[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Thursday, August 29, 2013, 8:30 a.m.
I mentioned the other day that I hadn’t been writing any songs lately, but … from out of nowhere …
I was in a great mood last night. The Boston Red Sox won their fourth straight game, coming from behind to tame the Baltimore Orioles. The Sox maintained their 2-1/2-game American League East lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. With 28 games remaining in the regular season, the New York Yankees trail Boston by 8-1/2.
Red Sox fans never say never, but things ain’t bad at the moment.
The song isn’t about a character in fiction, but reading a novel prompted the song. I didn’t plan on writing it. I just started playing around with the guitar, trying different chords and fitting in syllables. Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-DUH-duh, duh-duh-DUH-duh-duh-du-DUH-duh …
Hmm. Sounds pretty good. I’ll work on this more tomorrow. Wonder who’s on with Keith Olbermann? Oh, tennis running long. Oh, well …
I checked the program guide. Anything I wanted to watch was either a half hour away or already half over. I picked up the guitar again and started out by typing a couple lines into my iPhone. I’d been reading about a man whose wife had left him.
Well I told you that I loved you and I’d always be proud of you / And you promised that you’d never go astray / Now my soul is out of action and I can’t find any traction / When you left me, honey, there was hell to pay.
Now I had a title: “Hell to Pay,” so I needed to incorporate it into a chorus:
Hell to pay / Tears to cry / Days and nights to sit and wonder why / Back before we lived together we could bear the stormy weather / Now there’s nothing that remains but hell to pay.
It’s a simple tune. If you play guitar, you might be able to figure it out. It’s just a little three-chord song. Nothing profound. A little clever. Trying to be funny. No heavy lifting. Trying to turn up the humor a tad in verse two.
I’ve spent all my time a-waitin’ hopin you were hesitatin’ / And you’d prob’ly come to miss me after while / But it didn’t cool my rancor when you shacked up with that banker / Paying yours but leaving me with bills to pay.
First verse: Wife left me. Second verse: Tried unsuccessfully to get her back. Third verse: Predictable ruination, but still lighthearted and playful.
Still trying to recover and perhaps to find another / I went back to the same bar where we met / Lost a fistfight to Mike Tyson then they look away my license / Now I wish that all I had was hell to pay.
This morning I emailed the song to myself, fired up the laptop and copied it into a file. Then I played the song over and over, which is the unscientific way I usually learn songs. Somewhere I read that cutting down the lyrics just to the key words speeds the memorization process. I tried it and it seemed to work, so the next stage is going to involve paring the words down to nonsensical key words that theoretically prompt the full lyrics in my mind.
Hell pay / Tears cry / Days nights sit wonder why / Before lived together bear stormy weather / Nothing remains hell pay.
What it won’t involve is writing another song until I’ve got this one good and memorized. Then I’ll probably screw it up the first time I play it in front of an audience because, until I play it successfully on a stage, it’s not really done. As a general rule, it only takes one screw-up – we musicians have this knack for screwing up and, because we don’t act like we screwed up, and lots of people aren’t paying close attention, we get away with it – and then I’m good to go.
It’s why God created open mics.
Buy yourself a guitar. Write a short story. Build models. Find something that’s fun. If you can, try to do it for a living.