Here’s the place to do your thing, whether it’s to share a link or an interesting aside or to go on a free-form trolling expedition because you are incapable of finding a way into others’ threads!
Sometimes telling a friend the TRUTH is not enough. Sometimes it helps to introduce an element of reciprocity. I think.
Let’s test this notion out…
I’ve seen a couple of stories the past week from artists talking about their songwriting process. I love reading and hearing about how artists wrote a particular song.
First, there’s this Guardian piece with Nick Lowe talking about the writing of “Cruel to Be Kind.” Great little piece, but Nick may regret sharing this memory:
Ian Gomm, from the Brinsley days, had taught me the triumphal chord at the top of the song, where I sing “B-a-a-ab-y, you gotta be cruel to be kind”, so he has a co-writing credit.
Friend of the Hall Gomm posted this article on his Facebook page and recalled adding more to the song than that single chord.
A richer article written by the song’s author itself, Peter Holsapple of The dB’s, appeared on our Rock Town Hall Facebook page, courtesy of the excellent Steve Hoffman Music Forums. It’s actually a 2008 New York Times article about the song “Love Is for Lovers,” the single from the band’s third album, Like This. Maybe we even covered this back in 2008, but hey, “It’s COVID-19, Jake.” It’s interesting to read Holsapple’s aspirations for the song and the confluence of circumstances that he felt went into its failure to even sniff the charts.
These are both good tales, but what’s your favorite songwriter tale about the writing of a song?
On a related note, I wish there was a Boomer edition of the podcast (and now Netflix series) Song Exploder. which is all about the writing of a song. My problem is that so many of the artists are youngsters way outside my tastes that I really have to focus to appreciate what these people put together. Although I’m exhausted by paying attention to some milquetoast artist like Bon Iver telling me about the creation of his boring song, I usually do appreciate the process. To give you an idea of how much I hunger for a version of this podcast with artists whose music I dig, the Netflix series episode with REM and “Losing My Religion” was a relative godsend for me. Some of you may know how I feel about REM and that song.
Sometimes I catch a clip of Frank Zappa pontificating on culture and think to myself, I don’t like that guy’s music, but I do appreciate how full of himself he is.
I am accused, with some regularity, of being full of myself. I can’t argue with that. I am. I deeply believe that we should all be a little more comfortable with being full of ourselves. The more the merrier. That’s always been a driving concept behind Rock Town Hall.
Other times I catch an interview with Zappa and think to myself, That guy is full of himself. I had to bail on this clip, for instance, at the 2:20 mark, when he asks his interviewer, “Is that too technical?”
I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to cursing, or swearing, as some call it. While raising our boys, I frequently stressed the importance of not cursing too liberally. I probably shared the following Dad Lesson with them 50 times through the years: An interviewee was cruising along toward a job offer, as I grilled her, when she casually dropped the word “shit” into one of her answers. In my mind, I thought, “Oh no, that’s a clear display of poor judgment in the professional world in which we work.” One of those giant canes from a burlesque-set cartoon came out and yanked her off the stage.
“But Dad,” they have told me at least 200 times, “you curse.”
“Yes, but usually that’s only when I’ve lost my temper or knocked over a glass of water.”
Each boy, at points, has played me a favorite song of theirs that I found a little too crude for comfort.
“But Dad,” they remind me, “you listen to songs with curse words and crude content. You make us watch movies with stuff like that.”
“Yes, but that’s in the service of the Truth. I’m fine with all sorts of things if it’s in the service of Art and Truth.”
It’s probably a pain in the ass, excuse my French, to be one of my sons.
I just got a note from an old friend, and for some reason my favorite curse-infested line from Public Enemy came to mind. I should have it cued up in the video I posted.
Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Motherfuck him and John Wayne
I have no evidence that Elvis or John Wayne deserved such a crude verse in “Fight the Power,” but in the middle of all that song’s fury, it perfectly meets my criteria for allowable, even necessary crudeness.
You are welcome to your own standards of crudeness – I know some of you to be real potty-mouths! What’s your favorite use of cursing in a song?
I don’t know about you, but Christmas is a good time for receiving (and giving, to the appropriate loved ones) music-related gifts. Santa got me the Chris Frantz book, Remain in Love. I’ve been blowing through it. Frantz writes like he drums: direct, concise, and not afraid to land a hard accent when the content calls for it. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s good getting a totally unpretentious point of view on the typically pretentiously portrayed Talking Heads. To be fair, David Byrne was refreshingly down to earth when discussing the band in his excellent How Music Works book, which I read this summer.
Santa also got me Patti Smith‘s Year of the Monkey and what promises to be an incredibly pretentious book: Brian Eno: Visual Music. I haven’t gotten into it yet, but’s loaded with imagery that I assume is associated with Eno’s ambient music, and the text is in 3-point type. I’ll don’t often need my reading glasses, but I will in this case.
How about you? Any new music-related items in your household? Any music-themed gifts you gave your loved ones?