to a little interpretation. I'm not sure if it works on paper but I think it'll work with the right vocal approach. I started this July 2002 so it took a little under a year to slowly piece together. added June 2003

2017:

Not Even Blue started in 2003 with the title, was neglected for many years and then finally came together through late 2016 and early 2017. added July 2017


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