Isn’t a song a great thing? You know the feeling… when you’re young and you’re hearing all these great sounds for the first time – whether it be rock, Britpop, punk, dance, dubstep, whatever particular era you have connected with. I’ve had a few ‘eras’ in my time! Ha ha. The beginning of an ‘era’ I remember very fondly was hearing “Babies” by Pulp for the first time. Do you remember the first time? I certainly do. I was very much into rock at the time… and then this amazing geeky, glam style band comes on Top of the Pops (or something similar) and blows my mind. It sounded fresh and spectacularly weird. But intensely catchy and emotional. Little did I really understand at the time that they were just tapping into a style that had been and gone long before – it didn’t matter… it rocked my world. Led me into my ‘indie’ era very nicely. I had a band at the time. We had previously been tapping into my indie/punk/pop past… but the whole Britpop thing really swept the nation’s bands in a wave of new thinking and eventual mediocrity.
The song is an amazing thing isn’t it? I mean… what is it? As an entity what is it exactly? It is a collection of sounds that can move people – make them laugh, cry, dance, get them angry (Henry Rollins I’m pointing at you!). Some of you out there (in fact most, if the amount of dross on the net is anything to go by) are in a band these days. Or solo. Or a ‘dj’. Whatever. So… what is a song? How does it come to be?
Paul McCartney likes to claim that ‘Yesterday’ came to him in a dream. I can kind of believe it. There was a time, long ago, when I had a dream that I was in a band and we had written the greatest ever song. And in the dream I had it all, the verse, chorus, lyrics, tune, everything. And it really was great! When I woke up, for a few minutes I had it in my head… and it was really special! But a cup of tea later… gone. All of it. Gone. That could have been my ‘scrambled eggs’ – I mean ‘Yesterday’. The point being that a song can come from no-where. Absolutely from no-where. And then I phoned Jack Black and told him all about it!
So, what is a song? One minute you have nothing. A little later, after a bit of tomfoolery in a studio you have something that never existed before. I sat down today with my acoustic guitar and just let my fingers stroll around the fret-board. I pressed record on my studio desk and within 5 minutes I had the foundations of a new song. It didn’t exist while I was out for Father’s Day earlier… but now it does. And it may exist for evermore (if it goes on the album). A song is such a random event. If your favourite artist hadn’t picked the guitar up that day. Or if Lady Ga Ga was washing her hair that particular evening. Or if the Wombles had been tidying Wimbledon Common like they were supposed to be in the 70s rather than hanging out with Mike Batt. You see what I’m saying? A song is a tragic chance of a missed opportunity. The greatest song I could ever have written may have been conceived a couple of days ago during that dire England match. But I chose to watch the overpaid sock puppets rather than pick up my guitar. Thus… the song does not exist. What is a song? Is it something that occurs when someone can be bothered to write one? Thank God Jimmy wasn’t going to the Post Office to renew his car tax on the day he wrote “Stairway to Heaven”!
What is a song? A song is a hit and miss, random, never to be repeated, one-off event. Blink and you miss it! Blink and you miss the hit you could have written. So what are we songwriters left with? We are left with a collection of moments. A collection of ‘found notes’.
A collection of found notes can change your life. Alter your attitude to life, shape your character. The emo kids in town huddled under the trees. The club girls out on a Saturday night dressed as fairies complete with skimpy underwear and wand! The metallers… the indie kids… the punks. Everyone. Everywhere. And all because they once heard a collection of found notes that struck a chord (literally) with them. Found a route direct to the heart. Formed their being.
That’s not to say you can’t then be influenced by a new collection of found notes. You see, with Brit-Pop, although the first of the bands found a collection of notes, the bands following in their slip-stream didn’t bother. They just re-used those notes… again and again. And hence Brit-Pop was over. You can also assign political reasons to the collapse of the music… but really, all music is just waiting for the ‘next big thing’ to come along and knock it off its perch. Nirvana destroyed Hair Metal. Oasis destroyed Rock (before then becoming it). Something is always there to destroy something else. Now pop is the king again. Everyone is trying to find out what Lady Ga Ga has hidden in her pants.
What is a song? A song is an Easter egg hidden for the kids to find. And everyone knows the kids are alright! When that first human first strung some sounds together little did he (I’m gonna assume it was a he!!!) know the influence he would have on the world.
What is a song? A collection of found notes. If someone else finds them before you do then I’m afraid you can kiss the hits goodbye. You will be forever playing Wonderwall outside the shopping precinct. Come on buskers… find some DIFFERENT notes!!!