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The History of an Average Songwriter in the United Kingdom
Being A Songwriter
Being a songwriter is a burden
Being a songwriter means you sit around wrestling with words in your head whilst all around you are having fun and seeing the world in colour. Your world is in monochrome...at least until the Wizard of Oz-akin moment when the song is complete...and the world changes to colour. That time never really comes though. You'll never get to write that perfect pop-song...cos it just doesn't exist. There's not a songwriter in the world who can say they have reached their spiritual perfection. If it was that easy to hit the peak...people like Paul McCartney would have put down the pen years ago.
So you carry on.
Writing....plotting....analysing....creating...destroying...sabotaging...until you drop down dead.
It's a disease....a madness.
I became a songwriter in 1971....when...as a ten-year-old...I scrawled the words to a newly-written poem on the blackboard...and sang it to my class. It was a beautful rendition (no it wasn't) My classmates swooned in admiration (no they didn't) The teacher of that class still talks fondly of it now (no she doesn't)
I can't go anywhere without a pen and paper...that's a ball and chain. I remember in the 80's when my sister's boyfriend looked down upon me for having the temerity to want to write my stupid little songs. 'Always carrying books around' he sneered...as he put his Kajagoogoo album on the Gerrard Deck.
Kajagoogoo...White Feathers....spring 1983. The future of rock n roll.
That poor critical fool doesn't even know that I immortalised his cruel snarled words in a subsequent hit (not) single of mine called Star On The Radio- people used to slag me off and I wasn't fond of that....always carrying books around...what the hell is wrong with that?
So...parents...if the day comes that your little bundle of delight runs up to you and excitedly yelps 'I've written a song'...that's the signal to part them from all pens forever...lock up their notepads...chop their scheming little digits off if you have to...and derail all their songwriting aspirations*
*Don't take that literally...don't disassemble the poor little kid anatomically....or if you do...don't tell anyone that you were advised by me
I'll crack on. All I'm doing with this hub is displaying my songs...as written straight into the songbook. You'll see that the lure of songwriting takes no prisoners. What I mean is....most of this stuff is banal and tawdry...to put it forthrightly. I must have thought that some of this stuff was good at the time...I look back at it now and laugh...but it IS a reminder...to me...of a beautiful time in my life...when the only thing that mattered was scribbling the next line to a 'masterpiece'
I'm starting with a 1983 book....I don't know why...random. I was 22 years old...you'd have thought that my songwriting prowess might have reached a level of semi-maturity by that age...but nah...it's the same old shit I'd been writing for years before that...and I'm still churning out the same inanities now.
I don't care.
Times have changed...these notebooks of mine were carried around in pubs and clubs...along with my diaries....but now I find i can write a song on the NOTES section on my i-phone...e-mail it to myself...and copy and paste and do shit with it on my laptop....BUT....I still carry my songbooks around. For me...times will only change when the art of actually building a song changes.
A great singer-songwriter friend of mine....Glenn Prangnell...aka Groovy Uncle...said to me just a few days ago:
Lonely days are gone....i'm a coming home...my baby just sent me an e-mail
It just doesn't work, does it?
PLEASE NOTE: I shall interrupt my songwords with random quotes from famous songwriters (and other people). Well...it IS about songwriting after all. It doesn't mean I'm trying to align myself with famous songwriters...Heaven Forbid. There's been-and-will-be an infinity of songwriters...some genius...some good...some bad...as in any line....painters and decorators...sculptors....dancers...tyre-fitters. Some good...some bad. I'm not sure that you can get a genius tyre-fitter...but I'm here to be proved wrong.
Not all of my songbooks had titles...but his one did...it's called...BASEMENT MANIA
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Yeah...I've actually made a half-decent demo of this....I wonder where that is now???? Not seen or heard it for decades
Yeah...well Sparks were always my favourite band....so it's inevitable that I'd be doodling with their name :)
Having listened to great writers like James Taylor and Carole King I felt there was nothing new that was coming around that really represented me and the way I felt...so I started writing my own stuff
How are you doing? Getting bored yet? I am....that's for sure...but you know....for me it's good to find out what I was thinking way back then. It's kinda like sitting on a fence with a metal toffee hammer in your hand....and tapping away...repetitively...at your own incisors.
I recorded that one above too....one sunny afternoon...at Nick Hughes' house at 1, The Old Shoes, Chart Sutton, Kent. I had a portable Hitachi b&w tv...which just happened to have a built-in tape-deck...which picked up the sound very well. I recorded a whole 'album' of material that day...on cassette...of course. Called it Musical Abortions
Jesus...just found the cassette. Lights Across The Hallway was NOT on it...that must be on another one....but the next song...Suburban Murder was.
MUSICAL ABORTIONS - January 27th 1984
Your Numbers (don't count)
Wish You Were Beautiful
The Coolest One
I Never Said
Let's Ave Some Fun
I Think (therefore I am)
The Enigmatic Friday
Is The Media Open?
Abasement In A Basement
I Can't Let Go
I dunno??? What if you could go back in time? If I could go back in time I would never have written that first song....cos it started me on a process that has fucked my life up completely.
Life Begins @ 40
Yeah....so I've reached page 40 of the Basement Mania songbook. It's been an education...for me....cos I didn't realise I could write such truly awful songs. Some of these 'songs' I've not seen in 30 years. I don't tend to look back at old songbooks...I just put them on the shelf and start a new one...ha ha. It's funny to see some of the songs here...ones that were written and left to fester....never to see the light of day again. A few of them have remained with me.
Archibald has just been re-written for my recent musical The Astonishing Reaction of Archibald to the Demise of Amy Winehouse.
Your Numbers (don't count) has been re-written as I Am A Spider and Happy Christmas...the latter of which we still play live with my band, Unlucky Fried Kitten
Goodbye Toys was a regular song in the set of our 80's band Acceleration
In My Horizon was a regular in my 80's band Mile High Club
The Elevator Dance....is a song I play a lot now...but could never get right as a band song. Oddly enough...it is due to be Unlucky Fried Kitten's next studio song. (possibly with a famous guest guitarist who has to remain nameless)
* I have just noticed that Goodbye Toys is #41....sorry....but you get the idea?
I'VE ALSO JUST REALISED THAT THIS IS NOT EVEN THE SAME VERSION OF THE SONG. Only the title remains the same......ha ha...Goodbye Toys
You'll find the TRUE version of Goodbye Toys a few pages back
Hmmmm....that one above was my tribute to one of my idols...Steve Harley. For those that don't know....The Psychomodo is the title of a Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel album from the 70's.
Yes....I know it's a Tears For Fears song but we covered it live with our 80's band Acceleration. I say 'covered it live' but I think we just incessantly practiced it....myself on Casio MT45 keyboards and vocals....and Gary Northeast on Gibson SG and Vox AC30....strange mix...that one. We did play it once...at a party....to a garden filled with stoned hippies. The song kinda...fell apart...ha ha
Jesus....forgot about this one....I Never Said...it sounded like a Chas & Dave song. I won't tell you which one....cos I don't think that would be pleasing you ;-)
Let's Have Some Fun
I made a half-decent version of that....I think. It's on YouTube...I think
Money is a song we done in Acceleration and it was written by Gary Northeast.
There is a live version of it...on YouTube
The 60 Point
Yeah....so that's about half-way through for the Basement Mania songbook. Gotta have a rest....it really is doing my head in. I'll probably do a late 90's songbook when I have finished scanning this one. Songwriting should have improved by then.
Before I shoot....I just found the Tunesy Tuesday cassette
Death In Venice
Is The Media Open?
The Enigmatic Friday
In The Horizon
Made In Russia
Guess Who's Coming To Tea?
Red Turns To Blue
THE OVER 60 CLUB
That's not too bad going....page 90....it took me longer to scan these pages up than it did to write the damn songs...ha ha
Hitting the Hundred
Well...there's a hundred pages so far...it's been odd. It's interesting to see this little song on page 100...Unlucky Fried Kitten. It was never used or thought of again...and then...in 1995 (eleven years later...for the bad-mathers) I called my new band...you got it....Unlucky Fried Kitten. I really thought I'd made it up in '95....but it had clearly crossed my mind for a fleeting moment in '84. It's common parlance now. A lot of people who don't even know of my little band use the phrase/term/malignome on sporadic occasion. Myself....I use it every bloody day....it's like a conveyor-belt around my waist. Sometimes it gets too much.
Onto the next 100
Onward Christian Songwords
Over The Ton
I do have to say that something goes terribly Cheech and Chong here. (Sorry...I was doing CRS way before Pete Tong came along) Yeah...I began to start numbering the pages very wrong....I am not sure why that is??? Instead of naming each pand in order...as in 1,2,3,4,5 etc....I started to put the number on alteranative pages. Oh well. it just means that there are a lot more songs and pages....sorry.
Anyway....here we go ;-) xxx (again)
There's a few out of this last little lot that we've used in various line-ups. Nick and myself made a rather nice demo of Headlines...more or less at the time of writing the song.
Revenge was performed in a few bands...including Acceleration and Death In Venice. There's a recording of the song (Revenge)on youtube, actually.
A Sin's A Sin was done on a 4-track...and it came out rather nice.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this article...so if you have any opinions to offer...or experiences or examples to share...please put them in the 'comments ' section below.
Perhaps you have your own story to tell ?
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I will respond to all comments and I look forward to hearing from you