De-composing

Well, the songwriting workshop went well … one of the organisers tells me there were positive comments after it so I must have said something worth listening to. I must say I spent hours thinking about lyrics that move me and why that should be. I highlighted a few writers who really helped me to understand the power of good songwriting.
One of them was Bono. U2 is a band that I can’t say I was totally sold on for a long time, and that’s partly because I took a timeout from pop/rock in the 1980s … just about the worst decade in my opinion. Anyway, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is a wonderful album and the song Crumbs from Your Table brought tears to my eyes.
I guess you can wonder about the target of a songwriter’s lyrics but I am sure that America is in Bono’s sights in this stanza:


You were pretty as a picture
It was all there to see
Then your face caught up with your psychology
With a mouth full of teeth
You ate all your friends
And you broke every heart
Thinking every heart mends

What a great image: this pretty face with a mouth full of death-dealing teeth.
I said in my previous blog that Paul Simon is a genius with words. How about this as an image of rich meets poor:

She’s a rich girl
She don’t try to hide it
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes

He’s a poor boy
Empty as a pocket
Empty as a pocket with nothing to lose

“Empty as a pocket” – great line.
But for me, if you want someone who creates pictures with words you turn to Martyn Joseph. He uses rhymes in a way that are unusual, working with unexpected combinations of words and giving every impression of taking time to craft a song worth presenting in public.

The light or the shade, concealed or displayed
Enemies, friends, opposite ends
Bitter or sweet, ruffled or neat
Feathers or lead, silent or said
Generous or mean, corporate or green
Vagrant or lord, the dove or the sword
Distinct or obscure, prosperous or poor
Devil or saint, we are and we ain’t

Intricate mysteries
Life’s secret code
Cul-de-sac signposts
On yellow brick roads
Ambiguous answers
The question’s still “Why”
Thunder and rainbows
From the same sky

Champagne or dust, banquet or crust
Authentic or fake, angel or snake

Flower or thorn, pristine or torn
Desert or sea, the throne and the tree


I love his way of reminding us that we have to keep asking the questions and not expecting simple rose-coloured answers. “Ambiguous answers, the question’s still ‘why’.” Of course it is.
The only slightly embarrassing moment was during the “open mic” session at the end of the afternoon when I had to sing one of my songs … but had virtually no voice because of a cold. The fact that I was following a teenager who grunted (a la pig!)
God Save Our Gracious Queen at least meant I had everything in my favour!
Anyway, keep asking the ambiguous questions … and expecting ambiguous answers.

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