Writing a song happens in one of three ways. It can be as easy as that time you drank 2 bottles of cinzano and suddenly felt you’d eaten the rotting guts of road kill by mistake, threw up, then came downstairs with a stupid, triumphant grin. (You know, we hate that face you do.) Off point, but like that. Easy. Enjoyable too! as if you’re riding a pig and not falling off. Then other times it’s harder: perspective drawing, making small talk, DIY dentistry, darts, or something harder *of your choosing*. Mostly, I give up if it’s hard. And you should too, perhaps. Be just like me. Or don’t. It really doesn’t matter either way. THIRDLY, a mix of both: Anxiety and joy swapping hats feverishly – sometimes so quickly it’s disorienting – conflicting, as waking up in hospital on your birthday might feel. FOURTHLY…and so on all the other numbers. There’s not just three ways a song arrives, I was lying at the start, of course.
If you would like to write a song though, I took the liberty (unflinching) and wrote some directions for you. It’s a map of sorts. I left them on the mantlepiece. The password for the wireless is ROY ORBISON FRIDGE MAGNET, but one word: royorbisonfridgemagnet. There’s raki in the cupboard, and eat whatever’s left in the fridge.
I call them DIRECTIONS TO A SONG, and I thought it was appropriate I show it to you.
DIRECTIONS TO A SONG
Tune all the strings down one full step. The chord of D starts the song. Strum it once, slowly, with as little thought as possible. The song has started. Without hesitation, assume the best and worst outcomes in unison. Think of a cat arched and frozen in front of a plastic snake. Pluck each string on the instrument individually until you lose the image of the cat arched and frozen in front of the plastic snake. Begin to increase speed. Sing the words as a journalist might report a flood, or a fire. Don’t be glum. It’s not your house. Play the chord of G while wanting it to be F. You never know when you might miss something you’ve never had. Think of yourself as a tourist and your instrument as an ugly souvenir. Play the chord of D7 with relief, slightly more than is appropriate. Perform this whole section as if you’ve been given something expensive you don’t want. Something darker seems to have materialised. Turn your instrument over and look at its back. Keep your gaze steady, but unfocused. There is a cameraman who looks as if he is from the 1970’s. He takes his head from the viewfinder and looks you squarely in the eyes. Don’t worry about a thing. You’re only what appears to him in a ‘magic eye’ poster. He thinks it’s the 1990s. Play the chord A# repeatedly. Consider the rhythm like a deer jolts in fright. Fix your chord hand into the shape of crippling regret. Place it on the neck of the guitar. Push through the strings with your other hand. All the while, listen to your teeth as they gently echo. Do you feel a sense of responsibility? That’s a false sense of responsibility. Strike the strings, as one of two people in a lift, waiting for their floor to arrive. This is not the place to make friends – people might find it disconcerting. Instead, turn to face the back of the lift, with your nose almost touching the wall. Stay like this until the other person reaches their floor. This part is the chorus. You can hide here every so often. Sing the chorus twice in a row. Now go quiet, but stay inside the song. Envying the silence of a crab shell. It’s the most honest part. The audience is uncomfortable about this. Each second that passes feels like wet hair. Break the silence with a key change. Fold all you know about this section into a brittle suitcase. Carry it to the next verse. Everybody around you starts to clap. The song’s not over. Mouth the word ‘help’ across an empty car-park at night. Produce a percussive sound by hitting the instrument with your hand. Make its tone resentful, like a lover who is tired of finding loose change in her bed. This is the elephant in the room. Play three chords randomly, one after the other. Repeat this three times in a row. Make an awful mistake. Repeat it, but louder this time, and at the speed of guilt. It’s not really the loose change she is sick of. Play inquiringly. Make royal your sense of inquiry. Remember that section of different coloured tarmac just outside the video shop. What if I tell you your heart is a giant polystyrene cup stuffed with all the words that describe loneliness? Realise you are at the end of the song. Detest nostalgia in real time. Slow down the playing with the size of your self. Stop playing. The song ends.
have a song: THE FORGETTING HEAD
Below is an oil painting I made with my eyes wide open. It has a head’ish theme. Forgetful, maybe or not.
NOTES OF VAGUE INTEREST
- If you’d like to duet with the ogre, get a pitch shifter pedal. My interest was sparked when I was kindly lent a pedal from this man. He’s called The European.