About a month ago, I was on Twitter, and a Tweet from @LisaSawyer317 caught my attention. I didn’t favourite it, but Lisa was on Blip.fm, and was Tweeting some of the songs she was playing, and the lyrics contained in the songs…
“Hello Darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you, again…”
And it got me thinking about the Songs that I grew up with, and helped form my love of Music and Lyrics… and which songs were the songs that stuck out as being “instrumental” in my learning and loving of songwriting.
I started thinking further, and it has been a long process… one which has revealed many “old friends” which lay dormant in my I-Pod.
I list them, largely, in no particular order, but must include a brief “blurb” about each, to explain it’s place on the list.
1) It Never Rains In Southern California
This IS the exception to the rule, because it is Song # 1. It was the first song that I heard, that I thought… “That guy is SO sad, alone and desperate”
I think (other than the word “bread”) lyrically, it holds up as well today, as it did in 1972.
It is my favourite song, and far and away, the song that EVERY time I write a song, I try to capture the emotions of.
A massive tip of the Songwriter Hat to Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.
Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my parents were not Large “L” Liberals or Hippies, but were cognizant of the arts movement, and aware that many different and diverging voices were suddenly being heard. Poets like Rod McKuen, found a place beside the Works of William Shakespeare… Literature like “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” was placed between George Orwell and P.G. Wodehouse… and the Songs of Leonard Cohen was placed between The Beatles and Vera Lynn.
Suzanne is a song which speaks so powerfully of lust, longing and the desire for those things which are beyond reach. It combines a series of vivid images, with the first and last being about Suzanne herself, and the middle verse being about Jesus, and how many people don’t think about God, except in times of need… “All men shall be sailors then, until the sea shall free them”
It was, I believe, the first song I encountered which dealt with Spirituality in a mortal context… rather than the Hymns and Songs of Praise found in Church.
Yesterday – Paul McCartney & John Lennon
What superlatives can you pile on a Lennon/McCartney composition ? Their later songs opened my eyes to the inclusion of many chords that had fallen out of favour since the halcyon days of the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and the Big Bands. Their lyrics are evocative, but the music stands alone, as well.
Kathy’s Song – Paul Simon
Simon and Garfunkel epitomise my memories of childhood. I’m sure that their harmonies, like the Everly Brothers for this children of the 50’s, are reverberating in my genes.
Wednesday Morning 3 am… Sounds of Silence… I Am A Rock… The Boxer… For Emily (Whenever I May Fine Her)… A Hazy Shade Of Winter… I could go on and on.
But I remember seeing a note in a Simon and Garfunkel book, how Paul Simon had been passed a note after finishing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and asked to add another verse, because it was too short. So the “Sail On, Silver Girl” verse was written… but never quite meshed or blended in to the rest of the song.
This was the introduction to what songwriters call Second (or Third) Verse Hell.
Lyrically, or Musically… again, I could only hope to attain a portion of the altitude.
I selected “Kathy’s Song” over “For Emily” because of the line…
“So you see, I have come to doubt, all that I once held as true. I stand alone, without beliefs. The only truth, I know, is you.”
C’mon. EVERYONE wishes they had said that.
Close Every Door – Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
The first time I heard the song was in an elementary school auditorium, with an elementary school choir singing a capella with only a piano for accompaniment. In my head, I HEARD the strings. I heard the Cellos, the Violas, the Stand Up Bass. The whole String Section powering in, at the end.
THAT is the power of music.
House Of The Rising Sun – Folk Song
I thought this had been written by Eric Burden… and was stunned to find out it was an old folk song ! I think it opened my eyes to the opportunities of “messing” with songwriting… that it doesn’t have to be structured like Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus. There IS no Chorus in this song. It just goes Verse to Verse… and is none the worse for it. An invaluable lesson.
Last but not least…
We’ll Meet Again – Ross Parker and Hughie Charles
Vera Lynn sang the heck out of it, every Sunday night in my Parent’s house… It was “Big V” night, as my father turned up the record player as loud as my Mum would let him.
Dame Vera had (still has) a powerful voice, and for my Dad, it was a time to reflect on the loss of five years of his life, and a great number of his friends, to a terrible war… It was a promise to family and friends that had passed, that the day of re-union would come for us all… It was a reminder of a brief respite in a canteen in Egypt, with my father and a friend playing piano for a group of battle-weary Brits, who had seen too much blood, and too much hurt, and wer egoing back to do it again. It was, for my Father, so many things that I’ll never understand, that he prayed I would never HAVE to understand. For that reason alone, it gets included.
In a few months, I will probably look at this list with fresh eyes, and slap my head thinking “Why didn’t I include THAT song” !!! But after reviewing my selections, through recent days, I feel that my selections are (with Si/Gar and Beatles exclusions aside) as good as any group can be.
To select one song from these artists, demeans and diminishes the rest of their catalogue, and I mean no disrespect in making my selection.
But THESE are the songs that spoke to me as a child, and made me want to be a Songwriter, and helped form me into the writer I am today…
So blame THEM !!!