10. You’ll never find us

Well, number 10/10 was a shocker. Today was my last proper day to finish the 10 songs in 30 days challenge as I’m spending the weekend interstate. Tried to do the one hour Song Skirmish, hit a wall and threw that out. Remembered I had this wordless ditty from last week, composed one day when I was bored, waiting for my cousin. And then there was the struggle to put words to the rhythm, another head vs wall problem until eureka, “let’s run away” fits! It started off as a “let’s run away from the rat race” but developed into this defiant song from an outlaw couple. It was only when I figured “grave” half-rhymed with “favour” that I decided they’d be murderers as well as thieves 😛  Bit of clarinet in this one. It was some fun mental maths trying to transpose into a key that’s both clarinet and uke friendly, I tell ya.
You’ll never find us
Let’s disappear, let’s flee from the watchers
And let’s escape, escape from the crowd
Let’s run away, run far from the sirens
They’re so loudLet’s leave no trace, no trace we existed
An empty room in a cold, empty house
Say no farewells, to our friends and our neighbours
Over and outWe got our eyes on the horizon
Yesterday’s troubles left behind
You’ll never find us

Let’s slip away, slip into the sunrise
And then let’s dive, dive into the sea
Look at the sky, from under the breakers
Just you and me

[clarinet]

We got our eyes on the horizon
Yesterday’s troubles left behind
You’ll never find us

Let’s chase the wild, wild wind in the mountains
And then let’s drink, drink deep from the stream
Let’s sing in caves, that echo our voices
Let’s be free

We’re not ashamed, not a single regret
Grabbed all we could get
Golden things, diamond rings [diamond rings, shiny things]
Ain’t no use to the dead

We did them a favour
Riches gotta be savoured
We gave them a helping hand
Right into the grave

[clarinet]

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9. Thunder

This is in response to a prompt, “thunder”, from another songwriting group I’ve joined called GYAWS, for Get Your Ass Writing Songs. Their thing is weekly prompts, and if you don’t participate regularly enough, apparently you get booted. Keeps you on your toes!

I did a lot of preparation on this one, which ended up in the trash. I found a worksheet based on Pat Pattison’s system which involves finding key words with a thesaurus and then finding rhymes. It was a good exercise but my plot idea was a bit too convoluted (a big sister protecting her brother from a storm – but is it just weather, or family violence, or war? *so deep*). Went back to my morsel of a musical idea for the chorus – which kinda borrows the rhythm from Wild thing. I wanted to do a rock song before challenge’s end. Not my forte, but fun to attempt. You also get my lead guitar solo, heh. In my lyrics it’s annotated as “blazing solo here”. More of a damp smoulder.

Thunder

Laughing through the forest
Hand in hand, step in sync
Blue and cloudless when we left
Skies now dark as ink
Sense electric chills
Smell expectant air
Storm’s rolling in, quick, quick, gotta think

Thunder, thunder and lightning, baby
Thunder, oh yeah it’s frightening, baby
Come on, come closer
I’ll shelter and hold you
Together we’ll be warm
Together we’ll weather the storm

Laughing though we’re dripping
Find a shed, bare but clean
Peeling clothes and stripping
Let’s make our own steam
Outside, the weeping wind
Inside, wet lips, wet skin
Storm’s howling, no one will hear us scream

Thunder, thunder and lightning, baby
Thunder, oh yeah it’s frightening, baby
Come in, come closer
I’ll shelter and hold you
Together we’ll be warm
Together we’ll weather the storm

Bring on, bring on the gale
Bring on, bring on the flood
Bring on, bring on the hail
We got red hot, red hot blood

Thunder, thunder and lightning, baby
Thunder, oh yeah it’s frightening, baby
Come in, come closer
I’ll shelter and hold you
Together we’ll be warm
Together, we’ll weather the storm

Thunder, thunder and lightning, baby
Thunder, oh yeah it’s frightening, baby
Come in, come closer
I’ll shelter and hold you
Together we’ll be warm
Together, we’ll weather the storm

8. Downgrade

Well this is an attempt at doing a Song Skirmish – these are weekly prompts with which you have to write a song in an hour. One bloody hour. Finished the lyrics and instrumental within the hour, but recording the voice took a little more time. This week’s prompt was “I’ve heard you tried to find me in someone else”. I considered giving the narrator some character development but…nah, he’s insightless 😛

Downgrade

He’s got the same car
He’s got the same hair
Has the same guitar
Ain’t got the same flair

He’s got the same suit
He’s got the same stare
He’s got the same boots
But honey I don’t care

Why downgrade
When you were so blessed
Why downgrade
When you had the best
Don’t know why you couldn’t see
He couldn’t never ever be
The finest guy that you could find
Cus I’m one of a kind
There’s only one of me

He’s got the same name
He’s got the same nose
Ain’t got the same game
Don’t give him a rose

He’s got the same arms
He’s got the same kicks
Ain’t got the same charm
Ain’t got the same tricks

Why downgrade
When you were so blessed
Why downgrade
When you had the best
Don’t know why you couldn’t see
He couldn’t never ever be
The finest guy that you could find
Cus I’m one of a kind
There’s only one of me

Why go to bronze from gold
From diamond to zirconia
Why go from hot stuff to cold
You’ll end up oh so lonelier
Don’t know why you couldn’t see
He couldn’t never ever be
The finest guy that you could find
Cus I’m one of a kind
There’s only one of me

7. Summer days

Back to more comfortable ground, acoustic sadfaceness. This one originated from the music – I wanted to do a song in 6/8 and the descending major 7th line suggested a wistful memory of a happier time.

Summer days

Those precious summer days
Three kids link arms, sepia-gazed
His sunburnt grin
Her freckled chin
Our legs entangled

Those hopeful summer days
Roll windows down, radio plays
Taste the salty breeze
As we drive out east
Our laughter woven

Tomorrow’s promise waits
Tomorrow will be golden

Those summers slip away
Three hands wave bye, nobody stays
She chases stars
He drowns in bars
I run in circles

Those memories slip away
We make small talk, nothing to say
Her stars burned out
He laughs too loud
We’re almost strangers

Tomorrow’s promise lied
Tomorrow turned out broken

Can we return, can we rewind
To endless days of gold
Three lives united, three lives entwined
Let’s hold this moment until we’re old

Live video:

6. Disposable

Well I promised a quasi-21st-century song. The production line automated feel I was going for also conveniently allowed me to be super lazy in the music, just looping a couple of very very very repetitive riffs. For art, yes. Also allowed me to cover up my iffy vocals with robot effects. I don’t think this style is my jam, but it’s fun to try new things.

This is straying from Pat Pattison’s blueprint – you’ll notice it doesn’t have any real story or development, unlike the first couple of songs. But I’ve noticed not all songs follow the story format, which really is more suited to certain genres such as country or folk.

Disposable

Disposable cars, disposable homes
Disposable scars, disposable bones
Throwaway clothes, throwaway shoes
Throwaway globe, throwaway, throwaway truth

Need it fast, it won’t last
What’s it for, fling it, fling it on the floor
Gimme more more more
Gimme gimme more

Disposable lies, disposable songs
Disposable rights, disposable wrongs
Throwaway friends, throwaway dates
Throwaway sense, throwaway, throwaway face

Need it fast, it won’t last
What’s it for, fling it, fling it on the floor
Gimme more more more
Gimme gimme more

Planned obsolescence, all is evanescent
What is lasting when all is new?
What endures, what is true?

Disposable love on production lines
Disposable gloves, disposable minds
Expendable cash, expendable whims
Expendable trash, expendable sins

Need it fast, it won’t last
What’s it for, fling it, fling it on the floor
Gimme more more more
Gimme gimme more

Disposable style, disposable rot
Disposable smile, disposable god
Expendable rage, expendable dreams
In this instant age, expendable screams

Need it fast, it won’t last
What’s it for, fling it, fling it on the floor
Gimme more more more
Gimme gimme more

5. Four strings good

Bit of a slow week this time, I’ve been away and a bit sick. This song was inspired by seeing ukulele god Jake Shimabukuro in concert the other day. The uke was really what started my return to music after years away from it during university and training. The ukulele mind, the beginner mind, is really a useful concept to me. It’s the opposite of the classical music perfectionism and angst that I grew up with; it’s all about participation and not caring too much about how good you are, giving it a go, being open to new things.

All the same, I can’t put my finger on why, but I’m not happy with this song. It lacks something. But anyway. Onwards and upwards, they can’t all be winners. 80/20 rule says that maybe 2 out of these 10 songs might be salvageable.

Four strings good

Four strings good
Strum off-beat and sing off-key
Four strings good
Can’t beat the uku, ukulele

Can’t even bear to play guitar
Hendrix licks just ain’t for me
Can’t hardly deal with piano
It has too many keys

A trumpet in my hands
Honks like a cranky goose
One day I got a uke
The lowest-hanging fruit

Four strings good
Strum off-beat and sing off-key
Four strings good
Can’t beat the uku, ukulele

Boomers in Hawaiian shirts
The loud and quirky uke-ing tribe
Bearded hipsters, kids and nerds
Having the time of their lives

There’s no place for cock rock ego
The joy of uke is its own reward
Show up, sing and sway a little
Just playing the Z chord

Four strings good
Strum off-beat and sing off-key
Four strings good
Can’t beat the uku, ukulele

Four strings good
Strum off-beat and sing off-key
Four strings good
Can’t beat the uku, ukulele

4. Dance for me

 One of these days, I’ll try to write a song that sounds like it’s from the 21st century. Today’s not that day though. A schmaltzy waltz, this’un. Wanted to do a 3/4 time song, which made me think of cafés, Paris, accordions. This one is way too sentimental for my liking, but I’m trying to complete songs even if I lose enthusiasm for them half way. Tried to spice up the clichéd Boy Meets Girl story with the sad voyeuristic neighbour narrating.

Featuring faux accordion (melodica), faux piano (my real piano is too loud to record in the middle of the night, which is of course when 90% of this project happens), and pitchy pitchy vocals.

Dance for me

Their eyes meet across the window of the busy café
She smiles and he looks shyly at her then away
She offers a seat
They share a newspaper
They talk just a little but have so much to say

I watch them as they meet weekly in the cool autumn light
They linger a little longer with every time
His hand touches hers
Her stories make him laugh
One day she leads him homewards instead of goodbye

Dance, dance, you young lovers
Dance, dance while you can
Dance, dance, you young lovers
Dance for me, oh dance for me, one two three

Alone in my cold apartment I’m warmed by the sight
They kiss beside the window while cooking with wine
She sings as she stirs
He sways to her beat
Their shadows on curtains dance in the winter night

Instrumental

Dance, dance, you young lovers
Dance, dance while you can
Dance, dance, you young lovers
Dance for me, oh dance for me, one two three

But slowly my heart is broken as frost turns to spring
Laughter turns into silence and she no longer sings
He leaves for another
She throws out the pictures
She cries beside the window til her poor eyes sting

I once was like one of you, fresh-faced and long-limbed
Careless, I threw away my life’s love on a whim
Now grey in the gloom
I peer from my room
Helplessly watching the spark flame and dim

Dance, dance, you young lovers
Dance, dance while you can
Dance, dance, you young lovers
Dance for me, oh dance for me, dance for three

3. Promised land

This one is semi-cheating because I came up with the musical idea before April. It’s saved in my notes as “uke doo doo doo”. It was tricky as hell coming up with words to fit the meter in my head. The rhythm suggested a train or walking so I went from there. Unlike the first two it’s not autobiographical.

Experimenting with different rhyme schemes this time, ABCABC on the verses, ABBA on the chorus (if you’ll forgive rhyming “feet” with “dreams”).

Promised land

Walking along and alone by the river
I am walking alone, head bent low, stepping slow
Where am I going, will the river bend?
Uh-oh uh-oh
Walk through the dark and the rain makes me shiver
I am walking alone, cold as stone, winds that moan
Where am I going, will the river end?

All I have are these two hands
Two eyes, one mind, two feet
All I have are hopes and dreams
For the promise of the promised land

Walking away from my home, torn wide open
I am walking from home, all is gone, all I’ve known
All things are shattered, will they ever mend?
Uh-oh uh-oh
Walking away from a country that’s broken
I am walking from home, all is dust, all is bone
Inside I’m battered, will I ever mend?

All I have are these two hands
Two eyes, one mind, two feet
All I have are hopes and dreams
For the promise of the promised land

Working away, I’m a stranger with a strange face
I am working away, look at me, look with hate
Blood, sweat, and tears, am I such a threat?
Uh-oh uh-oh
Working away, I’m a stranger in a strange place
I am working away, rock by rock, brick and clay
Blood, sweat, and tears, will I get ahead?

Years through years
Dust settles and heartache fades
Years through years
A fire grows in my fireplace

All I had were these two hands
My hopes and dreams delivered
But by night I walk through the river
To the memory of my motherland

Edited version:

Walking along and alone by the river
I am walking alone, head bent low, stepping slow
Where am I going, will the river bend?
Walk through the dark and the rain makes me shiver
I am walking alone, in winds that moan, cold as stone
Where am I going, will the river end?

Chorus
All I have are these two hands
Two eyes, one mind, one heart
All I have are hopes and plans
For the promise of the promised land

Walking away from my home, torn wide open
I am walking from home, all is gone, all I’ve known
All things are shattered, will they ever mend?
Walking away from a country that’s broken
I am walking from home, all is dust, all is bone
Inside I’m battered, will I ever mend?

Chorus

Working away, I’m a stranger with a strange face
I am working away, look at me, look with hate
Blood, sweat, and tears, am I such a threat?
Working away, I’m a stranger in a strange place
I am working away, rock by rock, brick and clay
Blood, sweat, and tears, will I get ahead?

Years through years
Dust settles and heartache fades
Years through years
A fire grows in my fireplace

All I have are these two hands
My hopes and dreams delivered
But by night I walk through the river
To the memory x2 of my motherland

2. Everyday

Second song in two days. I’m rushing because there’s not much chance of penning a song on weekdays after a long day at work. Still, it took a lot of procrastination to pump this out. But it is more or less done.

Most of my composition attempts before this project have been instrumental, but now that I’m starting with the lyrics, I’m finding that the music becomes secondary and I’m gravitating towards kinda boring familiar chord progressions and rhythms. Gotta shake things up with the next song.

Everyday

Grand romance is fine for some
Like in books and movies
Serenades by moonlight sung
Such cheesy things don’t move me

Romeo and Juliet
Two kids that ended badly
Poor Scarlett and her main man Rhett
Who gave no damns, sadly

Don’t need to dine by candlelight
Might set ourselves on fire
No hot balloons rides at sunrise
You know I’m scared of heights

Love, love, love is in the everyday, in tiny ways
Love, love, love you in the everyday

I’ll heat my cold feet on your legs
Put up with snoring rumbles
You’ll make me buttered toast with eggs
I’ll save you from boring uncles

You’ll take out garbage when I’m lazy
I’ll make you tea for when you’re sick
You’ll talk me down when I am crazy
I’ll wait for you to watch Netflix

Love, love, love is in the everyday, in tiny ways
Love, love, love you in the everyday

Shakespeare can keep all his sonnets
No drama please or bleeding hearts
Just a sofa if you’re on it
With wine and cheese, is all I ask

Love, love, love is in the everyday, in tiny ways
Love, love, love me in the everyday
Love, love, love is in the everyday, in tiny ways
Love, love, love you in the everyday

Learnings

I’m doing Pat Pattinson’s Berklee Songwriting: Writing the Lyrics free course on Coursera. Very helpful concepts. I’m up to the rhyme scheme section, which I wish I’d done before attempting song 1 yesterday, Friends from the internet. That one drags, and I realise now that’s because the rhyming couplets are too stable, putting a full stop at the end of each pair of lines. You lose momentum and it sounds plodding. The song could do with a rewrite, but I’ll have to come back to it if I want to keep to this 30 day schedule!

The first lesson from the course was about the storytelling blueprint: the point of view, the journey of the song, momentum, and tools for padding out the story (who? where? when? why? etc), and the parts of a song (verse, chorus etc). The second lesson introduced the concept of prosody, which Pat describes as every element fitting together: line number, length, rhyme and rhythm. He breaks it down into two main patterns: unstable and stable patterns. Odd line numbers, irregular line lengths and non-matched rhymes are unstable; the opposite is stable.

It’s interesting to analyse lyrics according to this framework.

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