Sunday, 4 March 2012
Music, words and writing.
Once a month I select six songs to play in front of a crowd of mainly english in a French bar. I not only play, but I attempt to sing. The results are varying. The first time I played at the bar I had to down a bottle of wine in order to gain the nerve to get up and play and I think, if I was honest, the applause I received after each song was a little sympathetic. The last time I played though it was sober and the effect was that where alcohol was absent, nerves like a good old missed friend kicked in. So, as I struck up the chords to English Rose by The Jam, my fingers appeared to have a mild stroke. I did manage to 'recover' half way through the song but the memory has stuck with me, ready to remind me next time I play. Memory muscle I think they call it. Selecting a song is difficult, mainly because I 'think' I can play any song. In fact playing a song on the ipod cements this false belief in my mind as I become enamoured with the song so much I believe that 'love' of the tune will alone carry me through. It happened as I attempted to play "Wild Wood' - a reasonably simple song to play on guitar yet deceivingly hard to sing along to. I could hear the song in my head as I played in front of the local village crowd - but what came out of my mouth did not match what I imagined. So it will join another song that I will 'park' due to my musical ineptitude. There are songs I can sing OK - 'Lisa Radley' comes over in an alright sort of way - 'Nothing Ever Happens' by Justin Corrie kind of works, and 'The Table' a 'Beautiful South' song seemed to attract a few comments like 'lovely words' (I just wish I had written them). I choose songs that 'have something to say' yet in an unusual way. I am attracted to words. Paul Heaton's 'The Table' is about an inanimate object yet builds a picture of a history of who has sat at the table and why '"I've been sat upon, I've been spat upon" and "I've been taken for a desk when they should have been at school". I also chose to play 'Patience of Angels' by Boo Hewerdine. It concerns the story of a life 'unlived' - someone spotting someone else 'from the top of a bus' and wondering what life would be like if they began a relationship with them. It is the story of an ephemeral life - a 'what if' song. And all of these things I do, like learning new songs and trying to emulate that excellence is related to what I write and how I write. I am reminded constantly that 'honest' writing is always better. That you don't have to look far to write well. That good songwriting is the ultimate summarisation - it is not possible to lessen further what is being said. You are listening to the core of greatness. These are great poems set to great music.