MONTHLY ASSIGNMENTS MAY 2018
Some song ideas hit dead ends because they don’t work. Other songs run into ruts that the writer has trouble escaping. Sometimes the needs of the music or story seem to exceed the writer’s ability, and sometimes songwriters give up on good ideas because they’re just too hard to finish. This month’s songwriting assignment is to finish a previously unfinished song. It’s pretty certain that all songwriters have given up on songs for any or all of the above reasons. It’s the nature of songwriting — you’re not alone. But successful songwriters have also resuscitated songs they had given up on years before, for a variety of reasons. How long should you hold onto an idea that isn’t working before moving on to something else? There’s no good answer to that, but here are a couple of true stories about unfinished songs.
Randy Bachman of The Guess Who tells a story about having an idea for a song he wanted to call “White Collar Worker” that sounded a lot like The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” Guys in the band told him to forget it. Years later the members of his next band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, weren’t as rude, but told him the hook — “… white collar worker” sung like “… paperback writer” — wasn’t working. A few years later, as Bachman tells it, he was playing around with a riff, sang part of his old “White Collar Worker” idea over it without the Beatles hook, and ended up with his biggest hit. Bachman is making money from: “Takin’ Care of Business.”
Speaking of The Beatles — you may have heard this one: Lennon had a song idea based on a newspaper story about a member of the wealthy Guinness beer family dying in a DUI traffic accident, but the song wasn’t going anywhere. McCartney had a little piece about starting his day that sort of fizzled off into nothing. Needing another song for the Pepper album, they mashed together the song fragments and a brilliant musical idea and got A Day In The Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usNsCeOV4GM
Here’s some reading that might help
Unfinished Songs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08LbsffRS1Q A YouTube project in which guitar and piano melodies are posted and people are invited to write their own lyrics. Goal is to see how many songs can be written over the same melody lines.