Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Entry Music For A Writer

By Steve Weddle

So Chris F. Holm listed his “5 Favorite Musical Artists of Author Chris F. Holm” and, inasmuch as the list follows the title, I assume he is correct. I have no reason to doubt that these are Mr. Holm’s favorites. Perhaps he had originally thought REO Speedwagon or Air Supply could creep in around the top of the list, but wanted to maintain his street cred. I have no way of knowing this for certain, though. This was a list for a writer, Chris F. Holm. (PS Buy this book.)

Music for writers is different. Perhaps music for swimmers is different still. Music for neurosurgeons. If either one of my current psychiatrists were to tell me that his favorite musical artist happened to be, say, Nine Inch Nails, that would cause me some concern.

I wrote many stories this past year or two after getting some Drive-By Truckers stuck in my head. Frankie Bill sent along a CD with “Decoration Day” on it, and I misheard the line “The state let him go, but I guess it was best cause nobody needs all us Lawsons alive.” To my hear, the line ended “nobody needs all this loss in his life.” That sent me off writing a story about a man who tries to fake bravery to help his son.

I imagine that happens to most writers. You hear a line, rightly or wrongly, and it pushes into you, earworm.

While we’re hanging out in the “D” section of the library, I should mention The Decemberists, Dawes, Damien Rice, Dog’s Eye View, Dead Milkmen, and probably many others.

From “That Western Skyline” by Dawes, via John Hornor Jacobs:
So I followed her here to Birmingham, where the soil is so much richer
And though my aching pride might guide my hand, she did not ask for me to come.
So I wait for her all through the day, as if I wait for her surrender.
And every time I get her to look my way, she says I'm not where I belong.
But I watch her father preach on Sundays.
I know the hymnals all by heart.
But oh Lou, no my dreams did not come true.
No, they only came apart.

The best songs, the best songs for writers, are those that not only tell a story, but make you want to tell a story. Tom Waits. Bob Dylan. Afghan Whigs. The Avett Brothers. Dinosaur Jr. Pixies. Elvis Costello. Neko Case. Hub. Steve Earle. Emmylou Harris.

Maybe when I’m doing the actual writing, I’d rather have Gould’s Goldberg in my ear. (Not the more recent version, of course. Blech.)

But when I’m letting my brain mush slosh around a bit, ready to sponge up bits here and there, I’d rather listen to some Iron & Wine, Gillian Welch, or Justin Townes Earle.

The best songs, for writers, end up being writing prompts, with a little banjo on the side.

It seems like the unraveling has started too soon,

Now I'm sleeping in hallways and I'm drinking perfume.


Jay Stringer said...

I've got back and forth on FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK.

The lyrics I heard (and sang) were;

"It was Christmas Eve, babe.
In the drunk tank.
An old man said to me, "won't see another one."
And then we sang a song..."

I loved that opening, and It got me started on many different stories. It sense of both doom and romance gave me much inspiration.

Then a few years ago, people started to insist I was wrong, that the lyrics were;

"It was Christmas Eve, babe.
In the drunk tank.
An old man said to me, "Let's sing another one."
And then we sang a song..."

And that was backed up by a few google searches i did at the time in my bid to prove people wrong. And it was enough to ruin the song for me, because it lacked that same punch. I stopped listening to it, and I stopped having ideas inspired by it.

Then recently I googled again, and now all the lyrics sites seem to agree with my 'misheard' version. But then, most lyrics sites are filled in by people who could also have misheard.

So colour me confused.

Chris said...

Pretty sure I have no street cred to speak of. Maybe I shoulda tried to build some. I hear the kids like some Bieber fella. Got more followers than the Pope. (That ain't a John Lennon smackdown, people: that's a Twitter fact. Probably. I mean, this is a blog comment; I ain't about to look stuff up for it.)

I wonder how many writing prompts come from misheard lyrics. Had one knocking around my head from The National's 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.' He (almost) says "I'll explain everything to the kids." Only his line ends with "geeks." I like mine better. It's so damned sad. Carries a world of backstory in just one line. All 'cause I blew out my hearing long ago at one too many Bieber concerts. PUNK SHOWS. I meant punk shows.

Steve Weddle said...

Jay, It's "won't see another one."

Chris, I once thought the Yoshimi album from them Flaming Lips would make a nice series of stories. Now, maybe them National folks would be a good series, too.

Paul D Brazill said...

Off course there's also 'My Wife's Bisexual' by Nazareth and the singer from UB40 who sang 'I have a one inch head.'.