When I get a new song idea I work on it to a certain point, record it on my Dictaphone, and walk away. The brain can play with you and say that sounds great, but then in the cold morning light say your song idea sucks. The brain is honest with you when it hears the song idea with fresh ears. I’ve been suckered into thinking a song idea is the best thing I’ve ever written and after much toil and valuable time it’s turned out nothing of the sort. Get down as much of a new song idea as you can and then give yourself a break from it.
I thought the song idea for ‘Body Language’ The Dooleys was a bummer, but the next day my fresh ears told me a different story.
I have been busy building my website and this has led me to search for my recorded songs on Google. I have been astonished at how much is out there. I found that I have a Google Discogs account listing all of my records released over the years and the number of versions each record has had. It has been an education for me as I had no idea so many versions of my records existed.
I discovered I am on Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, for instance, ‘Diamond Lights’ Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle.
I found people have created videos of my records, for example, a Japanese video of cartoon characters of The Nolans dancing to their record, and TV shows like Noel’s Addicts (Noel Edmonds) with The Nolans singing their biggest hit in Japanese.
I am having great fun building this website. I’ll keep you posted on my progress…
Certain lyrics can lead you into a cul-de-sac, especially if the hook lyric is restrictive, let’s say, your hook lyrics are, ‘I need you’. How many times can you say, I need you?
‘I need you as a flower needs the rain.’ ‘I need you as I’ve never needed anyone before.’ I need you as…’ Blah! Blah! Blah!
Try to come up with a strong visual hook lyric, e. g., ‘Chequer Queen’. My verse 1) ‘they call you the chequer, your game is so cruel, they say yer’ just a wrecker, yer’ breaking all the rules. But now I know for better, though my heart is sold, cos’ ever since I met yer’, I’m checkmate, checkmate.’
As you can see, this hook lyric opens up a reservoir of things to say about the game of chess and linking it to a chick (the Chequer Queen) who checkmates her lovers.
However, there is a thin line between cleverness and cheesiness. If you start saying:’ You stole my king of love and made him resign.’ Or: you used your pawns of love to trap my heart.’ The lyrics sound corny and overdone.
So, find a strong hook that offers a vivid lyrical idea, and keep it subtle.
In 1979, my monthly advance from my music publisher was a princely sum of money. I still received my wages from window cleaning so with my advance money on top of that I could afford to buy some state-of-the-art music equipment. I hired an upright piano. Even though I could only play chords on the piano I thought it might give some extra colour to my songwriting, and piano chords would certainly add some weight to my demos.
I bought a 4-track, quarter-inch, reel-to-reel tape recorder and a 2-track reel-to-reel tape recorder. I was so excited when I took these shiny brand new tape machines out of their boxes, all I could do was to sit staring at them. I had no idea how to work the machines, but I knew I’d get to grips with using them by deploying the hands-on method. This was a massive leap for me. I went from making one-take live recordings onto a cassette player, to recording on a machine that The Beatles used to make their early recordings.
From then on, when I had written a song and was going to record it, it was a whole new ball game. I had four individual tracks to play with and more if I so wished to ‘bounce’ tracks. This meant I started to create bass guitar parts, licks and riffs for guitar and piano and singing harmonies to my lead voice. When I was satisfied I had all of my instruments and vocals recorded, I mixed the tracks to how I wanted my demo to sound and recorded a stereo mix onto the 2-track tape recorder.